Book Reviews, Fantasy

Review: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

Emily Wilde is good at many things: she is the foremost expert on the study of faeries; she is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encylopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk.

Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby. But as Emily gets closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones – the most elusive of all faeries – she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all – her own heart.

Thank you to NetGalley and Orbit for the free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Set in a Gaslamp era world where the Fae are real and a subject of academic study, one young woman is set to provide the first Encyclopaedia documenting their various types and natures. Emily Wilde is meticulous, disciplined, and very knowledgeable. She keeps rigorous notes for her publications, and a journal documenting her travels and discoveries on a more personal level. This is what we get to read, as she chronicles her journey to the remote -and very cold- island of Hrafnsvik to study their elusive version of the Folk, hoping to be the first to actually document encounters with the High Fae of the area.

What she encounters is a tight-knit rural community, who may have stories to tell if only Emily can gain their trust. However, social interaction is not her forte at the best of times, and without realising it she quickly offends the head of the village, stalling her progress. The situation is both aggravated and smoothed over by the arrival of Wendell Bambleby, an apt name for the dashing academic rival that he is. He is everything that Emily is not: charming, full of confidence, and very averse to any sort of hard work. He moves himself into the cabin Emily has rented, and begins to meddle in her research.

Bambleby is delightful to read, and his and Emily’s interactions were for me the highlight of the book. Their rivalry is a complex thing, with both of them being two of the youngest academics at their college and both vying for recognition in the same field, yet because of this also being the closest they have to friends. Plus, there is something odd about Bambleby and the way he keeps unveiling new discoveries despite his dislike of fieldwork, and that plays a fun part in the plot.

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is a feel good read, fitting into a growing category of ‘low-stakes fantasy’ where a big part of the reading experience comes from exploring the world through the eyes of the characters. The plot is not intricate, though there are a few twists and a dangerous brush with the dark magic of the High Fae, and yet the narrative style and the developing relationships kept me hooked. If you are looking for something to curl up with and lose yourself in for a few days, this is definitely one to put on your list.

Book Info

Published: 19th January 2023 by Orbit
Genre: fantasy
Pages: 336
Narration style: journal entries, first person
Format read: eARC

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