TLDR: ★ ★ ★ ★ Languid and lyrical, I was enthralled by this atmospheric tale of a rain-soaked coastal Oregon town cursed by three witchy sisters — and all the riveting mystery and heartbreak their 200-year-old curse brings, even if it was sometimes a bit too predictable.
Thanks to my love of witches in fiction, an absolutely stunning book cover, and a description calling it "Hocus Pocus and Practical Magic meets the Salem Witch trials," The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw has been on my can't wait to read list since last fall. And while this was much more poignant and not at all the lighthearted fun of the movies it's compared to — the only similarities being a trio of witchy sisters and a curse — this was still well worth the wait.
Set amid the misty haze of a coastal Oregon town, The Wicked Deep follows Penny Talbot as her junior year ends and the locals prepare for Swan season: a three-week period in June when the town is besieged by tourists morbidly eager to witness the curse of the Swan sisters. According to legend, three girls' bodies are inhabited by the spirits of three sisters killed for witchery 200 years ago so they can lure young men into the ocean's depths, drowning the boys as punishment for the town's sins against them.
The local teens have their own Swan season rituals, involving drunken bonfires on the beach and girls testing fate by going for a swim, daring a sister to take them. For Penny, these rituals are usually to be avoided, but this summer is different: her friend drags her to the bonfire party, where she's saved from a handsy drunk by the brooding new boy in town, Bo.
Though he's an outsider, Penny hires him to help out on the lighthouse island where she lives alone with her mother — her father having vanished three years ago — thus charting a new course for the summer that brings love, but also builds to a series of revelations both haunting and sad…