Murder witches, ghosts, and existential angst

The Wicked Deep - Shea Ernshaw

Disclaimer: reviewing unedited digital proof via NetGalley.


Sometime in the 1800s or so in Sparrow, OR, three sisters were drowned for being witches (& seducing all the guys). Two centuries later, they still return every summer to possess three girls in town and drown boys in revenge.


The lighthouse keeper's daughter is still reeling after the disappearance (and presumed death) of her father. When a strange boy comes to town the day before the drowning season, she offers him a place to stay. That night, she dreams of the sea.


This is kind of a hard one to review without spoilers. It does some fascinating things with identity and perspective, and the twists are the kind you anticipate and dread as they creep up on you with slow inevitability. Rich worldbuilding conveys a sense of a smalltown/vacation town on the coast, the uneasy sea, and the tension of belonging and acceptance that becomes especially critical in such a close-knit community. Interesting things happening with sexuality/identity, though this comfortably enjoyable read tends to avoid looking at the ick factor of girls being possessed by the dead and sleeping with the boys in town while under the spell too closely. The story feels fresh, and the style or voice is immediate and engaging. Around midway through, it seemed like it was shaping up to be a romance. Keep in mind that tragedy, horror, and suspense are core to the story and settle in for the ride. As a whole, it feels like a quiet read with strong interiority, rather than a pacy thriller - but on the other hand, I inhaled it in like a day, so it definitely doesn't drag.


Spectacularly atmospheric and creeptastic new read that walks the line between dark fantasy and paranormal. It's a really great tone, more quiet and pensive, with a good helping of horror and historic fic snuck in there. You may or may not see the twists coming, but they carry weight regardless. Feels fresh and familiar at the same time. Definitely an author to watch.