By Robert Drinkwater
Vengeful witches, curses, and dark pasts, this is what one can expect when reading The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw. I first heard about this book when watching the booktuber Jesse The Reader talk about the fact that Netflix just bought the rights to this book. Whether it will be a movie or miniseries remains to be seen. Personally, I can’t picture this book as anything but a movie due to it’s relatively short page length and simple plot. The book takes place in the small town of Sparrow, Oregon. Two hundred years ago three sisters, Marguerite, Aurora, and Hazel were accused of witchcraft and the townsfolk tied rocks around their ankles and drowned the sisters off the coast. This was not the end of them however, each year since their drowning, for three weeks, the sisters each inhabit the body of a girl who will then lure boys into the water and drown them. Each year at least three boys are killed and the townsfolk have called that time of year The Swan Season. This novel follows the character of Penny Talbot, a girl who lives on a small island off of the coast of Sparrow. At this point, it has been two hundred years since the Swan sisters were drowned and they have taken the lives of numerous boys each year. This has become the norm for the town and they even throw celebrations during the Swan Season.
Going into this book, I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew that it was about three witches who inhabit the bodies of girls and then they drown boys in the town. I thought that this was an interesting concept, and I’ve always been a fan of supernatural books. From the very beginning, the whole atmosphere seemed eerie and mysterious. There was also the mystery of which girls will get inhabited by the sisters. There were also some creepy elements to the novel, such the spirits of the sisters trying to draw in girls into the water with their singing so that they can possess their bodies. Even though I really liked the concept and the setting, I thought that the characters made this story feel kind of bland. Penny’s love interest Bo plays an important part in the story, but he doesn’t have much of a personality, other than the fact that he was an outsider with a mysterious past, a trope that I usually don’t mind because I like mystery, but in this case that part of his seemed to be his only trait. As for the other characters in this novel, Penny has a friend Rose who plays a part at the beginning of the novel, pressuring Penny to go a celebration of the beginning of the Swan Season, but other than that she doesn’t really play a large role in the story other than being Penny’s more extroverted friend. There were other characters who played a role in the story as well like some of Penny’s classmates and her mother, but they kind of just show up fro time to time. While I thought a lot of these characters were bland and uninteresting, I did enjoy reading about the Swan sisters. Every few chapters there would be a little excerpt, most of the time it was a flashback and over the course of the novel we learn more about each sister.
This novel is relatively short, and I feel like it moves at a decent pace, however, I thought that the ending a was a bit rushed and certain parts seemed anticlimactic. As for Bo and Penny’s relationship, I felt like that was rushed as well. This novel takes place within the span of three weeks and I felt like they both fell in love with each other way too quickly. There were a few moments when they bonded and got to know each other, but it just seemed to happen rather quickly and both of them seemed to be only attracted to each other’s looks above all else. Most of the time I root for the protagonist to end up with their love interest, but in this case, I just wasn’t invested in the romance.
Overall, I was really excited to read this book. It had an interesting plot and I enjoyed all of the flashback chapters, especially the one involving the sister’s trial and execution, that was a very poignant part. However, I thought that a lot of the characters were bland as well as the romance between Penny and Bo. There is a surprising twist towards the end, but the ending still felt rushed. Despite my feelings about this book, I am still looking forward to the Netflix adaptation, maybe if it does become a mini series the characters will have more depth and a more nuanced romance.
Also check out this booktuber: https://www.youtube.com/user/jessethereader