I’ve always been fascinated by stories about witches, so I was excited to read Shea Ernshaw’s The Wicked Deep. Described as “Hocus Pocus meets Practical Magic,” it’s a book that combines local folklore and tradition with a magical haunting that returns to the small town of Sparrow every year. There’s mystery, romance, and a literal witch hunt, and you can’t help but wonder how it will all end once the Swan sisters arrive, ready for their revenge… 🌙
Not sure what this book is about? Click here for a short synopsis! 😁
What I Liked: This is a very atmospheric read, and I think it’s totally fair to say that the town of Sparrow is, in its own way, an important character in the story. It has a sinister history that Ernshaw details throughout the book, and it serves as an eerie backdrop for the present-day “Swan season,” as the locals call it. One small thing I had trouble with was remembering where exactly it was located — it’s in Oregon, but sometimes I thought it was in Washington. But I don’t think this matters much, because Sparrow seems like the type of town that could exist anywhere on the coast, a small, isolated place filled with legend and lore.
I really liked the way Ernshaw handled the Swan sisters, both in the present-day and in the occasional flashbacks to 1822 Sparrow. She effectively blends myth and reality, creating a vengeful force that brings the town to its knees every single year, as penance for a 200-year-old mistake. Little details helped to increase the tension, like the Swan party on the beach, Penny’s fear of going too far into the water, the siren-like singing, and the townspeople’s knowledge of what comes next. They know the pain of the Swan season more acutely than the tourists that swarm into Sparrow every summer. And if anything, their acceptance and resignation makes the story even creepier. 😱
This was definitely a page-turner, and I was eager to know what would happen with Penny, Bo, and Penny’s classmates. In a way, it’s a mystery, as well as a modern myth that draws upon stories of mermaids and sirens. I wouldn’t call it a horror story, but perhaps a paranormal romance that takes a turn you might not see coming. (Which I won’t talk about, because SPOILERS! 🤐)
What I Disliked: I was a little frustrated by the “insta-love” between Penny and Bo. It had me like, “YOU’VE KNOWN EACH OTHER LESS THAN A MONTH!” and it’s honestly just a clichéd plot device. 🙄 I did like the big twist in this book, but I found the ending to be… meh. And sort of drawn out. I feel like Ernshaw was trying to provide the reader with as much closure as possible, but there’s something to be said for leaving a few things to a reader’s imagination. And while I feel like we get to know some of the characters, many — including Bo — seemed a little one-dimensional to me, and I would’ve liked to learn more about them, or at least see different facets of them.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes paranormal mystery or romance stories, as well as big, unexpected twists!
Publication Date: March 6th
About the Author: Shea Ernshaw
**Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.