Friday 30 March 2018

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Review: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw (#Ad)

The Wicked Deep by Shea ErnshawThe Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw (eProof)

I received this eProof for free from Simon & Schuster Children's Books via NetGalley for the purposes of providing an honest review.

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Two centuries ago, in the small, isolated town, 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 from the depths, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them down to their watery deaths.

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 or the fact that his arrival will change everything...

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.
From Goodreads.

I received this eProof for free from Simon & Schuster Children's Books via NetGalley for the purposes of providing an honest review.

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and it definitely lived up to my expectations!

Two centuries ago, the Swan sisters caused havoc in the town of Sparrow. They seduced people's sons, brothers, husbands, and played with them until they had had enough. No single man was ever able to resist them, and the town began to fear they were witches. With each man that fell under their spell, the fear grew, until they did something about it; they tied stones to the Swan sisters' feet and drowned them. Each Summer since, the Swan sisters have returned for their revenge. They take over the bodies of local girls, and bewitch boys, luring them to their watery graves. This is the norm for the town of Sparrow, to the point that Sparrow has become a tourist attraction, with people flocking to Sparrow every Swan season to witness the events that take place. Penny dreads every Swan Season, and the deaths that will follow. But this year, Bo Carter comes to town on the eve of the Swan Season, unaware of the town's history or it's inescapable fate every Summer. Penny is compelled to keep Bo safe, but each have secrets. Rumours and lies have the townspeople turning on each other, and nobody is safe from the curse of the Swan sisters.

For the most part, it's told in the present from Penny's perspective, but we also get a few chapters here and there of the time of the Swan sisters, Maguerite, Aurora and Hazel. These chapters are told in third person, and have a fairy tale quality to them - a story, a legend you're being told; you are drawn into the story of the Swan sisters and their affect on the menfolk of the town of Sparrow. For most of the novel, these chapters reveal very little, just a hint here and a hint there. You're constantly kept guessing - were the Swan sisters actually witches or the victims of superstition, jealousy, and fear?

The present day chapters from Penny's perspective were equally as gorgeous, though in an entirely different way. There is this incredible atmospheric feeling to The Wicked Deep, and an element of magical realism. It's sweeps over you like the fog coming in off the sea, and is completely captivating. The world building of this story is just so wonderful, and the spirits of the Swan sisters reminded me strongly of sirens; the Swan sisters sing, which enchants girls, drawing them into the sea for the sisters to take them over, and once they are inhabiting the bodies of the chosen girls, boys fall under their spell and follow them into the sea to be drowned. Or do they? There's no doubt that there's definitely something that sounds like a song coming from the sea every from the first day of the Swan season until some undetermined time - it never stays the same, each year it will end at a different time. And boys bodies are found washed up to shore, drowned, each and every year. But is it really the Swan sisters? Has the town's history and the townspeople's guilt of what happened two hundred years ago, plus the superstition that led to the Swan sisters deaths originally, led them to create this fantasy when there's a perfectly logical explanation? Are boys dying for some other reason, and the townspeople are just letting it happen because they foolishly believe in this curse?

The way Ernshaw has written this story is just brilliant. You're never completely sure of what's true and what's not, or of what's really going on. There is a twist that I did see coming quite early on, but Ernshaw has managed to create a story where even though I thought XYZ was happening, other things would happen to make me question what I believed. It's strange, because I do feel it was kind of obvious, because by the end it turned out I was right, and I had figured out this twist pretty early on, but other details are woven into this mystery so deftly, I would question myself. I was never entirely certain, which just means Ernshaw is particularly skilled at writing a mystery. And it's because I was never quite certain that I didn't mind being right. It's not predictable. There were other twists that followed the twist I worked out that I didn't see coming, so there were definitely some surprises that came towards the end. And despite all the questions and the fantasy element, there is some real tragedy and heartbreak to this story, and it actually made me quite emotional. It took my breath away.

It's not all perfect, though. I never felt like we really got to know Bo or Penny as people, not in any real depth. By the end of the story, I could understand why this was, to some degree, but because of this, I had difficulty believing the romance between them. They seemed to feel very strongly for each other very quickly, and I couldn't see what is was based on. For me, the plot, the mystery, was more interesting than the actual characters. But with how wonderful the rest of the story is, for me this is just a small thing. It sounds bad to not be interested much in the characters, but the plot was so enticing, that I was completely captivated anyway.

The Wicked Deep is such an incredible, atmospheric book with beautiful storytelling and an engrossing mystery. I am so looking forward to reading what Ernshaw writes in the future.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Children's Books via NetGalley for the eProof.

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Published: 8th March 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
Shea Ernshaw's Website

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  1. I loved this book, and am so excited that it is being made into a film.

  2. Ooh, this sounds like a curious read. I like the witch-y elements.