The Wicked Deep - Shea Earnshaw

N.B. This review is going to be VERY spoilerific

“Love is an enchantress—devious and wild. It sneaks up behind you, soft and gentle and quiet, just before it slits your throat.”

I was pretty excited to receive The Wicked Deep as part of the March 'Under the Sea' box from the Book Box Club (see my unboxing post here) because it was something a little different to what I usually read. I tend to stick to the safe confines of YA contemporary and fantasy that everyone has been raving about most of the time. A book about three witches (who also happen to be sisters) getting murderous revenge for their execution centuries earlier? Now that sounds pretty interesting. Whilst The Wicked Deep didn't live up to all of my expectations, there were still some really great parts that I absolutely loved.

"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."

Something I have read over and over again in other reviews that I most definitely agree with is that this book is atmospheric. The town is gloomy, the people are sketchy and everything feels a little bit sinister. From cakes to make you forget bad memories to Penny's mother's absence from day to day life, everything has an unsettling undertone that keeps you on edge throughout the whole book. It was thanks to this incredible atmosphere that I just couldn't put it down at times. You have this near constant feeling that something bad is going to happen at any moment.

The other hook, of course, is it having such a unique and interesting concept. I am a huge fan of blending mythology/fairy tales/magic or similar things into realism settings (in fact, my current WIP does just that), think Spiderwick Chronicles, Shadow Forest or Harry Potter, and the Wicked Deep does that very well. The story is set in the modern day (admittedly, I expected it to be set in the Victorian era for some reason) and the legend of the Swan Sisters is really treated like a fairy tale by most of the residents of Sparrow, only Penny seems to believe it's real. It felt like a very natural response; people don't truly believe in it until people start dying and then they suddenly turn on each other.

The gradual reveal of the true story behind the Swan sisters' deaths was perhaps one of my favourite aspects of the book. It is widely known that lots of women executed as witches were purely victims of circumstance and sexism so I really enjoyed seeing all the truth behind the sisters' persecution. I loved that in the end it was the wholesome, pure, seemingly monogamous sister that lead to their downfall. Usually with stories like this it's the fault of the predictably rebellious one.

However, one thing I really didn't like was that we were supposed to be surprised that Hazel was occupying Penny? It was incredibly unsubtle; she could see the sisters and yet she never mentioned seeing Hazel or and never seemed worried about not seeing Hazel. That wasn't the big issue, though. The real bug bear for me is that the narration before the 'reveal' does not make sense if it came from Hazel. I think it would have been a lot better to have the reveal earlier and then have the story fully from the perspective of Hazel. Having it from 'Penny's' point of view made it lack real depth. In fact, why not have the book moving between the three sisters? Towards the end we got to hear a lot about what Hazel thought about the curse and her motivations but we know almost nothing about her sisters'.

Another plot twist that wasn't really a twist; Bo's brother. Could it have been any more obvious he was killed by a swan sister? When a cute boy comes to your tiny town literally only known for its murderous festival every year with a tragic backstory about his brother, you know why he's really there. Again, perhaps if this wasn't a twist it would have worked better? I did think that the twist of the other sisters trying to lure Bo as well was very clever and helped to build the tension, though.

Speaking of Bo, that romance? I felt a little bit of whiplash there because it felt like we went from 'oh we're finally being civil and trying to get to know each other' to 'we are now hopelessly in love and want to elope together'. When you put it into the context of Hazel being in control it does make more sense - she does have limited time away from the sea - but it still felt forced. What's more, after he finds out he wasn't in love with Penny he still carries on dating her?! That felt a little bit like a bubblegum ending to please the readers.

Despite my complaints of predictability, there was one twist I didn't call; Penny's dad. Whilst it was fairly obvious his disappearance had something to do with the Swan sisters, I assumed maybe he'd been lured away too but the body got trapped underwater. Having him find out the truth and die trying to save Penny and Sparrow was a very surprising and fitting twist for a man that seemed to truly love his family. I just think it's a shame that Penny's mother didn't get that closure so she must have just stayed the same distant person forever.

Since reading other reviews, I've heard that Netflix have picked The Wicked Deep up for an adaptation. Even though I have lots of issues with this book (more than I have discussed here), I still enjoyed reading it and it definitely had its merits. Done well, this book would make a really good, if creepy, film that I would definitely spare the time to watch. You don't have to love every book, just find the good in them, and the Wicked Deep definitely has a lot of good despite its flaws.

Rating: 3/5

What are you thoughts on the Wicked Deep? Are there any other atmospheric supernatural books you would recommend? Who else will be watching that Netflix adaptation? To keep up with my posts, enter your email below or in the sidebar!

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