Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett fantasy book reviewsEmily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett fantasy book reviewsEmily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

The first book in the EMILY WILDE series is a lively, lovely romp through an alternate Europe, with faeries, magic, lost kingdoms, irascible scholars and their irritating colleagues. Though completely different in tone and subject matter, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries (2023), by Heather Fawcett, reminded me a bit of Marie Brennan’s LADY TRENT series. Both series feature a woman scientist and a story transmitted via reports or journal entries. There the similarities end, except for my enjoyment.

It’s the turn of the 20th century, and dryadologist or faery scholar Emily Wilde is off to the far northern country of Ljosland, to study their various communities of fair folk. Emily is a dedicated scholar with a reputation as a curmudgeon. She has zero social skills, but her field work is impeccable. While her first days in the coastal village of Hrafnsvik are rocky, she is relieved, at least, that her charming, frivolous, friendly rival dryadologist Wendell Bambleby didn’t accompany her. Emily is all business, aided only by her faithful boarhound Shadow. In short order, Emily’s single-mindedness alienates the community, although she does befriend a faery informant who she nicknames Poe. Then, to her chagrin, Bambleby arrives with two graduate students in tow, turning both her rustic cottage and her investigation into a delightful shambles.

Bambleby isn’t the scholar Emily is, but he does know his stuff, and soon the two of them determine that something is quite wrong in the little town. It isn’t uncommon for the “courtly faeries” or “tall ones” to abduct a human now and then, but in Hrafnsvik it seems to happen more than usual—and there is a house that is cursed with something Emily first thinks is a wight, but soon discovers is a changeling. The town’s secrets fan the flames of Emily’s suspicion about her colleague; she is quite sure she has uncovered an important secret about Wendell. Emily has her own secrets, concerning Shadow, who is in fact a faerie hound called a grim.

Each section except for one is written by Emily in her journal, adding Emily’s scientific detachment and vinegary wit. Emily footnotes her journal, which adds to the fun of this story. The stakes for the villagers, and later Emily and Wendell themselves, are high, but so is the humor, and Fawcett has a perfect grip on Emily’s near-constant exasperation with Wendell. Emily is also smart, and puts her scholarly knowledge to great use, like when she is interrogating the changeling, and in a more dire situation, when she crosses the border of the faerielands to rescue two abducted village girls. Because we have a first-person narrator, it is easy for us (and Emily) to forget that early in the story Emily fell under an enchantment, and soon that enchantment blossoms, leading her into danger.

Consequences mount, things become suddenly serious, and ultimately Emily must face her feelings for Wendell. The climax uses folklore perfectly and feeds the suspense until the final few pages.

Emily Wilde is a distinct voice in a well-depicted fantasy world, and the adventures of this first book are as fun as s roller-coaster ride. I fell into it and surfaced only long enough to head to the bookstore to buy the sequel, Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands.

Published in January 2023. 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, muddle 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.


  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.

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