I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with this. I was won over by Heather Fawcett’s promise of Faeries (spelt the way I like too). Emily Wilde is a scholar. An expert in the Fae and her life’s work has been the compiling of her Encyclopedia. The novel takes the form of her journal with footnotes included. This, the first in what I hope will become a series details Emily’s expedition to study the folk of Ljosland. She is single-minded when it comes to her research, hyperfocusing on her studies. Her rival at Cambridge is the effortlessly successful Wendell Bambleby. Where Emily is methodical and diligent with her eyes on the prize. Bambleby gets by on his boundless wit and charm. Before I get too carried away discussing the characters let me summarise the ideas of the plot first.
Emily has rented a hut on the island and is hoping to be the first person to document scientifically the fair folk of the island. The type of folk that she encounters on the island range from the small to the ancient and powerful. She is joined by Bambleby much to her chagrin but their chemistry allows both of them to do things that they would have struggled with alone. And the island has a strong connection to the Hidden Ones and that power has been effecting the inhabitants.
Emily to me reads somewhat as being neurodivergent. She is laser focused, absolutely terrible at interacting with humans and always feeling like she is at odds with the human world. Her problem solving skills are incredible and her ability to remember bits of folklore that can save the day is almost uncanny. Her first few days on the island are so terrible because she finds interacting with other human people a distraction. She sees her hut merely as somewhere to rest her head and she almost manages to freeze to death as she is unable to keep herself warm with enough firewood and has offended everyone who might be able to help.
I loved Emily as a character, as someone who is neurodivergent myself I saw bits of me in her. Especially the awkwardness in social situations. The rivalry and friendship between Emily and Wendell Bambleby is adorable as Emily wrestles with whether she can like him, why he is so infuriating and what is his secret.
I loved the fae that Emily meets from Poe wo lives in a tree to the scarier denizens like a changeling and an imprisoned Hidden One. Despite setting out to single mindedly catalogue the fae, Emily ends up using her knowledge for good helping the villagers and fae alike.
This is romantic fluff and on a cold January afternoon with a large mug of hot chocolate and some biscuits I would love to curl up in a nook somewhere and enjoy this novel. A definite comfort read.
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is published by Orbit in the UK.
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