Book Review: The Wicked Deep

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Shea Ernshaw’s The Wicked Deep fits nicely in the YA paranormal genre and fits nicely as a summer read, as it takes place at the start of summer in a small coastal town, or as a spooky read in the fall for Halloween.


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.

I give this book a 3 out of 5 stars, and truly the book sits very much in the middle for me. A number of people recommended reading this, and so it was a little disappointing that it doesn’t quite live up to the hype. To start, I began reading this book, got a hundred pages in, paused to read some other books, then only picked it up because it was due back at the library. When I don’t feel compelled to plow through a story, I know that there’s something that just doesn’t gel.

The fact that I couldn’t easily pin-point what didn’t gel right away is why this book isn’t rated lower for me. In this spoiler-free review, let’s start about what I really liked about this book.

The Pros


I selected to read this book in October as a fun witchy read for spooky season. I loved the lore that is very well developed in this book. I love that the book features chapters that flash to the past and the origin story of the Swan Sisters, as it pulls you into the legends that built the town of Sparrow.

There were really well thought out elements. Pretty much all of the ritual that surrounds “Swan Season” was imaginative and fun, down to the eerie song that announces the start of it. That being said, I wanted more paranormal happenings and weird occurrences.

A love interest with charm and mystery:

I really liked Bo as a character. It was interesting to see an outsider come into this small town, and there were fun interactions between him and the main character, Penny. I was instantly curious about his character and backstory, which did not let me down when the mystery was unraveled.

A solid twist:

I’d like to keep this spoiler free, so I’ll refrain from revealing the twist. I wasn’t completely flabbergasted by the twist, but I personally like when I can guess a twist a few scenes before the reveal, which was what happened in this case.

Things I liked (Rapid-fire Edition)
  • An authentic female friendship
  • A well-developed setting that drove the story
  • Tiny cakes that “conjured” emotions
  • Sisters acting like sisters

The Cons

Why should I care?

Whether it was something missing in the character development or an issue with pacing, I had a harder time getting pulled into the story and kept asking myself why I should care? Though the stakes were high, lives were threatened, I didn’t quite feel the compressing weight of it and would have wished for more heart-hammering suspense.

Based on the premise I was expecting things to get more eerie and more suspenseful and I never felt a strong connection to the overarching mystery of the story.

The romance drowned

When I read the synopsis of this book, I expected a burning love story fueled with danger and sacrifice, and while there is a romantic subplot it didn’t quite spark the way I hoped it would. I never felt that Penny and Bo had a ton of chemistry and after certain plot moments happened, I questioned the relationship arc even more.

While the main romance arc felt like a letdown, there were tertiary relationships that had captured my interest. Though it’s not always a positive to focus on side love stories instead of the focal one.

One burning question

As I was reading this, I had this question burning through my mind the entire time. If this horrific supernatural occurrence happens every year, why does the town not do more to stop it? The town of Sparrow welcomes tourists to come visit during a season that kills the young men of their town… sounds cheerful to me.

I kept wondering, why do they not try and barricade of the beaches or have more people on guard? It might not have solved the entire problem at hand, but I felt like the entire town was way too cavalier about something that killed young people on an annual basis.

In closing

The Wicked Deep hit me as a very middle of the road read, which is why I felt compelled to review it. We tend to rave about things we love or rant about things we hate. I felt compelled to add my commentary on something that did not overwhelm or underwhelm. Sometimes you are just left whelmed.

Happy Reading!

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