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Book: “Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries” by Heather Fawcett
Publishing Info: Del Rey Books, January 2023
Where Did I Get this Book: Edelweiss+
Book Description: Cambridge professor 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 encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party–or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other 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, who manages to charm the townsfolk, get in the middle of Emily’s research, and utterly confound and frustrate her.
But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones–the most elusive of all faeries–lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, 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.
Review: This book wasn’t on my radar at all, somehow. Horror of horrors, since, spoiling myself here, I loved this book! Instead, it ended up on my TBR list only because I saw that it was likely going to be the December Adult Fairyloot book, and I wanted to get an idea of what it was all about ahead of time. So I read this about a month ago, but saved my review for closer to the publishing date. And here we are, ready and willing to give a rave review for this book!
When Emily Wilde arrives at the remote, northern town of Hrafnsvik, she is there for one purpose and one purpose only: studying the local Fae for inclusion in her in-progress encyclopaedia. While she is an excellent scholar, she is less skilled at ingratiating herself with the locals and quickly finds herself on the outs with most everyone in the village. Even more infuriating is the arrival of her charming academic rival who quickly attaches himself to her work and seems to soon have the entire town besotted with him. As the two work together, Emily begins to uncover clues of larger, nefarious curse that is plaguing Hrafnsvik…as well as clues that her rival may be more than he seems.
We have again one of those situations where I stumbled upon a book completely by chance and am now terrified of how many other lovely titles I’m missing out on! Alas, such is the life of an avid reader, I guess. Whatever way it made it onto my TBR pile, I’m sure glad it did. This book was pretty much everything I like about fantasy. It has a quasi historical setting, a buttoned-up, bookish leading lady who seems to always get herself into trouble, an adorable animal companion, a charming love interest with a subdued romantic subplot, and an interesting, but not overly embellished (side-eying Sarah J. Maas here) Fae world.
On this last point, the story is definitely a slow-burn on its fantastical elements. The plot, of course, is centered on Emily’s research of Fae and the story starts out simply enough with her following these regular steps of study. But the plot takes a few sudden twists and turns towards the middle and final third of the book that truly bring these fantasy Fae elements to the front. I was both surprised and delighted by these twists. There were a couple of choices, particularly towards the end of the book, that definitely took the story in a direction I hadn’t anticipated (or, at least, I hadn’t anticipated just how much the author would commit to these decisions).
But because this book is a slow-burn story, plot-wise, much of its success rests on just how charming Emily Wilde is as a narrator. As I said, I particularly enjoy this type of scholarly, semi-stoic woman protagonist. The unintentional hilarity of this type of narrator’s way of speaking is half the fun, and such is the case here as well. It was all the better when Wendell arrives, and the the whole “fire and ice” dynamic gets going. Their chemistry is immediately charming, and the reader gets to enjoy being on the “in” about Wendell’s obvious feelings for Emily while she remains the obtuse dunderhead she is about human interactions.
Like Wendell, I think “charming” is probably the best word to describe this entire book. I definitely recommend this book for most all fantasy readers, especially those who like subdued but lovely romances and new versions of Fae and Fae courts.
Rating 9: A delight from start to finish, never stumbling in its tone while weaving together a subtle romance and a heartfelt journey of discovering the importance friends and community.
“Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries” can be found on these Goodreads lists: Upcoming 2023 SFF Books With Female Leads or Co-Leads and First AND Last Name Please