Book #53

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

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 love a bit of creepy folklore, more so when myth turns out to be reality, and even more so when it’s a revenge tale involving annual deaths at the murky bottom of the ocean. Perfection.

The setting truly is the best part of this, and Ernshaw has created something sublime in her depictions of this chilling and atmospheric town. Rolling waves, abandoned lighthouses, creaky cabins and even just the biting wind were all described to a wonderful and affecting degree. The unease and apprehension were really bolstered by this, and I enjoyed the goosebumps which rose on my skin.

I loved the mystery of it all, and the slow way we came to understand how the curse came about years ago. The historical narratives contrasted against present day were interesting, and I was deeply invested in the sisters, despite the very obvious twist.

Our characters deserved a bit more love and care, though, and the entire novel would have benefited from deeper dives into their backstories and motivations spanning both timelines. And although I understood the requirement for a romantic element here, I just couldn’t see why love struck so forcefully on two people with little to no chemistry or commonality. They seemed thrown together to hurry the plot along, and I felt a bit odd about some of the consent issues involved with this choice.

Overall though, a quick and atmospheric wander through a town cursed by its own actions, condemned to face the consequences of its own prejudice.