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, 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, 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.
This was exactly the book I needed in place of the negativity out in the real world right now. Heather Fawcett has given us a fabulous heroine who inhabits a world many of us fantasy fans only dream of – scholarly study of faeries. I mean, who wouldn’t love that job??? There’s no suspension of disbelief here. These things are REAL!
Fawcett’s writing is peppered with high-level vocabulary that incredibly flows through the text without bogging down the narrative. She tosses out words like “inchoate” like candy left as offerings for the fae. Main character Emily Wilde is delightful. She knows who she is and she definitely knows her value, even if she’s socially awkward. It’s refreshing and comforting to find a character who isn’t perfect and who lives in her skin no matter how odd that feels sometimes.
The only thing that keeps this from being a 5 star read for me is the goofy and IMHO unnecessary romantic entanglement that happens in the last half. However, I expect that will appeal to fans of romance/fantasy of which I am not one.
UPDATE: I’m re-reading this for a book club and I have to admit that my previous statement was off the mark. The relationship between Em and Wendell is, indeed, the very heart of the story. They seem to understand each other in ways others cannot, and I have begun to suspect that Emily may indeed be more than she seems.
Otherwise, this is a supremely fun read. I look forward to more of Fawcett’s stories.
Publication Date: January 10, 2023
Published By: Random House Publishing Group; Ballantine, Del Rey
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy