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“The knowing of what’s coming, the death that creeps up over the town like fate clawing at the door of every shop and home. I can feel it in the air, in the spray of the sea, in the hollow spaces between raindrops. The sisters are coming.”
Reading books that have been highly recommended to me by multiple people always makes me a little nervous, but I am so happy to say that The Wicked Deep is worth the hype! If you are looking for the perfect Halloween read, look no further: The Wicked Deep is captivatingly written and feels almost magical with its prose. I was spellbound! This book wasn’t what I was expecting (story of my life) but I loved it all the same.
The Town of Sparrow has a sordid past and has done the most American thing in response: turned it into a tourist attraction. Two hundred years ago, three sisters were drowned after being found guilty of witchcraft, and every year for three weeks they possess the bodies of three teenage girls and lure men to a watery end. The possessed girls have no memory of what happened during the Swan Season and no one can tell that the girl is possessed… Who can you trust when the enemy could be anyone?
“And yet you celebrate it each year. You get drunk and swim in the harbor, even when you know what’s coming? Even though you know people are going to die? You’ve just accepted it?”
The juxtaposition of this cyclical and random vengeance wreaking havoc on the town with the town’s eerily jubilant celebrations as if it’s the Fourth of July spoke to me deeply. About how tragedy becomes a spectacle and the near disregard of the town’s inhabitants to protect themselves.
But right now, they aren’t thinking about that. Everyone believes they’re immune. Until they’re not.
It isn’t their problem unless it happens to them. And for a town of 2,400 residents you would think that they would care a bit more for their neighbors. Honestly though, I was so taken by the writing that I didn’t think about how weird it was none of the adults seemed to care until I sat down to write my review.
The narrative covers the three week Swan Season in present time in the first-person perspective of Penny Talbot, a 17 year old that lives on Lumiere Island across the harbor from Sparrow. Apparently her family owns the island and runs a lighthouse. This sounds incredibly cool to me for some reason, and my hermit is showing. On the night of the Swan party she meets Bo Carter, a mysterious outsider that blows into town seemingly by chance and unaware of Swan Season. The town is mistrusting of outsiders; Penny offers to let him stay in an old cabin on the island in exchange for helping run the lighthouse, and over the course of the following weeks they grow closer.
As the bodies begin to pile up, the local teenagers work into a frenzy trying to figure out who the Swan Sisters have inhabited this season (I find it weird that the adults don’t care at all???). In this way the hysteria very much felt like a nod to the Witch Trials, and the way that a lack of evidence only seems to add fuel to the fire of the mob mentality. The worst in people comes out in times of crisis like this, the brain trying to assign blame and find meaning. This book is very much about the darkness of humanity and the tragic aftermath.
While the characters and overall story are so intricately crafted, I do wish that the magic fueling the curse was explained. For a book that I assumed was about witches there really isn’t anything to it, and the book ended without even discussing it at all. I am the kind of reader that likes to understand how things work, and it is important to me as a fantasy reader to have magic systems fleshed out and explained. Unfortunately in this regard I was left wanting more.
Overall, The Wicked Deep is a beautifully written fantasy story that I absolutely adored. Also can we talk about how gorgeous the cover is?! 😭 This is a fast-paced read that will keep you engaged to the very end!
You can find information about my rating criteria here.