Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

My Rating: 5 stars

Many Random House and NetGalley for the ARC! This book came out on January 10 2023 and is now available for purchase.

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is a historical fantasy novel in the vein of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and Babel: an Arcane History. It takes place in an alternate version of the early 20th century where faeries are real and scholars devote their lives to studying them. Emily Wilde is one of these scholars, an adjunct professor at Cambridge working on the first ever encyclopaedia of faeries in the hopes it will secure her job. The final chapter of her book takes her to remote Scandinavian village, and her charming yet insufferable (to her mind) colleague Wendall Bambleby follows. The novel is set up as Emily’s field journal, which works well to provide insight into her thoughts and feelings and well as provide the necessary “scholarly” information the reader needs to understand the world.

Historical fantasy has quickly become one of my favorite genres, and Fawcett does a great job building her alternate world. Some of this is done through footnotes referencing fictitious scholarly sources and folktales Emily copies into her journal. However, we also learn about the village, Hrafnsvik, and the people’s culture through Emily’s initially unsuccessful interactions with them. And of course, the fae themselves are glorious. In this world, the fae are divided into two general categories–common and courtly, but also vary widely based on the country and environment they are based in. All the faeries we meet are otherworldly and fascinating, some are absolute sweethearts, and others are downright chilling. I’m so glad this is the first in a series because I can’t wait to explore this world further.

But even the best world would be nothing without engaging characters, and Fawcett excels here as well. Emily is brilliant in her field and meticulous in her research, but she is terrible at interpreting social cues and interacting with people. Wendell is the opposite; he oozes charisma, and though he is equally brilliant, he has no problem falsifying research if it will get him funding. Naturally, the two butt heads a lot, and it’s incredibly fun to watch. Their relationship is very similar to Howl and Sophie’s Howl’s Moving Castle (the book): a ridiculous fop who is more than he appears and an introverted curmudgeon who is done with his bullshit. I loved their friendship/rivalry and seeing it eventually turn into something more.

Overall, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopadiea of Faeries is a great addition to the historical fantasy genre with a fascinating take on faeries. It’s perfect for fans of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell while also appealing to those looking for a more cozy read like Howl’s Moving Castle. I can’t wait for the next book!

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