Review: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett


Title: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries {Emily Wilde #1}

Author: Heather Fawcett

Published: 19th January 2023, Orbit

Status: Read January 2023 courtesy Hachette Australia


My Thoughts:

“Herein I intend to provide an honest account of my day-to-day activities in the field as I document an enigmatic species of faerie called “Hidden Ones.””

Offering a delightful blend of mystery, adventure, romance and magic, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is an enchanting historical fantasy from Heather Fawcett.

Emily Wilde, a Cambridge Professor and dryadologist writing an encyclopaedia about the known species of Folk and their lore, arrives in the remote village of Hrafnsvik on an island off the Norwegian coast hoping to learn the secrets of its elusive indigenous fae. Related through Emily’s journal entries, Emily soon encounters her quarry, befriending a brownie she calls Poe, and meeting an unhappy changeling, but it’s after two young women vanish from the village that Emily must confront the regions rather terrifying courtly fae, and finds herself at the mercy of an imprisoned Faerie King.

Though she is uptight and has few people skills to speak of, Emily is an endearing character, who I thought intelligent, earnest and brave. Conditions are tough in Ljosland but content with just her faithful dog, Shadow, for company, Emily is looking forward to months of solitary field work, so she is not pleased by the unexpected arrival of fellow academic, Wendell Brambley.

Wendell is in many way Emily’s opposite. Cheerful and charismatic with uncommonly good sewing skills, he exasperates Emily in a manner no other does. Though Emily pretends otherwise, she recognises there is something special about Wendell. Wendell’s charm does prove to be a boon for Emily, especially in her dealings with the villagers, whom she inadvertently offends, and later in dealing with fae. I enjoyed the pair’s banter, and their friendship that hints at the development of something more.

Though the pacing may seem a little slow to begin, it does improve. Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is not all light and whimsy, Fawcett’s world of Folk has its dark side. There are moments of drama, suspense and action that include faery trickery, abduction and sword fights.

I think Fawcett got the tone of the narrative right in that it reflects the formality of the period (the book is set in 1909), and Emily’s own scholarly propriety. The footnotes, which are not too extensive, also fit the style.

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is a captivating read, and I’m pleased to know that a second book is expected in early 2024.


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