Emily Wilde captured my entire heart in this beautiful story.
This is exactly my kind of book–steeped in fairy folklore where the fae are whimsical and clever and full of myths and wickedness and tricks and utterly unreal levels of magic. And I adored the set up of this! Emily Wilde is a human professor (an antisocial, introverted one at that) whose lifelong aim is to complete the first ever comprehensive encyclopaedia of faeries. She does plenty of field work, tons of studying, and she views faeries through a very scientific lens. It was honestly such a unique and compelling story and I loved the framework.
The book is also told in journal entries. I do like this style of format, and it allowed us to be very intrinsically swept up in Emily’s thought processes and made her a very deeply empathetic character despite her stand-offish presentation.
Emily travels to a remote village in Scandinavia called Hrafnsvik as she works to complete her encyclopaedia, and the setting is so wintery and chilled and frosted over with ice. You can feel it on the pages. There is also a cosy element to the story overall, with the aesthetics of the cosy cabin and bookish scenes. It was giving Light Academia too, tbh, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
“One doesn’t need magic if one knows enough stories.”
“The Folk were of another world, with its own rules and customs—and to a child who always felt ill-suited to her own world, the lure was irresistible.”
The story mainly features Emily and Wendell Bambleby, another professor from Cambridge who invites himself along on her expedition and who she is frustratedly annoyed at because she’s sure he’s trying to take credit for her work. They have a sort of frenemies-rivalry going on, except it’s mostly in Emily’s head (lmao). Wendell is just the most flamboyant eccentric academic idiot to grace a page and I absolutely loved him from the start. (Think Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle, basically, and you’ve got the vibe.) He is the sunshine to Emily’s grump. He is the extravagance to Emily’s frugal reservations. They are SUCH opposites, that they’re a total delight on page together.
I’ll also take a moment to say I suspect Emily was coded as autistic, and I’m unsure if that was intentional on the author’s part. As an autistic individual myself, I found the rep interesting, not bad, though not exactly landing true autism…so I wonder if Emily is just meant to be very introverted. Something to muse on, and I’d love to hear other readers’ opinions.
The overall plot is not face-paced, but I loved that. I loved the cosy village scenes, and the discovery of new fairies, and the pauses for Wendell shenanigans and the adventurous twist at the end. It’s infused with magic and told in such a lovely voice, and I throughly enjoyed every page.
Read it for:
♡ fairy tale vibes and folklore stories
♡ sunshine x grump (light) romance
♡ cosy dynamics and wintery setting
♡ stiff, grumpy characters learning to be loved
♡ light academia meets fairy tale magic
♡ journal entries format
Beautifully written, with characters you’ll grow so fond of, this is the whimsical yet cosy fantasy I have been craving and couldn’t love it enough!
Thank you to Orbit UK for the copy!
A curmudgeonly professor journeys to a small town in the far north to study faerie folklore and discovers dark fae magic, friendship, and love in the start of a heartwarming and enchanting new fantasy series.
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, and the Fair Folk.
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, get in the middle of 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.
published January 10, 2023