The Wicked Deep and the Beauty of Simplicity

by Gurpreet Sihat

I’ve been thinking about simplicity a lot lately. Luxury is always alluring, but there’s something about simplicity that is far more beautiful. Far more intimate. Think about it: How many days have you’ve spent curled up with a good book in the sunshine with an iced tea or by a fire with a hot chocolate, and just basked in its perfection? How many hours have you spent bursting into laughter with the people you love the most over a cup of coffee and lost track of time? How many movies made you squeal ‘Oh My God!’ when you least expect  because the most obvious path was the outcome instead of the most complex, completely taking you by surprise?

What makes The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw such an incredible novel, one of the only books I’ve ever given five stars to, is its simplicity. It reads like a fairy tale, and fairy tales stand the test of time. It’s Practical Magicmeets The Cruciblemeets Hocus Pocusand every single page has you begging for more.

Two hundred years before our story begins, three sisters – Marguerite, Aurora and Hazel Swam – were sent to death by drowning for the crime of witchcraft. Now, every year the sisters return for the three weeks that lead up to Summer Solstice, the anniversary of their death. They commandeer the bodies of three innocent girls and claim the lives of boys so that their souls remain with them forever, in the depth of the ocean. Caught in the middle of it all is Penny Talbot, who has accepted the town’s fate just as many other have. But when a mysterious boy name Bo Carter arrives in town, she has to choose between her life his; and her acceptance begins to unravel.

Throughout the novel, you’re introduced to well-crafted, entertaining characters. You can’t help but love them all – the Swan sisters included, despite them being the villains of the piece. Somehow you’re able to find something to relate to within all of them. Even those who don’t have very much page time, like Penny’s mum or Owen Clement.

The narrative is delightfully written. It is simple to read yet so intriguing that I almost finished it in one sitting. It was 3am before I forced myself to sleep just as I reached the killer plot twist that had me questioning my loyalties. I picked up the book as soon as I woke the following morning! Speaking of that twist, it had me on the fence about how I wanted the story to end and boy was that ending beautiful!

I was also fascinated by the way Ernshaw uses chapter titles to structure this novel. There are titled chapters which tell story of other characters in the novel, mainly the Swan sisters before they were killed, intertwined between numbered chapters which further the plot. The way the descriptive chapters tie into the novel towards the end is so creative I wish I had thought of it myself!

Shea Ernshaw is now top on my list of debut novelists. I’ll definitely be recommending The Wicked Deep to all YA fantasy fans from now on. Actually, I might just recommend it to anyone who will listen!

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