eARC/Book Review: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw
Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town. Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.
Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.
Author: Shea Ernshaw
Publication Date: March 6, 2018
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Page Count: 320
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy
Cover Artist: Lisa Perrin
My Rating: ★★★★
Sparrow is an odd little town. In 1823, three sisters now known as the Swan sisters were killed in the harbor. Believing them to be witches, the townsfolk drown the sisters for their ability to woo and seduce any man in town.
Two-hundred years later, the tragic tale of the sisters is celebrated, in a strange and macabre way. While teenagers party to open the “Swan season,” some also fall victim to the influence of the deceased sisters. Three girls will unknowingly have their bodies inhabited by the three sisters, and some boys will lose their lives in the harbor to join the sisters in their watery grave.
”Tomorrow is June first. And although most high schools don’t start their summer session so early, the town of Sparrow began the countdown months ago. Signs announcing festivals in honor of the Swan sisters have already been hung and draped across the town square and over storefront windows.”
Penny, a Sparrow native, knows all about the town and its oddities. Not being one to want to participate in the events of the Swan season, she finds herself thrust into the fray. When she meets an outsider, Penny knows that Bo is in danger. As the death count rises, Penny and Bo discover more about the Swan sisters, and discover deadly secrets that risk their budding relationship.
“Tonight’s party is the start of a season that will bring more than just tourist dollars–it will bring folklore and speculation and doubt about the town’s history. But always, every year without fail or falter, it also brings death.”I was approved for an eARC of The Wicked Deep by Netgalley (thank you!) but was unable to read the entire thing because my edition was incomplete. I had only made it about thirty pages in before calling it quits with the eARC and waiting for the book to be published so I could continue on reading it. The Wicked Deep has been popular ever since it hit the shelves (and before) this year. I’d say it’s for (mostly) good reason that this book has gotten so much attention. While there isn’t much to take away morally so-to-speak, the story itself is captivating enough to be simply, a good story. It’s a book that could easily be read in one sitting, as it’s capable to hook its devious claws into the reader and hold their attention right until the end—at least, that’s how I felt. The Wicked Deep encompasses a majority of traditional Young Adult tropes and themes; romance, betrayal, revenge, strong female main character, etc. However, the setting and the style in which this book was written made it stand out for its formatting.
World BuildingBeing set in a small coastal town place like Sparrow, Oregon immediately captured my attention Everything screamed ocean and all of its moody attributes. The harbor and its tragic history made the story more ominous in nature, and somehow, more intriguing. Set in current times, the story builds upon snippets of the past that are divulged between the main chapters. These snippets give vital information about the Swan sisters two-hundred years prior, and how they came to reside in Sparrow. I appreciated the author using this tactic to reveal elements of the story rather than dumping loads of information. The Wicked Deep is fantasy-lite if you ask me. While there were obvious fantasy elements, (i.e. the paranormal factor of the Swan sisters) the rest of the story felt very normal. In fact, it felt very comparable to a contemporary YA read. I believe this is because the author, instead of emphasizing the talents in witchcraft that the Swan sisters possessed, or didn’t possess (it remains a debatable point) superstition and prejudice became the actual culprits to the Swan sisters’ demise. These two traits have possessed Sparrow for over two-hundred years, which show how ideas left unchallenged can be very dangerous and damaging.
Pacing & ReadabilityThe pacing is actually quite slow throughout this story. Because of its reflective nature, I think the pacing was appropriate for the content and the way the story develops. In fact, the pacing, however slow, worked well with building suspense until the climax and major revelations were given.
Point-Of-View & Characters
“I believe that I’m stronger than most girls—that I’m not so easily fooled by the sisters’ ethereal voices. My mother used to say that we are like the Swan sisters—she and I. Misunderstood. Different. Outcasts living alone on the island, reading fortunes in the cosmos of tea leaves. But I wonder if it’s even possible to be normal in a place like Sparrow. Perhaps we all have some oddity, some strangeness we keep hidden along our edges, things we see that we can’t explain, things we wish for, things we run from.The main character, Penny Talbot, lives on Lumiere Island with her mother. The two are accustomed to their ostracized lifestyle. Penny clearly is a loner. She has few (really only one) close friend and has a difficult time being around others. Despite this character trait, she’s rather confident in who she is. I believe she will be a character that the reader will either understand completely or find rather unlikeable because of her melancholic demeanor. What I liked most about Penny was that she didn’t lack in depth. She was a deep thinker, with a past that impacted significantly her present. The fact that her father disappeared three years ago thrust her into a role of “caretaker” for her mother whose mental state shattered when her father never returned. There is an element in Penny’s character that requires close attention. I cannot say further due to spoilers, but PAY CLOSE ATTENTION! Rose is Penny’s closest friend. Wanting to be an artist and being much more social than Penny, the two are rather opposite. Perhaps that is why they are so close. Rose’s artisticness allows her to understand Penny’s oddities. Rose is also extremely compassionate, which puts her in situations where she acts before she thinks. Bo, the mysterious out-of-town stranger was my favorite character of them all—until the end. The way he reacted when revelations to his secrets where divulged were all revenge-driven. I like a character who can think objectively, especially when the world around them is crashing down. Along with that, I simply desired more purpose for Bo’s character than he had.
“Good morning,” Marguerite spoke elegantly, as if she were raised by royals, when in fact all three sisters were raised by a woman who’d lewdly dabbed perfume between her thighs to entice her lovers.I’m going to lump the three Swan sisters together, as they all pretty much have the same purpose. Birthed by a woman that had obviously skewed morals, Marguerite, Aurora, and Hazel Swan all inherited their mother’s beauty. Their beauty (and skills of enticing men) ultimately led the sisters to their death. Each sister had their own tactics for making men fall in love with them; each conquest had a meaning. But for one, her only conquest was not borne from lust, but from love.
”We both carry it. A mark on our skin, a brand burned into flesh from the weight of our past. Perhaps only those with similar scars can recognize it in others. The fear rimming our eyes.”Despite the genuineness that this love held, the townsfolk believed the sisters to be witches, and therefore, drown them. Despite all of the terrible acts that the sisters did, the grudge they held against the town was strong enough to curse Sparrow for the next two hundred years, so that they may enact their revenge.
Major Themes⇒ Prejudice
“To them, he had never belonged here in the first place. For this, a part of me hates this town, this place, and these people for being so callous. They fear anyone and anything that isn’t them. Just like they feared the Swan sisters two hundred years ago…and they killed them for being different.”While prejudice probably isn’t the main theme throughout The Wicked Deep, it’s definitely one to touch upon. Prejudice mainly surfaces around the Swan sisters and how the townsfolk assumed them to be witches. Because they were not liked by most (for a valid reason, I mean, anyone who goes around seducing any man in town no matter his relational state, is not a person I’d idolize) they were accused and sentenced to death based on superstition (i.e. odd birthmarks.) Penny also notes several times about how the townsfolk never accepted her father, who wasn’t a Sparrow native. A reason isn’t really given, other than them being “suspicious” of outsiders. Prejudism has the potential to be dangerous, as was exemplified here. ⇒ Revenge
“It’s not like the girls come out of the water and announce that they’re Marguerite or Aurora or Hazel–they need to blend in, act normal.” “Why?” “Because they don’t inhabit bodies just to be alive again; they do it for revenge.” “Revenge on who?” “The town.”Revenge is probably the main theme throughout the entire plot. Exacting revenge to “get back” at those who wronged others is the go-to decision for multiple characters. This was one of the biggest problems I had with this story. Everyone wanted what they wanted, without thinking of the consequences. At times, it was rather infuriating because nothing good comes from revenge! ⇒ Death
”It’s rare to know your death is approaching, waiting for you, death’s fingers already grasping for your soul. I felt it reaching out for me. I was already half-gone.”I don’t really need to dig too far into this one. Death is a common occurrence in Sparrow, especially during the Swan season. If you aren’t one for morbid tales, then steer clear of this one. ⇒ Love
“Perhaps this one thing is enough—to fall in love? If love can bind something, can it also undo it?”Another theme twisted into the picture was love. While I appreciated that this was an attempt to redeem all of the bad happening in the rest of the plot, I don’t think it was enough. Not to mention, it was just downright odd. Because of how this theme appears in the story, I won’t discuss it more. It’s nearly impossible to discuss without revealing too much.
Overall FeelingsThings that I liked: ⇒ The style in which the author wrote the book. ⇒ The atmosphere. ⇒It’s readability. ⇒ The twists. Things that I didn’t like: ⇒ The…odd…relationship aspect. ⇒ The lack of lessons/morals to take away from the story. ⇒ Bo’s purpose and reactiveness. ⇒ The Swan sister’s conquests. The Wicked Deep is definitely a step away from typical Young Adult literature this year. It is a fresh take on a genre that has been done in numerous ways, relating to some, but definitely standing out. While it lacked in overall purpose, I was simply entertained by the story, and appreciated being able to settle into this story of Sparrow without any hindrances. If you are looking for somewhat spooky, but quick and light reading, this may be one for you.