As someone forever in search of those rare amazing faerie novels and who has enjoyed Heather Fawcett’s YA and middle grade, I knew I had to pick this one up. I was lucky enough to get an early copy thanks to Orbit books and I know that I’ll be getting as many copies as possible. Yeah, I loved this book that much.
This book follows Emily Wilde, a scholar in a version of early 20th century Cambridge who spends her life travelling and studying the fae. Her plan is to put together an encyclopedia of faeries and to finish it off she needs to meet the hidden ones living in the cold North. But her plans to keep to herself are thrown aside as she winds up having to befriend the locals and help them with their problems and go even further awry after her rival and co-worker Wendell Bambleby turns up.
One of my favourite things about this book is that it’s written like a diary. The story still flows well and it doesn’t read like you’re just being told everything, but it gave more character to the text. Especially the footnotes. Yes! This book has footnotes. Since this is a scholar’s book, she sometimes notes down studies and stories that she mentions to inform the reader of what she’s talking about. One of these notes actually suggested that the typing of Seelie and Unseelie doesn’t make much sense. Which it doesn’t! So that little note made me very happy.
Unsurprisingly, all this background has meant that worldbuilding is really good. It felt like a historical story, but the fantastical additions made just as much sense. I could actually believe the fae in this world and that scholars are actually studying them. There was also so much variety in the fae. We don’t see much of them, as we’re only in one location, but there are mentions. It’s highly suggested that the fae change depending on where you are in the world, and that was wonderful to read. Especially the little Irish fae notes with one of the characters.
Another aspect that I loved was the tales. There were a few fairy tales in here that I don’t think really exist, but they felt like those I had read. They were dark and dangerous but with touches of whimsy and moral suggestion. They were a perfect addition, and really added to the worldbuilding.
Since this is a romantic fantasy, I know you’ll all be wondering about the romance. And Emily and Wendell are actually very cute. They bicker a lot but it never feels like they actually have a problem with each other. It’s a light rivalry, but they actually get along pretty well. I liked seeing the growth of their relationship and the romance. When it comes to side relationships, there’s also a sapphic couple that was very cute. It’s never looked down on or seen as weird, they’re just together and that’s always good.
I enjoyed this book so much. Which is unexpected considering court fae are a thing in this, but Fawcett made it make sense. I want to learn more about the fae in this world and to see what sorts of stories we might get. And where this book ends? You could definitely see a lot more exploration. And I hope we do. Though I also hope they visit the village again every now and then as the found family aspect of the village was so sweet.
This was definitely one of my favourite books of the year and I want book 2 already!
Title: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries
Author: Heather Fawcett
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Release Date: 19/1/23