Friday 20 January 2023


Book review: Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett [blog tour]

Give that I've been a book fairy for the past 5+ years, of course I couldn't resist this novel, which combines my love for fairy tales with, well, books. The title may sound non-fiction, but this is very much a fictional tale, filled with imaginative world-building and a romance to boot. 

Emily Wilde is a researcher at Cambridge University at the turn of the 20th century. She loves burying herself in her books, going out in the field to make new discoveries, and penning papers for the wider academic community. The twist? She studies 'folk', also known as fae or faeries. She researches all kinds of faeries, from common folk to the hidden ones, and everything in between. 

In the world Heather Fawcett has created in her novel with Emily at the centre, these creatures exist in every part of the world. And while many a research paper has been written about certain kinds of faeries, there are those that are still lesser known, such as the ones living in Ljosland in the Scandinavian north. And that's where we meet Emily at the start of her grand adventure, as she gets to know the local folk (fae and humans) through her research and diary entires. 

She travels there with her trusty canine, Shadow, by her side. But when she is joined by fellow researcher Wendell Bambleby – infuriatingly good-looking and well-respected in his job, despite always getting his students to do his hard work for him – things start to take a turn for the worst...

There was a lot to like about the novel. The setting, and world the story takes place in, is highly imaginative. With the protagonist being an academic, this isn't like any other fairy tales you may have read. The 'folk' are researched in quite a matter-of-fact way, and the novel is interspersed with footnotes explaining various characteristics and nuances, lifted from other fictional papers that exist in the world author Heather Fawcett has created. This was a really clever way to make Emily's role as researcher more believable, while at the same time adding a level of depth that Emily's personal diary entries could not. 

That said, because the majority of the story is told through Emily's diary, the writing felt quite stilted. This isn't surprising given Emily's academic background and 1900s mindset (and speaking patterns that come with that), but it did hamper the reading flow. Dialogue felt a bit odd when it did appear and because the reader only gets to hear one side of the story, some of the character progressions felt out of the blue and misaligned. In particular in the case of Wendell, where there was an unexpected "insta-love" moment, despite him sleeping around with most of the village until just a few pages prior. 

The choice to set everything from the perspective of Emily's inner musings, also didn't do the protagonist herself any favours. For a good part of the story she comes across as selfish and uncaring, not the best of qualities to engage readers and make them connect with a character. There is a shift in this about midway through the book, but at that point many people (myself included) will have already formed a less than favourable opinion on the protagonist.

Similarly, the plot takes a good chunk of time to really get going. It was only the final quarter or so where the story really took off and I was on the edge of my seat, turning the pages as quick as humanly possible to devour those final exciting moments. It's those last few chapters that really gripped me and made me feel more sympathetic towards both Emily and Wendell.

If the next book keeps this pace going from the get-go and really focuses on the developing the characters and their relationship in a more believable and well-rounded way – then I'm excited to see where Emily's research will take her next and what fascinating new (friendly and dangerous) folk she'll meet along the way.

Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett is published by Little, Brown Book Group and you can now buy a copy from your favourite local book shop.

Blog tour stops for Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

This review for Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries is a part of the official blog tour for the launch of the book. Make sure to check out the other stops too!

Disclaimer: This book was gifted to me by the publisher, but this has not impacted this honest review.

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