Review – Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries

Posted March 7, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 4 Comments

Review – Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries

Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries

by Heather Fawcett

Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 315
Series: Emily Wilde #1
Rating: four-stars

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 getting me to give Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries (Heather Fawcett) a shot, the key was the comparison to Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons. And it’s true: Emily Wilde definitely has a kinship with Isabella Trent, and I think they’d respect each other, and there is a similar sort of shape to the stories in some ways.

I was also promised something “whimsical” and “cosy” by the cover copy, and I have to say that I really wouldn’t call it those things. It takes faeries seriously, and that means taking seriously the cruelty of the Fae in many, many stories. It means missing children, sacrifice, compulsion, and blood. Emily’s research gets her swept up in a bigger story, and her main tool is her encyclopaedic knowledge of fairytales, her ability to know how the narratives work, and what to expect.

There is also a romance element, and that one is playful and full of banter. I didn’t really enjoy that aspect at first, wondering how it’d work out, but by the end I’d bought into it, because it doesn’t require Emily to be anything but herself — that is, prickly and awkward, and never quite sure how to handle other people.

Emily herself is a fun character. Though I said she’s like Marie Brennan’s Isabella (and certainly you could talk about the “deranged practicality” of both of them), and I can see both of them falling into exactly the same traps, she’s not a carbon copy, nor as reckless, and her relationship with Bambleby is quite different to Isabella’s relationships with those around her. There’s also less emphasis on geopolitical circumstances — they’re both scholars, but they don’t move through the world in quite the same way. At least not so far!

I’m keen to pick up the next book and see where it goes. I wonder if there’ll be any recurring characters? It would seem unlikely for most of them to turn up anywhere but their own home, but Emily certainly got swept up in a big story, and you never know what those will do.

Rating: 4/5

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4 responses to “Review – Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries

  1. It’s been a while since I read A Natural History of Dragons but I remember really enjoying it. I didn’t read the rest of the series though, so I should probably get back to it! I agree with the comparison between Isabella Trent and Emily Wilde, they certainly give off the same vibes as characters.

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