Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries
by Heather Fawcett
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.
I was a bit unsure how I would like this one. I’m not typically drawn to fae stories, but a historical scholar with a lack of social grace is something that I do find appealing. I suspected there may be romance, but I like enemies-to-lovers. I think the rivalry between Emily and Wendell was a bit exaggerated in the synopsis. They’re friends from before the story begins. Wendell is Emily’s only friend, in fact, and while they have opposite personalities, there isn’t much strain between the two.
I also heard from others that this was much darker than they expected, for something that sounds like a cosy fae mystery. I didn’t think it was especially dark, but there is plenty of fae tricks and enchantments to keep our main characters on their toes and at risk of danger.
I enjoyed this quite a bit. I loved Emily. She’s not great at endearing herself to the people around her, and by the time the story has begun she has mostly given up trying. She’s much more interested in progressing her research and career than surrounding herself with friends, so why keep making fruitless efforts when she can instead direct her efforts elsewhere. I also liked the contrast of Wendell, who charms everyone he encounters. They had a good dynamic, although I was surprised how early on it’s stated that Wendell is more than likely fae himself, if only Emily could prove it definitively. His true identity remains a mystery for a while though.
The beginning is slower as Emily settles in to village and prepares for her research. As we start seeing the fae and she begins interacting with them, things really start to pick up. I liked this pacing. It gives us enough time to get to know Emily, Wendell, and some of the townsfolk. We get a sense of what Emily’s hoping to accomplish while there and also her regard for the place she’s staying in. She may not be good with people, but she has no intention of disrespecting them or their home. They fae of course, have plenty of goals and tricks of their own. As they begin revealing themselves to Emily and making deals with her, there becomes a much more adventurous feel to the story.
Overall, I really liked this. I would recommend it is you like historical fantasy scholarly stories, whether or not you’re into fae.