From the publisher: “Emily Wilde is good at many things: she is a leading expert on the study of fairies; she is a brilliant scientist and meticulous researcher who writes the world’s first encyclopedia of fairy tale tradition. But Emily Wilde is not good with people.
So when Emily arrives in the tough village of Hrafnsvik, she has no intention of making friends with the tough townspeople. She doesn’t even bother spending time with another newcomer: her dashing and unbearably handsome academic rival, Wendell Bambleby.
But as Emily moves closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden – the most elusive of all fairies – 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 will have to unlock the greatest mystery of all – her own heart.”
Emily is grumpy and introverted, an academic who has no time for people who would rather sit in the back of the pub reading while others are having fun. But this is not a book of passionate lust, rather a story of academic endeavour, magical history and growing up passion romance.
This one reads a bit like an old serial Northern exposure but set not in Alaska but in Scandinavia, with a magical story. As in this TV series, there is even an endearing group of locals whose customs seem rather strange, even in a land inhabited by fairies. Along the way are folk tales and traditions, which Emily records to supplement her thesis.
Perhaps this is the aspect of the story that I enjoyed the most. Emily’s narrative is a die-hard scholar full of folklore, stories and historical examples of what to do and what not to do when encountering creatures such as oichre sidhe and changelings. The folklore is what initially sold me on the book, which seems to be based on ancient lore and seems quite believable in its world setting.
But the most endearing feature of the book may be that it’s all told in a tone that seems constantly amused—both by Wendell, who is obviously not what he seems, and by Emily herself, whose exasperation with Wendell and as a result of her introverted academic demeanor it was recognizable and a little too close for me. The romance between Wendell and Emily is nicely done and lightly developed as rivalry and friendship turn into romance. It’s cute and not too sleazy, and actually kind of cute because Emily becomes the object of someone else’s affections in the second part of the novel.
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Fairies is a charming book with folklore to discover and characters to fall in love with, set in an interestingly ambiguous landscape. As soon as I started reading, I found it irresistible: a light romance full of fae folk and lore.
In a nutshell, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Fairies is a book for those who do not want to dwell in the darkness and shadows of winter, but want to read something mildly entertaining and pleasantly invigorating. I suggest you add a nice blanket and a hot drink to fully appreciate it – as I write this in December and in the dead of winter, it might just be what we all need!
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Fairies by Heather Fawcett
Published by Orbit Books, January 2023
ISBN: 978 035 6519 128
Review by Mark Yon