My dear bookish friends,
If you are anything like me, you are really looking forward to autumn – to the time when crispy, orangy leaves are covering the forest paths, to the days getting shorter, to mugs full of hot chocolate and pumpkins everywhere. And, probably also to spooky season! While I wasn’t a big fan of Halloween and scary stories a few years ago, reading more and more spooky books since I’ve become a book blogger – especially middle grade (which I will cover in a different post) – made me look more and more forward to Halloween and the darker, scarier books published during that time of year. Wicked Little Deeds isn’t a middle grade, it’s an atmospheric, spooky YA thriller by Kat Ellis, an author whose former book, Harrow Lake, I loved tremendusously (check out my review for that here). So naturally, I was so much looking forward to this blog tour and getting the chance to reading Wicked Little Deeds, too! (Thank you so much to Kat, Dave at TheWriteReads, and the publisher Penguin for my ecopy and my spot in this tour!)
From its creepy town mascot to the story of its cursed waterfall, Burden Falls is a small town dripping with superstition. Ava Thorn knows this well – since the horrific accident she witnessed a year ago, she’s been plagued by nightmares.
But when her school nemesis is brutally murdered and Ava is the primary suspect, she starts to wonder if the legends surrounding the town are more fact than fiction.
Whatever secrets Burden Falls is hiding, there’s a killer on the loose, and they have a vendetta against the Thorns…
Does the blurb sound good or what? The premise of this book is really captivating, and it hooked me from the start. The main character Ava does not have an easy life. She lost both of her parents in a horrible crash, and now her enemies – the family responsible for her parents’ untimely death – moves into her home, the manor in the apple orchard that was her family’s for centuries. Very much to take in, right? Especially for a teenager.
And not only that – suddenly, Ava starts seeing ‘Dead Eyed Sadie’ everywhere – the famous ghost of her hometown’s local legends and spooky ghost stories. Is it the grief and sadness she is experiencing that’s responsible for that, or is the actual ghost of Sadie after her? Or is it somebody or something else altogether..?
I really liked Ava. She is a very likeable main character, and for all the burdens she has to cope with, she manages pretty well. I doubt many people – let alone teenagers – could cope with the situation as well as she does. On top of everything, the whole town thinks that Ava’s family is cursed. And when she starts seeing Dead Eyed Sadie, of course the legends seem to be more than just scary stories to tell in the dark. And then, when people around Ava start dying, everything suddenly starts to become even more real. Who or what is after all this?
While I really liked Ava, I thought the other characters could have been fleshed out a little more. However, I can say that the book, to me, was much more plot-driven rather than character-driven, and once I heard about the local legends and Ava’s family story, I wanted to start solving all the mysteries and was much more focused on that. Other than these obvious plot points, we also get many surrounding themes such as the typical high school drama (that is a liiittle more extreme here), obiously some romance thrown in, and also friendship and family motifs that I find very important in my reads. Together with the ghost stories, the mysteries, the enemies, the horrible secrets and things that happened in the past, the author managed to weave a very gripping tale perfect for a rainy weekend.
Kat Ellis definitely knows how to write a good horror story. I liked the way Ava started the investigations, and how she didn’t just sit and wait for more to happen like many girls in old horror movies did. The setting is very atmospheric, the old mansion, the waterfalls, the darkness around the otherwise so lovely sounding apple trees. Ava’s new home that houses owls (or something else?), and Burden Falls with its dark secrets and scary history give the whole story a very nice spine-tingly atmosphere. Very much like Harrow Lake, once you’ve started reading about Burden Falls, you know that something in this place is very wrong, and you don’t want to stop the book before you haven’t reached the end and found out what that is.
I found the mix between local urban legends, ghost stories, a history of witch trials, and Ava’s very real, very sad family story perfectly woven together to create the right backdrop for this horror thriller. Sometimes, it was hard to differentiate between what’s legend, what’s myth, and what’s real – and not just for Ava, but also for the reader. I found this story to be absolutely gripping, and can’t recommend it enough if you are in for a spooky, gripping YA horror thriller.
4 stars from me!
Thank you all so much for reading!
About the Author
Kat Ellis is a young adult author whose novels include Wicked Little Deeds/Burden Falls (August 2021), Harrow Lake (July 2020), Purge (September 2016), Breaker (May 2016), and Blackfin Sky (May 2014). She is a fan of all things horror and sci-fi, and a keen explorer of ruins, castles and cemeteries – all of which are plentiful in North Wales, where Kat lives with her husband.
You can find out more about Kat at www.katelliswrites.com or connect with her on social media.