Publishers Weekly Review
This lyrical and foreboding debut takes place in the long-cursed coastal town of Sparrow, Ore., where, in 1822, the townspeople condemned the three Swan sisters for being witches and drowned them in the harbor. Every June 1st, the sisters return, staying until midnight of the summer solstice, stealing the bodies of three girls, and then enticing boys into the water to drown. In the present day, 17-year-old Penny Talbot usually avoids the eerie Swan season kick-off party, but this year, her best friend convinces her to go. There, she meets Bo Carter and eventually offers to let him stay and work on Lumiere Island, a decaying place where she and her mom live, where he might be safe. Death lurks everywhere, though, as the Swan sisters begin their yearly revenge killings. Effective flashback chapters reveal the sisters' backstory, and while perceptive readers may anticipate the story's outcomes, Ernshaw creates an intriguing reality in which the supernatural coexists with the mundane elements of small-town life. Balancing delicate emotion and authentic suspense, the hypnotic prose pulls readers into the question of how, or if, the curse of the sisters can be broken. Ages 14-up. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up-A wickedly chilling debut about ghosts, witches, love, and revenge. Each summer, the small Oregon town of Sparrow celebrates Swan season, a month where tourists flock to the town believing that the spirits of three witches inhabit the bodies of local girls and drown young men. The deaths are all too real, even if the ghosts may not be, and it's a season that Penny Talbot would much rather avoid, particularly since her father's disappearance. But when a handsome stranger shows up in town with secrets of his own, Penny is drawn into a centuries-old revenge in order to protect him. Ernshaw reels in readers as expertly as her ghostly witches draw their unsuspecting victims into the sea. Chapters illuminating the history of Swan season and the town of Sparrow are interspersed with Penny's story, effectively providing necessary exposition and weaving the tense atmosphere that invades Sparrow like a heavy fog. When the drowning begins, readers, much like the townspeople will start to question characters' motives as the hunt for the Swan sisters unfolds and Penny races against time to protect her new beau. The summer solstice brings a haunting and bittersweet conclusion to events that may leave some readers wanting more. Moments of clichéd writing, including food-dependent descriptions of characters of color, mar an otherwise strong debut. VERDICT Fans of ghostly romance such as Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed in Blood will find much to love in this eerie but less action-packed mystery.-Mimi Powell, Library Systems and Services, Kissimmee, FL © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
The tiny town of Sparrow, Oregon, has been haunted for 200 years by the three Swan sisters, sentenced to death for witchcraft and drowned in the harbor. Every year on June 1, during the annual Swan Festival, their spirits return to the bodies of three living teen girls, who each lure a teen boy out to the harbor and drown him. The vengeful Swan sisters, having exacted another year of retribution, then disappear on the solstice. Seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot's father is missing (presumed dead), and Penny, who lives alone with her half-crazed mother on Lumiere Island, is shy and withdrawn. Enter Bo Carter, who arrives in town just as the Swan Festival starts and who has a secret mission: to avenge his brother's death during the last festival. Magic-realism fans will appreciate how Ernshaw uses the Swan sisters' history to ground magic happenings in the reality of small-town life. Although those real-life details ironically cause the story to falter, the conclusion builds to a complex and sweetly satisfying ending.--Carton, Debbie Copyright 2017 Booklist