EMILY WILDE’S MAP OF THE OTHERLANDS by Heather Fawcett (BOOK REVIEW)
“Whether they be violent beasts distracted by vegetables, or creatures powerful enough to spin straw into gold, which they will happily exchange for a simple necklace, or a great king overthrown by his own cloak, there is a thread of the absurd weaving through all faerie stories, to which the Folk themselves are utterly oblivious. I believe I was thinking of this as everything fell apart.”
Emily Wilde, having published her Encyclopaedia of Faeries and earning herself the reputation of one of the most prestigious scholars in Dryadology has a new task in hand, to create a Map of the Faerie Realms. Yet when Fae hell bent on killing Wendell invades Cambridge University Emily embarks upon a perilous journey to the Austrian Alps, not only to find a missing scholar believed to have been kidnapped and trapped within a Faerie realm, but also to find something which may just save Wendell’s life. Her and Wendell will not be traveling alone though, Ariadne, Emily’s enthusiastic niece and Professor Rose, Head of the Dryadology Department will be joining them on their expedition. Emily and the others will have to face the dangerous terrain of the mountains where many Faerie Doors lay hidden, equally dangerous Folk prowl and the four of them have to learn to work together, which may be the most difficult task of them all.
Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands by Heather Fawcett takes us on another light academia adventure with a slice of prickly romance and a world of Fae which both dazzles and terrifies.
The opening of Emily Wilde sees Emily and Wendell Bambleby back in Cambridge university facing the wrath of Professor Rose and I have to say being back with these characters felt like returning to visit old friends. Right off the bat I felt a comforting, homely and delightfully magical sensation. As Fae assassins invade the university and all hell breaks loose, Wendell’s magical abilities continuously surprise Emily and I absolutely loved the whimsy of those first few chapters. We’re talking enchanted pencils, an impossible river and a cloak with many purposes. Fawcett effectively hits us with the strange and surreal and the characters’ reaction to this was hilarious!
Emily Wilde does appear to be a touch more frosty in this instalment. She’s snappy and rude to her niece Ariadne, who clearly respects her aunt and often when receiving sensible advice from Professor Rose she dismisses him out of pride rather than reason. Yet having the story told through Emily’s journal entries we know that underneath that is not how she means to be at all. She may not show it but underneath she cares for both; she admires Ariadne’s keenness to learn and her bright spark, she respects Rose’s intellect and experience, it’s just Emily’s patience for others runs thin. I love her determination, her endless curiosity and her dislike of leaving a mystery unsolved, but she’s far from comfortable with being around groups of people for long, especially when she’s in scholar mode where she is so focused on her goal she has little time for anything else, and as an introvert myself I can completely understand that. Emily really isn’t cold, she just has a hard time dealing with her emotions.
“The forest too was wreathed in cloud, so thick it muffled sounds. I caught a flicker of movement–a faerie crouched behind a tree, watching us. I started back in shock, because there was something nightmarish about it, though I didn’t catch more than a flash of its countenance before it faded back into the trees.”
What I loved most about this book is the way it balances between being a cosy, whimsical and adventurous, or should I say misadventurous, story whilst still retaining a heavy level of peril. Unlike the village of Ljosland in the first book, where the people are close knit and band together to help Emily, St. Liesl is a far more cryptic place and this time around the stakes are even higher. St. Liesl holds a kind of gateway to many different Faerie realms and as history has taught our characters, it’s easy to get lost and never return. The Fae are also more dangerous with fox-like carnivorous fae who will quite happily feast on you, horned fae who silently attack without warning, then there are scratches upon the door and old horrific legends coming to life. Throughout their time in the Alps, there is plenty to keep our scholars in a state of fear and vigilance. Yet the biggest peril throughout is that of Wendell’s life, which of course Emily holds dear. Wendell proved to be an absolute delight in the first book and he is no different here. I love how even when faced with mortal danger Wendell still manages to crack jokes, to take everything so light-heartedly, yet when Emily’s life is in danger, he’ll stop at nothing to protect her and his hidden rage will show.
Although the romance in this instalment is much heavier than the first, it still doesn’t overshadow the rest of the narrative. Emily and Wendell’s relationship is thoroughly enjoyable to see play out, the banter, the way they know each other’s flaws and accept them, the beautiful way they contrast and compliment each other. Yet a big question in this book is how far can Emily trust Wendell when she knows so little of his Fae realm and his Fae nature? Whilst Emily is preoccupied with deciphering her personal relationship with Wendell, there is much conflict brewing between the other characters throughout which normally would begin to grate on my patience, however because I feel so endeared towards each of them, including our new characters, Professor Rose who is comically full of faerie superstitions and is rather frightened by Folk and poor Ariadne who is merely frightened because of her lack of experience, I was constantly amused. I cannot forget to mention Shadow either, Emily’s Grim dog, who I adored for being the most loveable protective companion to Emily and was always willing to follow her anywhere even when his old age restricted him.
“Is there a moment you would relive more than once?” he said in a musing voice.
“No, I replied, thinking uncomfortably of his power to reshape time, limited though it is. “I’m rather fond of my sanity, thank you.”
He brushed a loose strand of hair from my forehead, tucking it behind my ear with one long finger. I felt the ghost of his touch trailing over my brow for some time afterwards.
“That would be mine,” he said. “It’s always in your eyes.”
At its core this is a heart-warming tale with a fairytale-esque atmosphere and I simply love journeying with Emily and seeing the chaos which always inevitably erupts. With its blend of cosy historical fantasy and mystery, Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands is a sheer delight to read. Heather Fawcett truly delivers a spellbinding sequel to become lost within on those dark cold winter nights.
ARC provided by Nazia at Orbit Books in exchange for an honest review—thank you for the copy. All quotes used are taken from an early ARC and are subject to change upon publication.