Title: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries
Author: Heather Fawcett
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Publication date: January 10, 2023
Length: 336 pages
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
A curmudgeonly professor journeys to a small town in the far north to study faerie folklore and discovers dark fae magic, friendship, and love, in this heartwarming and enchanting fantasy.
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.
In this tale of professors and faeries, Emily Wilde is an introverted scholar who’d much rather be left to her own devices than be forced to (gasp!) chitchat with the locals at the tavern. Much to her dismay, this is exactly the situation she’s forced into when she travels to the land of Ljosland to study the Hidden Ones – the final type of fae she needs to document in order to finish her masterpiece, an exhaustive encyclopaedia of all types of faerie.
Emily’s antisocial tendencies initially cause offense among the locals, but when her colleague Wendell arrives to join (or take credit for?) her studies, he immediately charms everyone and smooths over Emily’s blunders. He’s gorgeous and charming and sets Emily’s teeth on edge, but he soon transforms their rented hovel into a cozy cottage and gets access to people’s help and their stories which had previously been denied her.
While Emily’s goal is to study, not interfere, she soon becomes aware of trouble in the little village. A couple lives in torment, and Emily soon realizes it’s because their true child has been replaced by a faerie changeling. What’s more, abductions of village youth by the fae are on the rise, and the villagers have given up hope of ever seeing their loved ones again. As potential romance blooms between Emily and Wendell, Emily decides to set things right with the village by seeking out and confronting the dangerous Faerie King — but her chances of walking away from the encounter are very doubtful.
Told through Emily’s journal, we read about her arrival in Hrafnsvik, the initial enmity of the villagers, her first contact with a helpful brownie, and the complications that stem from Wendell’s arrival. As time passes, she documents her research success and challenges, her interactions with the people of Hrafnsvik, and the irritation (and secret attraction) she feels for Wendell. We also see her document her risky forays into the faerie kingdom, as well as the dismay she feels as she becomes ensnared by enchantments and loses track of time… and perhaps loses track of herself as well.
Although the beginning is a bit slow, eventually Emily’s story picks up steam. Her actions are very determined and brave, even while taking foolhardy risks. Although Emily depicts Wendell in her journal with a great sense of annoyance, it’s easy to see through her irritation and to find Wendell just as charming and delightful as she secretly sees him.
I enjoyed the inventiveness of the story, the setting, and the characters very much. I did feel that the device of telling the story through Emily’s journal became a hindrance in the latter half of the story. There’s a lack of suspense in the storytelling — if Emily is writing the story of a dangerous escape in her journal, then we know right away that she DID escape… so while the details may be exciting, there’s no question about the outcome. (I also felt confused after the big climactic moment — because Emily’s description of the event ends after she leaves the scene, yet I wanted to know what happened next in the scene she left! Sorry, being deliberately vague to avoid spoilers…)
Overall, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is a captivating, entertaining read. I wished for a bit more in spots, but still enjoyed reading it. There’s a planned sequel, and since several plot points are left unresolved at the end of this book, I’ll be on the lookout for #2!