Haunting the Deep, by Adriana Mather

Last year, I read Adriana Mather’s stunning debut How to Hang a Witch and declared it my favorite book of 2016. I loved the mash-up between the Salem Witch trials and Mean Girls, with its subtext about persecution and bullying not only in 1692 but in present-day high school. As soon as I learned there’d be a sequel, I was filled with anticipation, especially upon learning that Mather’s inspiration comes from the Titanic, another historical event from which she has ancestral ties. Punch my ticket now, and let me learn how to sink a ship!

Just a warning: though I will be spoiler-free for this book, I cannot make that guarantee for the first book.

Haunting the Deep starts off in April, about six months after the events of How to Hang a Witch. Though narrator Samantha’s father is out of his coma (a happy thing), Sam is still reeling from the scary events from the previous fall. She’s not as much of an outcast as she had been, since Alice, Mary, and Susannah (the Descendants) treat her much friendlier now. Fortunately, best friend and neighbor Jaxon and his mother are keeping things as jovial as possible—and seriously, every time Mrs. Meriwether appeared, I found myself craving pastries.

Then Salem High School goes all bonkers for the Titanic. It becomes the theme of the upcoming Spring Fling dance, and all the teachers start integrating Titanic history into their lessons. In my 20-plus years as a high school physics teacher, I can’t remember anything like this ever happing, but I suspended my disbelief easily because it’s Salem, and there’s witchcraft in the world of this series. Perhaps something wicked this way comes…

It’s established in the first book that Sam can see spirits—particularly the swoon-worthy Elijah—and in this book, she starts seeing some more: a little girl and a man drenched in salt water, to name a couple of them. She also starts receiving strange items connected to the Titanic, some of which render her unconscious, only to find herself on the Titanic.

So what’s happening here? Is a spell causing Sam to travel back in time to the Titanic? Or are they just really vivid, lucid dreams? Or is Sam reliving a past life? Much of this book’s fun was trying to figure out what was happening to Sam and what her connection to the Titanic was. The ultimate reveal was unexpected, which I enjoyed, and the final showdown was as chilling as the icy cold water—in the best way possible.

However, I sniffed out the villain earlier than I would have liked. There are other suspects throughout the book, and Sam and the girls do an excellent job sleuthing, but no one else really jumped out at me. Though I suspected the villain in the first book as well, there were many more viable suspects keeping me guessing, particularly because Sam was such an outsider. Also, in the first book, the villain’s motives were unexpected and believable, but here, I just couldn’t fully buy them.

But that’s only a minor quibble with the story. There are some aspects I liked as much if not better than the first book. The dynamic between Sam and the other Descendants is wonderful—each of them with believable, distinct personalities—and their little circle had some fun witty banter. It was refreshing to see a YA parent—Sam’s father—be present and (mostly) supportive. The relationship between Sam and Elijah moves forward in a great way. Some new characters are added, and local recluse Redd stood out so scenes with her were exciting. And Mrs. Meriwether’s pastries…yum.

This sequel is a solid continuation of Sam’s story in Salem. The first book’s subtext of bullying is supplanted by a deeper haunting commentary on class structure. As we know from the Titanic tragedy, many of the lower class passengers perished while trapped in the lower decks. This is brought up during the school-wide Titanic lessons, but it’s illustrated by how some other students look down upon Sam and her Descendant friends. It’s there but subtle without detracting from the mystery of the plot.

If you enjoyed How to Hang a Witch, you’re bound to enjoy this book. I think I enjoyed the first part a little bit more than this one because of how more intertwined with Salem’s history it was. The Titanic doesn’t have that same direct link with Salem. However, I’m curious what else in her family history Mather can use for subsequent books, because the final lines leave me with hopeful thoughts. Whether or not there is a third part, Haunting the Deep was a FIVE-STAR ride.

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Haunting the Deep is available at Amazon.

Click HERE for the spotlight of author Adriana Mather

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