Title: The Wicked Deep
Author: Shea Ernshaw
“The Swan season has begun. And this little town tucked along the shore will not come out unharmed.”
This is the most conflicted I’ve ever felt having finished a book. I was over halfway done with this, completely enamored by everything in the story, and then something happened that unfortunately evaporated most of my good feelings. It’s a shame, because this is a terrific story; it’s totally captivating and has an slightly creepy quality to it that makes it unique and thrilling. My biggest problem was how the story and the romance was handled at the end, but I’ll get into that later on. My rating before and after the twist were drastically different, so I ended up averaging it.
The best part of The Wicked Deep is how atmospheric the story is. Shea Ernshaw does a fantastic job crafting the town of Sparrow with her words, and it was so easy to envision while reading. Her writing is very compelling, easily drawing you into the story. I had a hard stop but this down because I was so engaged in the story. The tale of the Swan sisters and their legend to the town was skillfully done and believable.
And now on to what bothered me about the book and why my liking quickly dropped. The next two paragraphs are going to be filled with spoilers, so skip it if you don’t want to be spoiled! Later in the story, it’s revealed that one of the Swan sisters, Hazel, has actually been in possession of Penny. It’s not a terribly surprising twist; I had a feeling that that’s what would happen, but I was hoping I was wrong. Because while it’s actually a good twist and important to the story, it made the romance very, very messy and did not sit well with me at all. Especially the way it gets wrapped up in the end.
“Love is an enchantress – devious and wild. It sneaks up behind you, soft and gentle and quiet, just before it slits your throat.”
That quote sums up my feelings about this pretty well. I never usually enjoy romances in which one person is actually being possessed or controlled by someone else. I think it’s unfair to all the parties involved, particularly the person being controlled (Penny). However, had the ending been handled differently, I might not have minded it so much. But I absolutely hated the ending. First of all, I think it’s totally unfair to Penny that her mother and Bo chose not to tell her the truth about what happened. If it were me, I would want to know why my mom and boyfriend were acting so cautious around me and walking on eggshells. I felt extraordinarily sad by the end; not for Hazel or Bo, but for the girl whose summers, memories, and body were stolen, and yet the truth is being kept from her. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe the best way to start a relationship is with lies and secrets. I also hated that the ending made it seem like Bo was still in love with Hazel? I felt so sad for Penny that she thinks he’s falling in love with her, but the way it’s written it comes off that he’s still in love with a ghost of girl that used to possess her body (a “girl” he knew for all of three weeks, who spent the last 200 years murdering boys, and killed his brother, but I digress). Even now, when I think about the ending, it feels like a pit in my stomach. I wish the story and romance had been wrapped up a lot neater, or in the very least a lot more clearer and unambiguous.
The Wicked Deep is an enchanting, atmospheric, eerie read. As Shea Ernshaw’s debut novel, it’s expertly written and showcases her talent as an author. I look forward to reading more of her work in the future! If the romance had been handled differently at the end, or the ending wrapped up a little neater, this would have easily been a four or five star read. It doesn’t seem to have bothered many other people though, so I still would highly recommend giving this a read!