Review Detail

 
The Wicked Deep Featured
Young Adult Fiction
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0

So Easily Conjured

The promise of a novel filled with the essence of both Practical Magic and Hocus Pocus is fulfilled by reading Shea Ernshaw's debut novel, The Wicked Deep. Within these pages is a story filled with regret, revenge, lies, and most of all, love. And every bit of this summertime story is just as wicked and deep as the title assures.

From the beginning, the haunting lyricism with which Ernshaw conjures her story is enough to draw readers in, and what's more, drown them entirely in beautiful language. The style blends a contemporary narrative with historical elements given through the titled chapters spread throughout the entirety of the novel. Though the narration of these titled chapters does not follow the linear action of the novel, they are just as captivating as the world seen through Penny Talbot's eyes. Penny believes deep in her bones that the three Swan sisters who were drowned in the harbor of Sparrow, Oregon 200 years ago, do indeed return each summer to drown as many teenage boys as they can. It becomes most clear that "magic was not always so linear. It was born from odium. From love. From revenge." And what begins as a story of revenge soon becomes one filled with love.

Throughout the story, tensions remain high, stakes fraught with the impending deaths of innocent boys. There is a ticking clock to keep readers swept up in the urgency of the story; the Swan season wanes toward the summer solstice, which marks the day the sisters were drowned after being accused of witchcraft so many centuries ago. Like the descendants of Salem, Marguerite, Aurora, and Hazel Swan were not witches. Yet, they're resurrected every summer, taking over the bodies of young girls in town before slipping from the skins back to the ocean below. It's a rather dire set of circumstances in a town that knows entirely too much of their tragic fates, best explained within the narrative:

"Murder. That's precisely what it is. Calling it a curse does not unmake the truth of what happens here each year...It's as predictable as the tide and the moon. It ebbs and flows. Death comes and goes."

Held within those few lines is the essence of the story, that constant sway between life and death, killer and victim. And the villains of the story, those Swan sisters with the ability to lure boys to their deaths, are proven to be just as flawed and complicated as any good antagonist should be. What was most unexpected, however, was how their villainy washed away as their tragic fates were shared, making it hard not to accept their revenge. Best explained by Penny, "Guilt slithers through me, a thousand regrets, and I wish for things I can't have: a way to undo all the deaths, to save the people who've been lost."

The other characters within this novel are no less authentic. Everyone from Penny's grief-stricken mother to Bo, the new boy in town who hides something just as dark as the town; they all seem to hope for something better. As readers, we learn that "the truth slips between the edges of the lies." These people, like Penny, are broken. She misses her father. Her mother has been driven into darkness most maddening by the disappearance of her husband three years before, and Bo found his way to Sparrow filled with his own heartbreaks. At their core, they are all searching the shores for something. Like Bo explains:

"They're always reasons to stay. You just need to find one reason to leave."

Shea Ernshaw's strengths within this debut do not merely lie at the bottom of an ocean filled with exquisite language, intricate history, and poignant characters, but rather imbue power into the story with elements of magical realism. The notions of curses and revenge, of momentary resurrection and ghosts might be hard to comprehend amidst the contemporary small town setting. But this is the farthest thing from a summer beach read because of the elements of magical realism woven throughout the narrative in a manner that seems so easily conjured. These details act as a juxtaposition to the haunting reality of death. From the forgetful cakes Penny's best friend's mother bakes, "intended to make you forget the worst thing that's ever happened to you--to wipe away bad memories," to the way Penny and her mother are able to divine the future by reading tea leaves; there is a hint of magic in everything. This acts as a way for the reader to better comprehend the strange events of Sparrow, Oregon, and thus, too, the characters to accept that something wicked most certainly comes from the sea.

Sparrow is a mysterious place, while Penny's home at Lumiere island acts as a protection against everything happening around her. The lighthouse is able to shine light onto the murky truths beneath the waves, and as such, the island becomes its own kind of character within the novel. Just as Penny and Bo gravitate toward the orchards and cottages, the reader, too, will feel bound to the island and the veil of safety it offers against the brutality of the risen sisters.

Reading the line, "Some places are bound in by magic. Ensnared by it," this feels like truth carefully crafted to encompass the marks we leave, even after we're gone. So too, does this truth: "Ghosts remain. But sometimes, the past is the only thing keeping a place alive...But it persists, because it must. Penance is a long, unforgiving thing. It endures, for without it, the past is forgotten." Throughout this book, there were many more lines and paragraphs, which took my breath as I drowned within them, ensnared by Ernshaw's skill to take the reader deep into her characters' lives. Lines resonate long after being read. None so much as:

"Perhaps we all have some oddity, some strangeness we keep hidden along our edges, things we see the we can't explain, things we wish for, things we run from."

In the end, Shea Ernshaw's debut, The Wicked Deep, will leave readers under its eerie spell. Though this book is a standalone with a satisfying conclusion, it is clear that "endings are never so simple." And navigating this haunting tale to the last page will leave readers looking forward to whatever Ernshaw conjures next!

Was this review helpful to you? 

Comments

 
 
Ordering 
 
Already have an account? or Create an account
 
 
 
Powered by JReviews

FEATURED GIVEAWAYS

Latest Book Listings Added

The Leading Edge of Now
Just when Grace is beginning to get used to...
 
3.7
 
0.0 (0)
9 FROM NINE WORLDS
The Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard trilogy...
 
3.7
 
0.0 (0)
I Do Not Trust You
Memphis "M" Engle is stubborn to a fault, graced...
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
RIPPED- a Jack the Ripper Time-Travel Thriller
When a museum trip turns funky, Katie Lennox is...
 
5.0
 
4.8 (5)
Queens (The Wielders of Arantha Book 2)
A cosmic game of chess is underway, and the...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Pride
Pride and Prejudice gets remixed in this smart, funny,...
 
4.7
 
0.0 (0)
The Story of B
The Story of B combines Daniel Quinn's provocative and visionary...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Dark Tales: Beauty and the Beast: A Modern Retelling
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. ...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Dark Tales: The Snow Queen: A Graphic Novel
Follow Gerda on an adventure to find her friend Kay,...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
DARK TALES: THE CALL OF CTHULHU: A Graphic Novel
In this Dark Tale, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming... ...
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
Dark Tales: The Hound of the Baskervilles: A Graphic Novel
Eliminate the impossible, and whatever remains, however improbable, must be...
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
Time Jumpers: Escape from Egypt
This series is part of Scholastic's early chapter book line,...
 
3.0
 
0.0 (0)
NOTES FROM MY CAPTIVITY
Adrienne Cahill cares about three things: getting into a great...
 
4.7
 
0.0 (0)
#Murdertrending
@doctorfusionbebop: Some 17 y. o. chick named Dee Guerrera was...
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
Unstoppable Moses
Moses and his cousin Charlie were best friends, wisecracking pranksters,...
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
51HTvQF3B2L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
Alien meets Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds in this thrilling...
 
3.0
 
0.0 (0)

Latest Member Reviews

Mangoes, Mischief, and Tales of Friendship
 
3.0
"This book took me right back to my childhood! But what’s interesting is that the stories in this book aren’t..."
Zora & Me: The Cursed Ground
 
5.0
" Reading stories set during the time of slavery twists the stomach into a knot. Though most of us..."
The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge
 
5.0
"Brangwain Spurge is an elfin historian on a mission: he's tasked with delivering a gift to the king of the..."
Timmy Failure: It's the End When I Say It's the End (Timmy Failure #7)
 
4.5
"As Christmas approaches, Timmy is ready to give up his detective business, but he has one last mission: to help..."
Genius Ideas [Mostly] (Tom Gates #4)
 
4.0
"There are few things in Tom's life that are NOT made better by caramel wafer biscuits, and after he sees..."
Merci Suárez Changes Gears
 
4.0
"Merci lives next door to her grandparents, Abuela and Lolo, and her aunt and younger twin cousins. Her father has..."
Hearts Unbroken
 
4.0
"WHAT I LOVED: When Louise’s boyfriend Cam first disparages Native people in front of her–specifically his brother’s Kickapoo spouse–he isn’t..."
The Princesses of Iowa
 
5.0
"I really enjoyed this book!"
Otherwood
 
5.0
"Stuey, his mother, and his grandfather live in a large, old house that has been in the family for generations..."
The Dollar Kids
 
4.5
"Lowen Grover and his family have a decent life in the city, but after his best friend is shot at..."
The Turnaway Girls
 
3.7
"Delphernia lives in a cloister of turnaway girls on the island of Blightsend, and she's unable to do the one..."
Poe: Stories and Poems
 
5.0
"The perfect gift for any Poe fan, Gareth Hinds breathes life—and gory death—into some of the greatest works of Edgar..."
What's So Special About Dickens?
 
4.7
"Like many adults, I have a deep, abiding love for classic literature—a love that did not begin during my childhood...."
The Button War: A Tale of The Great War
 
4.3
"Twelve-year-old Patryk lives in a small Polish town in 1914. He hangs with his group of friends which includes Jurek...."
Yellow Submarine
 
4.0
"Twice upon a time, once in 1968 and once today, there was an unearthly paradise called Pepperland. In an elaboration..."
The Red Ribbon
 
5.0
"Fourteen-year-old Ella is striped down and treated as subhuman by the Nazis and tries to survive. When she hears of..."
1968: Today's Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change
 
4.5
"In order for young people to make sense of the current sociopolitical landscape, it is not a bad idea for..."
The Orphan Band of Springdale
 
5.0
"The year is 1941, and Gusta and her father board a bus to make their way to Springdale, Maine so..."
Ruby Redfort: Blink and You Die (Ruby Redfort #6)
 
4.0
"Ruby's parents are in France, and Ruby is back from Genius Camp and Mrs. Digby back from a convenient cruise...."
Judy Moody Was in a Mood (Judy Moody #1)
 
5.0
"Judy is starting 3rd grade, and she is not pleased about it. Her family didn't go anywhere over the summer,..."