The Wicked Deep + Stardust

Good morning everyone, I hope you are all having a fantastic week and a happy Friday. I just got off my 10 hour night shift of the week and in an attempt to swap back to daytime hours I decided to pop in and review the last two books I finished this week. One of these I read as a physical copy, and the other I read as an ebook, but both were from my library.

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw: ★★★

This book was a fun little YA book I read because I knew I would be able to get through it quickly. It wasn’t a great work of literature, but it was definitely a fun time, and therefore was the perfect book for me at the time.

This book essentially follows this super weird small town in Washington state, I think, that is plagued by the deaths of teenaged boys each year during the month of June. The curse started after the town banded together and drowned the three Swan sisters back in the 1800s for witchcraft, when really they were just very attractive, independent, confident women. Since then, every year in June, dubbed the Swan season, the sisters each possess the body of a teenaged girl and lure teenaged boys to their deaths in the harbor in revenge. The MC, Penny, lives alone with her mother on an island in the harbor and falls in love with a mysterious stranger, named Bo, but of course she has secrets of her own.

So yeah, typical YA love story with a mysterious outsider that is very attractive and acts much older than he actually is. But despite all of the cliche-ness of that aspect of the story, it was a nice time! The story is told in a funny type of dual-perspective in which we get random chapters interspersed throughout the story where we learn about what exactly happened to the Swan sisters and why the town became convinced they were witches. I enjoyed those chapters and was VERY glad they were included so that we could learn more about them. In the present, with Penny and Bo, we see the town basically have their own modern-day witch-hunt to try to discover who the Swan sisters have possessed, and we see the paranoia take hold as everyone is pointing fingers at each other. It was neat.

I had two problems with this book. First, I guessed the ending immediately. It was super obvious, and I feel like Ernshaw should not have gone that route for the sole reason of how extremely obvious it was. I won’t talk anymore about that because I don’t want to spoil anyone, but I swear, OBVIOUS AS HECK.

The second thing is that this book suffers from one of the long-standing problems that we often see in YA, from fantasy to contemporary, no genre is spared: the absent adults. This book had a SHOCKING lack of adult interaction. The teenagers of this town must have the most chill parents in the entire universe for how much shenanigans they get into. The only adults we ever see in this entire book are Penny’s mom, who is not in any shape to do any parenting so she is like a present-absent adult, and Penny’s friends mom (I already forgot her friend’s name, oops), who we talk to literally once. We hear about all these other adults in the town, but we never see them, and they somehow miss all the illegal shit going on. Like hello, teenaged boys have died EVERY JUNE since the 1800s and there are NO adults guarding the harbor or patrolling the streets at least during Swan season?? It just makes no sense. Books like this where the characters are always in so much danger and there are no adults present just feel so incredibly unrealistic that it makes it difficult to connect to the story.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman: ★★★★

The second book I finished this week was a classic Gaiman novel that was the basis of one of my all-time favorite movies. Of course, I went into this knowing what was going to happen, which is too bad, and I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t like it because I tend to not like books if I’ve seen the movie first. And Stardust, like I said, is one of my favorite movies.

I must say, I do like the movie better, but only because it has a much happier and more satisfying ending. But even so, I loved seeing the things that weren’t included in the film. For one, the movie doesn’t make this as clear because if I remember right we only meet human or human-like characters, but the other side of the wall is Faerie! And we meet all different species of faerie that are just so cool! One of my favorite side characters was the tree that Tristran talks to after Yvaine wanders off that tips him off about the coach. But along the same lines, my favorite part of the movie was when Tristran and Yvaine were aboard the flying ship with Captain Shakespeare and his crew. Captain Shakespeare, it turns out, was not in the book! In fact, the whole flying ship journey took place in like one page in the book, and the captain was not a significant character, which I thought was a shame.

The movie also took very different directions with the characterization and personalities of some of the other characters, which I will not go into as I feel like it would be full of spoilers, but I enjoyed it and really felt like the movie did them a disservice. But, I have to think of the movie as a separate entity from the book, otherwise I feel like I would get frustrated.

Last thing, but in the book, our world, the world on “this side” of the wall, it’s the present! This was super cool to me because it paints the village of Wall in a completely different light. There is no sign of any modern technology or advancements of any kind, but the narrator clearly states in the first chapter that outside of Wall is modern Europe as we know it. To me it made me feel like the influence of Faerie just kind of created a bubble around Wall trapping it in the past, which I just loved.

This was just a really fun book, and a really great adventure story that doesn’t drag at any point. I highly recommend reading this book if you’re a fan of the movie, but be careful not to compare it too closely to the movie if you’re a fan, cause you might be disappointed.

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