Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries, by Heather Fawcett

February 3, 2023 Book Reviews 5 ★★★★★

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries, by Heather FawcettEmily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett
Series: Emily Wilde #1
Published by Del Rey on January 10, 2023
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 336
Format: Kindle or ebook
Source: the publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Bookshop | Barnes & Noble | Audible | Chirp
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A curmudgeonly professor journeys to a small town in the far north to study faerie folklore and discovers dark fae magic, friendship, and love in the start of a heartwarming and enchanting new fantasy series.

Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world's first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party--or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people.

So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, get in the middle of Emily's research, and utterly confound and frustrate her.

But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones—the most elusive of all faeries—lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she'll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all—her own heart.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

Thoroughly delightful

What do you get when you take one grumpy, socially awkward academic, plunk her down into a small, isolated Scandinavian village, and set her to studying the local fae? Throw in her suave, charming, lazy professional nemesis (and only friend), a barely-liveable cottage, local folklore, a changeling child and his distraught parents, and increasingly sinister encounters with the high fae, and you get Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries.

Written as Emily’s field journal, the book pokes gentle fun at the world of academia and academic publications. (There are even footnotes!) Initially, her academic study takes almost all of Emily’s attention and focus, and she approaches both fae and villagers with scholarly detachment. But as time goes on and she learns more about the local high fae’s impacts upon the village, she becomes increasingly involved emotionally, until she herself is thoroughly enmeshed in the situation.

I loved practically everything about the novel, but especially the characters. Emily is almost certainly on the autism spectrum, and prefers solitude. At least she thinks she does! It becomes clear that her distance is in part a defense mechanism. I loved seeing her relationships with the villagers and to Wendell evolve through the course of the novel; it’s not that she becomes less prickly, but that she begins to acknowledge the warmer heart underneath her prickles. And her academic and field skills are impressive—at least when it comes to dealing with the fae. (Chopping wood, not so much.)

Wendell is also a delight. There’s a lot more to him than surface appearances, and I can’t talk about any of it without spoilers, but trust me, you’ll grow to appreciate him. (I have just spent 15 minutes trying to say something about why I love this character and his thorny relationship with Emily without letting any cats out of bags, and I give up. All I can say is, it’s delightful, it’s full of surprises, and even thinking about it makes me smile.)

If I had to describe the theme of this novel, it’s probably along the lines of “there’s more to [anything] than meets the eye.” This is true of nearly all the characters; it’s true of the village; it’s true of the fae generally and the fae of this island in particular. One after another, secrets are uncovered and hidden facets or motives are revealed. Emily is singlemindedly determined to find and study the local winter fae, and eventually, to set things to rights; her discoveries lead her into serious trouble. And despite her difficulty in “reading” the villagers, she is quite observant when it comes to Wendell. He, in turn, is perhaps the one person who truly sees and appreciates Emily for who she is.

Heather Fawcett weaves everything together with vivid descriptions that make the scenes come alive, punctuated with wry humor. Her pacing and worldbuilding are both excellent, and drew me in so deeply that I couldn’t wait to see how things turned out, even while I didn’t want the book to end. I’m already looking forward to the next one; I hope it won’t be too long in coming!


Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • COYER Upside-Down 2023: Chapter 1
  • NetGalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge 2023

5 Responses to “Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries, by Heather Fawcett”

  1. Lydia

    Yay! I’m glad you loved this book. I’m on a super long library waitlist for it and can’t wait to read it.

  2. Katherine

    This is on my TBR. It looks absolutely gorgeous and I’m so glad to see it lived up to expectations. I’m excited to get my hands on this one.