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

Title: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries
Author: Heather Fawcett
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Publication date: January 10, 2023
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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!

Shelf Control #261: Other Kingdoms by Richard Matheson

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: Other Kingdoms
Author: Richard Matheson
Published: 2011
Length: 316 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

For over half a century, Richard Matheson has enthralled and terrified readers with such timeless classics as I Am LegendThe Incredible Shrinking ManDuelSomewhere in Time, and What Dreams May Come. Now the Grand Master returns with a bewitching tale of erotic suspense and enchantment.…

1918. A young American soldier, recently wounded in the Great War, Alex White comes to Gatford to escape his troubled past. The pastoral English village seems the perfect spot to heal his wounded body and soul. True, the neighboring woods are said to be haunted by capricious, even malevolent spirits, but surely those are just old wives’ tales.

Aren’t they?

A frightening encounter in the forest leads Alex into the arms of Magda Variel, an alluring red-haired widow rumored to be a witch. She warns him to steer clear of the wood and the perilous faerie kingdom it borders, but Alex cannot help himself. Drawn to its verdant mysteries, he finds love, danger…and wonders that will forever change his view of the world.

Other Kingdoms casts a magical spell, as conjured by a truly legendary storyteller.

How and when I got it:

I bought a copy when the book was first released.

Why I want to read it:

Richard Matheson is the author of some incredibly well-known horror stories (I Am Legend, among others), as well as being a prolific screenwriter and writer of a vast number of novels and short stories. While I haven’t read a ton of his work, he is the author of one of my all-time favorite books-turned-movies, Somewhere in Time (for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel). Other Kingdoms is one of his later works published before his death in 2013.

When I heard about Other Kingdoms, I was drawn to it not only because of the author, but also because of the description. I’m a total sucker for faerie worlds and haunted woods, and the mortals who go where perhaps they shouldn’t. I think it sounds terrific!

What do you think? Would you read this book? Have you read any other books by Richard Matheson, and if so, do you have any to recommend?

Please share your thoughts!



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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Book Review: Robots vs Fairies – edited by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe

 

A unique anthology of all-new stories that challenges authors to throw down the gauntlet in an epic genre battle and demands an answer to the age-old question: Who is more awesome—robots or fairies?

Rampaging robots! Tricksy fairies! Facing off for the first time in an epic genre death match!

People love pitting two awesome things against each other. Robots vs. Fairies is an anthology that pitches genre against genre, science fiction against fantasy, through an epic battle of two icons.

On one side, robots continue to be the classic sci-fi phenomenon in literature and media, from Asimov to WALL-E, from Philip K. Dick to Terminator. On the other, fairies are the beloved icons and unquestionable rulers of fantastic fiction, from Tinkerbell to Tam Lin, from True Blood to Once Upon a Time. Both have proven to be infinitely fun, flexible, and challenging. But when you pit them against each other, which side will triumph as the greatest genre symbol of all time?

There can only be one…or can there?

This awesome story collection has a premise spelled out in the introduction by the editors:

“I, for one, welcome our __________ overlords.”

Assuming the mechanical and/or magical revolution has already taken place by the time you read this, we, the editors, always knew you would come out on top. Yes, you.

We knew this day would come. We tried to warn the others. It was obvious either the sharp rate of our technological advancement would lead to the robot singularity claiming lordship over all, or that the fairies would finally grow tired of our reckless destruction of the natural world and take it back from us.

And so, we have prepared a guide to assist our fellow humans in embracing their inevitable overlords. (If you are reading this and you are human, we are so pleased you found this book in time to ready yourself for the impending/current robot/fairy apocalypse. You are quite welcome.)

Robots vs Fairies is an anthology of stories by an impressive assortment of sci-fi and fantasy writers, each focusing on either robots or fairies (or in a few cases, both). There are eighteen stories in all, ranging from silly to darkly serious. In each case, right after the story, the author declares him/herself “team robot” or “team fairy”, and explains why — and these little pieces are just as entertaining as the stories themselves, in my humble opinion.

As I’ve said in many a review, I’m really not a short story reader, so the fact that I made it all the way through this book is somewhat of an achievement. I did end up skipping 2 or 3 stories that just didn’t call to me, but otherwise read them all, even the ones that left me puzzled or disengaged or with a mighty shoulder shrug.

Still, the stories that I enjoyed, I really, really enjoyed. Best of the batch for me were:

Build Me a Wonderland by Seanan McGuire: Well, of course I loved the Seanan McGuire story! I’m been on a roll with Seanan McGuire books all year, so there’s really zero chance that I wouldn’t love what she wrote. In this story, we see behind the scenes at a theme park with really magical magical effects. Hint: They’re not CGI. The story is clever and intricate and very much fun.

Quality Time by Ken Liu: Ooh, a disturbing robot story! All about a young tech worker looking for the next big breakthrough, whose inventions have unintended consequences.

Murmured Under the Moon by Tim Pratt: About a human librarian given responsibility for fairy archives. Creative and magical and just a wee bit threatening — and hey, it’s about a library! What’s not to love?

The Blue Fairy’s Manifesto by Annalee Newitz: Not a fairy story! It’s a robotic version of Pinocchio, and asks all sorts of great questions about what it is to be real, and what it means to have choices.

Bread and Milk and Salt by Sarah Gailey: I loved Sarah Gailey’s American Hippo novellas, so was really excited to see her included in this collection. Bread and Milk and Salt is probably the creepiest story of the bunch, about a fairy captured by a sadistic human and how she turns things around. Dark and disturbing and delicious.

And perhaps my favorite, because I love John Scalzi and his humor, and this story left me rolling on the floor:

Three Robots Experience Objects Left Behind From the Era of Humans For the First Time: Oh my. This story is exactly what the title says it is — a dialogue between robots trying to figure out the purpose and functionality of human objects such as a ball, a sandwich, and a cat. Just amazing. And in case you’re wondering about our future overlords, it would seem clear that it’s cats for the win.

There are plenty more stories, some I found captivating, some weird, all original and entertaining and often perplexing too. It’s really a strong collection, and I could see enjoying it either as a book to read straight through, or as a collection to leave on the nightstand and pick up from time to time to read just one story here or or there, whenever the mood strikes.

As a side note, I had purchased an earlier collection from these editors, featuring some of the same authors plus several others whose works I love. The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales was published in 2016, and I have yet to open it. Maybe it’s time for it to come down off the shelf and sit on my nightstand, close at hand for when I need a story or two.

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The details:

Title: Robots vs Fairies
Authors: Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe
Publisher: Saga Press
Publication date: January 9, 2018
Length: 373 pages
Genre: Science fiction/fantasy anthology
Source: Purchased

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