Book Review: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: Book 1/Stand Alone
Publisher: Del Rey (January 10, 2021)
Length: 336 pages
Well, 2023 is off to a smashing start! I absolutely loved this! Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is everything I’ve been looking for—fantasy, academia, and alternate history. In many ways I was reminded of The Memoirs of Lady Trent series, except, of course, with faeries.
Cambridge professor Emily Wilde has dedicated her life to the study of Dryadology, completely immersing herself in her research into faeries. Her latest project to compile the first comprehensive encyclopedia of faeries has taken to her the remote Scandinavian village of Hrafnsvik, where the local faerie lore is particularly rich. It is here that our titular protagonist learns more about the legendary Ljosland fae, but unfortunately the townsfolk, wary of outsiders, are none too willing to help.
However, assistance does end up coming in the form of Wendell Bambleby, Emily’s insufferably charming colleague and rival. The dodginess of his academic practices aside, Wendell knows his faeries. Emily also realizes she’s in no position to be picky about research partners, and he’s the only help she’s got. Together, they uncover a mystery in Hrafnsvik involving the courtly fae whose meddling into the lives of humans is said to have plagued the town for years, if the stories of stolen children, changelings, sudden disappearances and other strange misfortunes can be believed. Seeing an opportunity to aid the village but also to further her own research, Emily decides to investigate by volunteering to venture into lands where the courtly fae dwell, only finding out later that Wendell may have a hidden connection to the place.
I’m just going to make this simple. If you enjoy warm, cozy fantasy stories and love reading about the fae, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is the book for you. It has a bit of everything: mystery, intrigue, and even romance. It’s uncomplicated yet deep, has a touch of darkness yet remains delightfully whimsical, is slightly quirky but still retains an immovable quality of timeless humor and charm. It honestly loved everything about this novel, from its enchanting atmosphere to its memorable characters.
Speaking of which, while her social graces may leave a lot to be desired, Emily Wilde nonetheless won me over with the unique personality. Because of the way this book is written, in the form of a journal—footnotes and all—it almost feels as though we are in Emily’s mind the whole time. Her single-mindedness and laser sharp focus to the point of obsession might put some readers off at first, but once you accept it as just one of her many oddball idiosyncrasies, it actually becomes quite endearing.
I also found the relationship between Emily and Wendell unexpectedly refreshing. A romance ultimately builds between them, but it is like nothing I’ve ever read before. Wendell has an infectious personality which effortlessly draws others to him while Emily, her disposition his polar opposite, is determined to resist his pull. Her valiant attempts to ignore how roguishly captivating he is along with his complete obliviousness to the inner turmoil this is causing her was the basis of many funny exchanges between them which kept me reading and smiling.
There’s also a great storyline here, and given the epistolary style in which it was written, it worked surprisingly well. With the book mostly being made up of Emily’s journal, rest assured we get plenty about faeries and Dryadology, her beloved field. In addition to her encounters with the fae in the surrounding woods though, she also documents her interactions with the villagers and her eventful time in Hrafnsvik which is as much a part of the story as the strange happenings in town. We never lose the thread of delicious mystery that was always at the forefront, keeping things interesting.
In short, I adored this book. Hard to believe that my first book reviewed in 2023 is already a strong contender for favorite book of the year! I can only hope for more Emily Wilde stories in the future, as I would love to revisit this world again and again.