Book Review: The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones

I was so lucky to be sent an early copy of this book. The team at Hodder and Stoughton were offering limited proofs to Welsh bookish content creators. I’m not Welsh, but I am very interested in the fae, and Celtic folktales and lore. Whilst we see a lot of Scottish-inspired fae stories, we don’t tend to see Welsh or Irish. I mentioned all this in my request email, and I was sent an early finished copy! So thank you so much to the publisher. I adored this book as much as I expected I would, and I have a lot that I’m going to go into.

I’m labelling this post a review, but I’m also going to take this chance to talk about the use of folklore and fae in this book. I want to dive into some of the legends that were mentioned and just talk about whether I’d heard of them or not and tell you a bit about them.

I’ve already said that I adored this book, and I really did. I’ve not been in a massive mood for fantasy recently, but I still got through this very quickly. There was this nice balance with each of the sections having a little peek into the character’s pasts before diving into the actual story. I found that very fun.

The book mostly follows Mer, a young woman with water magic who has escaped from the Prince that owned her. When his spymaster comes to her and asks her to help him bring down the Prince, she agrees in the hope of becoming truly free. With the help of a fae-cursed man, his Corgi companion and a snarky thief who Mer used to date, she has to decide whether she’s going to bring the Prince down, or if she’ll still turn and run.

Character was definitely a strong point in this book. Some of the characters have some interesting twists, and they all felt very 3D. Even some of the side characters had twists and aspects that just made them feel more real. My favourite character was probably Trefor – the Corgi. I just want to pick him up and cuddle him.

I liked Mer too. It was interesting to see how she’d changed over her childhood. You don’t get the detail of it, just hints in places, but it was fun seeing why she is the way she is. I liked her and Ifanna. They’d dated in the past, and I kind of wished they’d gotten back together. Their relationship was very fun, but she was cute with Fane too. I loved seeing a bisexual lead character with on-page relationships with guys and girls.

The writing was easy to read. There was a good balance of world-building and accessible writing. It was somewhat simplistic but not in a bad way. It meant that I was able to pick up and put this book down whenever and get through so much each time.

The Fae/Folklore Aspects

Let’s talk about the legendary elements as they’re why I wanted to read this book.

The first thing I’ll mention is the Corgi. I loved the inclusion of Trefor as it was something uniquely Welsh. You’ll see talk of Corgis being faerie steeds and the like, but it’s not something you’ll find in the actual tales if you look back. The first mention of a Corgi with the fae was in 1946 with a breeder. Corgis ancestors didn’t even make it to Wales until the 12th century, so it’s not quite Welsh folklore. But it was close enough that I appreciated it. Plus…I just love cute dogs, so I’m not going to complain.

I was happy to see the fae in this book being referred to by the Welsh name too. We have the tylwyth teg and no mentions of the usual Scottish terminology! This made me so happy. You didn’t get much detail on the fae. We know they live in the deep forest in their kingdom, that they hire humans to get rid of any iron, and they have old magic. I would have maybe liked to see a little bit more variety within the fae, but this was still fun and nice to see.

The only other aspect of folklore I knew in this book was kind of vague. There was a mention of Gwydion who I have some vague knowledge of. I believe he’s a powerful magician figure and is sometimes seen as a trickster god. I think I should read some more up on him and the other Celtic gods.

Other creatures that popped up included the Ceffyl Ddr, or the Ceffyl Dwr is a Welsh variation of the Scottish kelpie that I’ve not heard of and the Ysgithyrwyn, which seems to pop up across Celtic lore from the little research I’ve just done.

Reading this book did excite me and made me want to do more reading into Welsh folklore. It was fun and has just whet my appetite for more.

Once again, thank you to Hodder and Stoughton for this book. It’s a very Welsh fantasy novel and is so worth the read.

5/5 Stars

Title: The Drowned Woods

Author: Emily Lloyd-Jones

Genre: Fantasy

Age Range:  Young Adult

Publisher:  Hodder & Stoughton

Release Date: 16/8/2022

BUY LINKS

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones | B&N | Bookshop Org

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