Book Review: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries
by Heather Fawcett
Fantasy
317 pages
Published January 10, 2023

Emily Wilde, Cambridge professor and steadfast researcher, has no problem traipsing into the remote fields and forests of Europe to conduct her research into the many varieties of faeries that haunt the edges of civilization, but an ordinary conversation with another person is utterly baffling to her. She would rather spend her evenings reading with her faithful dog Shadow by her side than attend any party. So when she arrives in the remote northern country of Ljosland to try to find and study the elusive Hidden Ones, she immediately butts heads with the people of the little town of Hrafnsvik. Matters are not improved by the arrival of her colleague and academic rival, the handsome and charming Wendell Bambleby, who immediately befriends every last one of the villagers and moves in with Emily with hardly a greeting. But the closer Emily comes to finding the Hidden Ones, the more she relies on Wendell and his mysterious nature, because old legends are coming to life, and if Emily doesn’t keep her feet on the right path, she could be swept away into a snowy realm forever.

These days, fantasy novels featuring overly pretty and immortal fae lordlings inexplicably falling in love with impulsive teenagers are a dime a dozen, so it’s refreshing to find a book that not only draws upon the real wellspring of centuries’ worth of European faerie and folktales but also features a female protagonist who is not a snarky and headstrong teenager. Emily Wilde is a woman of thirty, established in her career, and well on her way to being one of the foremost experts in her field. She knows her strengths and her weaknesses, is comfortable relying on her knowledge to keep her safe in her explorations, but also knows when she is out of her depth and when to call for help. While Emily might be a wallflower, she is no shrinking violet.

It’s exactly these traits that draw Wendell Bambleby to Emily in the first place. He may outshine Emily with his own knowledge of faeries and their lore, but he is often lazy, relying on his charms to get him out of sticky academic situations. While his sudden arrival in Hfrafnsvik startles Emily out of the cold and lonely routine she’s established there, it’s obvious to both of them that they can use each other’s skills and experiences to solve the unique problems they each face.

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is a charming and atmospheric book that, like Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy, is based upon real faerie lore, and carries within it all the playfulness and drama of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. It may have a few missteps– the two perspectives sound a little too similar to really tell them apart, and the included but separate faerie tales are oddly placed within the story– but the overall effect is one of beauty and charm, and showcases a deep love for the stories that inspired the book and the people who tell those stories.

The oldest faerie tales are not silly stories meant to entertain children for the span of ninety minutes. They are often dark and dangerous, filled with willful sprites and inhumanly beautiful creatures that might grant your deepest wish or sweep you off to a sunless realm to dance your life away. Faeries are capricious, but follow hard and fast rules that can make little sense to those looking for logical reasonings for their actions. But like the mysterious forces that faerie stories were meant to try to explain, there is little logic to a thunderstorm or a blizzard when you don’t have the means to predict the weather. A neighbor’s sudden incredible luck or misfortune might not be explainable by normal means, but if they’re under a faerie’s spell, anything is possible.

So it is with Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries. The Hidden Ones and all the other strange denizens of faerie mentioned in the pages have their own rules to live by, and they spread happiness or despair by the whims of their unpredictable natures. The curmudgeonly Emily Wilde may seem unlikely to counter these capricious beings, but her deep knowledge and quick thinking make her a nearly perfect foil to the enigmatic creatures she meets. Throw the whimsical (and whimsically named) Wendell Bambleby into the mix, and you have a recipe for a fantastical wintry story that will keep you turning the pages until the very end.


Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free eBook in exchange for an honest review. Purchase a copy of Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries from Barnes and Noble or Bookshop.org

9 thoughts on “Book Review: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries

  1. I don’t know much about the fae and haven’t read all that many books about them, but I do like when books strive to weave real myths and stories into new tales. And I’ve been looking forward to trying the Winternight trilogy since that first book came out. I’ve had that for a while and gave my brother books 2 and 3 for Christmas, so I hope to one day borrow them from him. 🙂

  2. I loved the Winternight trilogy! Especially the third one. Arden’s improving skills as an author really showed throughout those books, and Winter of the Witch was the best. I love it so much. Definitely give them a try as soon as you can!

  3. All you’ve said here makes it sound very appealing to me, esp that it “features a female protagonist who is not a snarky and headstrong teenager.”

  4. Pingback: Sunday Sum-Up: January 15, 2022 | Traveling in Books

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