Everyone has been raving about Shea Ernshaw’s The Wicked Deep, ever since it was first released early last year. I was finally convinced to give it a shot recently and was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. Sometimes the hype is actually deserved…
Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…
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.
Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.
Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.
But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.
I think what I enjoyed most about this book was the writing. You would never guess that this was a debut novel, as Ernshaw has such a wonderful way with words. I was constantly finding passages that I felt were speaking to me personally. And as a reader, there’s nothing greater than coming across writing that instantly connects with you. Another writing choice that I really appreciated was how Ernshaw would give us small chapters told from the sisters points of view, providing us a glimpse into what their lives were truly like before they were drowned by Sparrow. I’m such a sucker when authors choose to do little back and forth time jumps like this. It definitely adds more substance to the story and allowing us to see from more perspectives.
Other than the small time jumps into the past, the story mostly follows Penny and so we really get to know her over the course of the summer. She’s very closed off from the rest of the world, including the people of Sparrow. She sees her life on the tiny Lumiere Island as the only option for her future, as she takes care of her mother and the lighthouse. She also sees the curse of the sisters as justified punishment for the town, even as awful as it may seem. However, during the course of her budding relationship with Bo, she begins to open up. While Bo may be mysterious, he’s passionate and isn’t afraid to push Penny to her limits. I appreciated how they fed off of each other, especially considering their difficult personal histories.
The only flaw with this book was that the plot twist fell a little flat for me. I had already guessed it very early on and was a little disappointed in seeing that I was correct. Now, I tend to guess a lot of mysteries or plot twists in novel, so this may not be as much of an issue for you as it was for me. I just really enjoy a twist that comes out of nowhere and I never see coming, which is few and far between. But with that being said, that didn’t ruin the story for me nor take away from my overall enjoyment. I still really enjoyed the journey and getting to learn more about the sisters and how their brief lives continued to affect Sparrow.
I think this was a really enjoyable debut novel. The atmosphere and setting really sold the overall plot and I could almost believe that Sparrow is a real town along the Oregon coast. But for me, the real beauty of this story was the writing itself. I think Ernshaw has solidified herself as an auto-buy author for me and I will definitely be picking up whatever she graces us with in the future. If you’re looking for an atmospheric mystery to curl up with on a cold day, I think this one is the perfect fit.
Final Verdict: 4/5 Stars
Have you read The Wicked Deep? If so, what did you think of it? Were you able to figure out the plot twist beforehand? Did you enjoy the flashbacks? Do you plan on reading Ernshaw’s future novels?