Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement.
Cambridge professor Emily Wilde’s whole life revolves around the study of faeries and she is writing the world’s first comprehensive guide to the fae of the world. She has one last piece of research to complete before adding the final chapter, taking her to the remote village of Hrafnsvik in the far north. Not long after arriving, Emily has already alienated the locals, and is disgruntled to find her colleague and rival, Wendell Bambleby, on her doorstep. Emily might be an expert on faeries, but she’s just no good with people.
My life has been one long succession of moments in which I have chosen rationality over empathy, to shut away my feelings and strike off on some intellectual quest, and I have never regretted these choices, but rarely have they stared me in the face as bluntly as they did then.
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is a charming, faux-Edwardian tale of academia and faeries. Having had to navigate the stormy waters of male-dominated academia, Emily is forthright in her opinions and can be a bit brusque with people. She has spent so much time studying faeries that she hasn’t taken the opportunity to learn how humans work, which leads to misunderstandings with the local folk. The only person she’s had any sort of friendship with is Bambleby, who she is worried will end up taking the credit for her work.
Bambleby charms everyone he meets and doesn’t seem to be able to back up much of his work with evidence. Emily suspects he may be less than human. As soon as he turns up in Hrafnsvik, their witty and teasing banter starts up.
Well, what an absolute nightmare of a country this is – even worse than I previously supposed, which is quite the feat; little more than ice and darkness and nasty, hungry things gnashing their teeth.
In the cold and barren north, a fictional Scandinavian location, life can be harsh. Emily does not have many practical skills and without the help of the villagers, she struggles to keep herself warm and feed herself. If only she knew what she’d done to offend them so much. At least she has her dog, Shadow, a great big beast to keep her company.
Slowly, she starts to learn about life in the village. She’s not trying to help people, she just wants to learn, but somewhere along the way those two things meet and the village starts to thaw towards her.
If there is one thing about which the stories, regardless of origin, agree, it is that marrying the Folk is a very bad idea. Romance generally is a bad idea where they are concerned; it hardly ever ends well.
The style might be whimsical, but rest assured the fae of this story of the dark kind, who should not be trusted and may lure you into unseemly contracts. Just as you have fallen for Emily, she ends up in danger. It’s told in journal entries, sometimes breaking off in the middle of something or the diary being updated by someone else. It was a intimate way of telling the story, Emily’s theories and doubts spilling onto the page.
An entertaining adventure, with characters who are good at heart even if their outsides can be standoffish. I hope I get to meet Emily again in future adventures with the fae.
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is published by Orbit and will be available in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats from 19th January 2023. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
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