Book Review : Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries

Book Review : Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of FaeriesEmily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett
Published by Random House Worlds on January 10th 2023
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Action & Adventure, Romance
Pages: 352
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four-stars

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 the start of a heartwarming and enchanting new fantasy series.

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, and the Fair Folk.

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.

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is a delightful, quirky, and utterly enchanting cozy fantasy. This epistolary novel follows the titular Emily Wilde, as she journeys to the remote and wintery town of Hrafnsvik in attempts to complete her life’s research to document all types of faeries, including the elusive and dangerous high faeries. Along the way, she has to confront not only the fair folk, but also the villagers of the small community, a changeling, an academic rival, and her own flaws. 

 

Emily is a great heroine, one who, even when in distress, never feels like a helpless damsel. She’s intelligent, quick on her feet, and knows her own strengths and weaknesses. Plus, she has a canine companion, a massive dog named Shadow. And her social awkwardness is both incredibly relatable and endearing.  I instantly loved her and felt her a kindred spirit to my own bookish, awkward, and crazy dog lady.

 

I suppose most children fall in love with faeries at some point, but my fascination was never about magic or the granting of wishes. The Folk were of another world, with its own rules and customs—and to a child who always felt ill-suited to her own world, the lure was irresistible.”

 

I honestly wasn’t sure I’d like the epistolary/diary format of the novel, as I generally prefer reading from the third person, but I really loved the execution here, which allowed me to feel like a close friend was personally catching me up on the details of her life, which in this case, is quite magical. This format also helps to counter the more, formal and stiff language Emily uses in her writings. Perhaps because I loved Emily so much and so instantaneously is why this style worked so well for me. I don’t think I’ve found this format quite so appealing since I was a young girl reading The Princess Diaries and wishing I had a friend like Mia Thermopolis.

 

 Though I was initially bummed to read that Emily’s academic colleague and rival/friend was showing up—because I didn’t want a male character interfering with such a capable heroine and her goals—I needn’t have worried. Their easy banter is infectious and is the cherry on top for the already sweet novel. It reminded me a lot of the romance between the leads of one of my favorite novels, Sorcery of Thorns. Even better, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries doesn’t lose its way with the addition of the male lead or its romance and remains true to Emily’s character and centered on her goals, which I loved. 

 

Emily and Wendell’s romance is cute and satisfying, but also felt a little sudden to me. Maybe that’s just because I personally love a good long slow burn with lots of pining and a torturous misunderstanding or two thrown in to really make me sweat. However, the rapport between Emily and Wendell is so utterly and completely charming that it made up for the quickness of it. The author effortlessly captures the nature of their close and already established friendship, inserting their relationship into the book with the tried and true ease of putting on trusty slippers after a long, cold day of being on one’s feet.

 

“It sounds odd to admit that I find the company of such a boisterous person restful, but perhaps it is always restful to be around someone who does not expect anything from you beyond what is in your nature.”

 

Emily and Wendell’s humorous interactions also help to perfectly offset some of the darker and more sinister aspects of the book, mostly those pertaining to the faeries. The overall effect is a cozy fantasy read, with just high enough stakes to keep the readers interested without causing too much stress. For me the true magic of Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is the parts involving Emily and Wendell and less the parts surrounding the faeries themselves. I was less absorbed by the parts of the novels involving the sharing of the folktales of the faeries, as I felt that these segments, even when they had implications for current events in the novel, stalled the pacing quite a bit and seemed out of place. I think a segment of Emily listening to a tale told by the fire in the inn she frequents in the novel would have felt a bit more natural than the sudden jumps into these tales.  

 

Despite the drawbacks of these abrupt stories-within-a-story, I still found the faerie tales themselves interesting and creative. I will definitely be reading future installments in this series and would recommend Emily Wide’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries for fans of Bookshops & Bonedust, Sorcery of Thorns, and the works of authors Olivia Atwater and Charlie N. Holmberg. 

 

four-stars
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Book Review: Emily Wild's Encyclopaedia of Faeries - Blogging with Dragons

Posted October 12, 2023 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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6 responses to “Book Review : Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries

  1. I’m saving this review to read later since I haven’t read this book yet. But I’m going to try and make a real effort to read this before the year is over. I understand the next book comes out in 2024, so I need to be ready for it. 🙂

    • I also felt like I needed to be ready for the sequel and that’s why I picked it up. It was a delightful surprise that I enjoyed it as much as I did–I hope you do too! ?

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