Fantasy · Magical Realism · YA

The Wicked Deep – Shea Ernshaw

4 Stars

The Wicked Deep is one of the most polished debut novels I’ve read in a long time. Shea Ernshaw has written a witchy YA novel that flirts with tired tropes and breathes fresh new life into them.

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Cover from Goodreads

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.

In The Wicked Deep we get a fresh new take on small, tourist-town life. It reads a lot like a contemporary novel with some fantasy elements woven in. A little tooo much to be Magical Realism, but I wouldn’t argue too hard if someone wanted to classify it that way. Ernshaw’s thoughtful novel is tightly plotted and carefully crafted. I’ve been reading for a long time and this felt fresh and new. She even managed to surprise me with a couple of twists at the end – I was delighted! (There were even a couple of emotional gut-punches!)

The characters had depth and felt multidimensional, and the quick romance that buds is sweet without being eye-rollingly saccharine or completely tropey. The threat of revenge from the drowned sisters was believable, though not fully explained.

I read the book in a night because I simply didn’t want to put it down. The Wicked Deep is also, delightfully, a standalone. In an age where more and more YA novels are parts of series (especially in fantasy), it’s a singular delight when I find a standalone that feels complete. I don’t need more of The Wicked Deep because everything I needed in the story is right there, between the pages.

The Wicked Deep is on sale March 6, 2018. If you’re a fan of YA fantasy or contemporary YA, The Wicked Deep will be a fun, satisfying read.

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