Review: Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries - Heather Fawcett
Published: Orbit, January 2023
My Rating: 3/5 stars
“Perhaps it is always restful to be around someone who does not expect anything from you beyond what is in your nature.”
I still stand by my original point: fae-stories are not my thing. Yet, if I was going to enjoy one regardless, it would have to be one by the capable hands of Heather Fawcett. I’m actually very happy I gave this book a chance, as this was such a positive surprise in every way.
Our story begins with a prickly young professor in the field of dryadology (the study of Faeries). A meticulous researcher and a genius in her field, Emily Wilde has devoted herself to the creation of the first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. If her studies require it, she is more than willing to do field-research, and interact with the Folk themselves, even if that means some human interaction in the process as well. Something Emily has never excelled in. When her field-expedition into an elusive species of faeries in the Scandinavian woods is rudely interrupted by the arrival of her academic rival Wendell Bambleby, Emily falls into an adventure like never before. One that will require not only the use of her head, but also her heart.
I loved Fawcett’s take on an overcrowded genre. The story is told through Emily’s field-notes, which truly brings to life her narrative voice and her frazzled young professor persona. It also covers the whole thing in a “light-academia-”sauce, that brings an utterly unique feeling to the story. Unique is also her take on the fae-narrative. Fawcett brings us cottage-core, rather than pristine fae-courts, heroines who stand their own with their wit rather than shiny swords, and even a romance subplot that I think I’m actually on board with. Let me (without spoilers!) explain a little about that last part. My big turn-off with fae-romances, similar to bully-romances, is how unhealthy they always feel. They often start with an incredibly inequal situation and a lot of (not so) subtle coercion, often not called out on page. Fae prince captures helpless mortal woman; forces her into relationship/marriage, sometimes with the help of mind-altering glamours. He treats her like shit, but is so handsome that we’re somehow supposed to be okay with that. Cue the “dangerous situations” within the Fae-realm, where our helpless girl is saved by handsome asshole-prince and falls for him. The romance in Emily’s story clearly takes inspiration from this, but subverts all these tropes. Emily is not a helpless maiden and her mind and that of her love-interest are perfectly matched. Their relationship, their banter and their slowly building trust therefore feel very equal and deserved. NOTE: I’m not shaming anyone who loves the above mentioned style of bully-fae-coercion romance. You do you; I’m just an old lady who likes her romance to have equal power-dynamics and be filled with consent.
Overall: not my typical kind of book. I definitely cringed a few times, but I also got an incredibly comforting cozy read, that came at the exact right time for me currently. Recommended? YES! If even a Faerie-scrooge like me likes it, I don’t know who won’t… 😉
You can find this book here on Goodreads.