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eARC Review: Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands by Heather Fawcett


UK Cover (because I like it better)

Release date: 16 January 2024

Rating: 3.5/5

SE’s: FairyLoot edition (see my Special Editions Calendar)

Tropes: Found family, rivals to friends, animal companions, secret royalty, hidden identity, wicked stepmother

Synopsis: When mysterious faeries from other realms appear at her university, curmudgeonly professor Emily Wilde must uncover their secrets before it’s too late in this heartwarming, enchanting second installment of the Emily Wilde series.


Emily Wilde is a genius scholar of faerie folklore—she just wrote the world’s first comprehensive of encylopaedia of faeries. She’s learned many of the secrets of the Hidden Folk on her adventures . . . and also from her fellow scholar and former rival, Wendell Bambleby.


Because Bambleby is more than infuriatingly charming. He’s an exiled faerie king on the run from his murderous mother, and in search of a door back to his realm. So despite Emily’s feelings for Bambleby, she’s not ready to accept his proposal of Loving one of the Fair Folk comes with secrets and danger.


And she also has a new project to focus a map of the realms of faerie. While she is preparing her research, Bambleby lands her in trouble yet again, when assassins sent by Bambleby’s mother invade Cambridge. Now Bambleby and Emily are on another adventure, this time to the picturesque Austrian Alps, where Emily believes they may find the door to Bambley’s realm, and the key to freeing him from his family’s dark plans.


But with new relationships for the prickly Emily to navigate and dangerous Folk lurking in every forest and hollow, Emily must unravel the mysterious workings of faerie doors, and of her own heart.


 

Review


Fawcett’s Emily Wilde sequel ranks pretty high up on my 2024 anticipated list, considering how much I absolutely loved Encyclopaedia of Faeries; but after reading, it fell a bit flat for me. Undoubtedly, the writing style still propels me through the book, as it’s reminiscent of all of the Victorian and Edwardian literature I’ve read and studied, but the pacing in this one dragged quite heavily in the middle. Though I flew through the first book in a short amount of time, it took me over a month to power through this one, despite it’s short, 342-page length. I kept picking up other books to read and avoiding finishing this one too often. The title gives the impression that there will be a significant amount of traveling in the Otherlands, but the majority of the book takes place in one spot with the characters looking for the entrance to the Otherlands. Despite its shortcomings and my struggle to get through it, I did like it when I was finished but ultimately wish the storyline were more engaging.


Despite its pacing issues (for me at least, though quite a few folk on Goodreads highly rated this one, so I must be in the minority or there’s a bit of a rating inflation going on), the characters were just as charming as ever. Wendell is still neurotically tidy, crazy about Emily, and perfect comic relief. Emily is still an introverted curmudgeon who has a hard time expressing her feelings, and Shadow is his same wonderfully canid self. We meet a great many new characters, which I also liked, but I won’t name them or give details to keep from spoiling anything for potential readers.


The plot in this one felt very formulaic to me as well, which I suspect may be at the root of my pacing complaint. The first book followed a pattern of occurrences, such as Emily going to a new place, interacting with the locals, exploring the terrain looking for faeries, discovering said faeries, encountering a problem where one of the characters needs assistance that necessitates the traveling to a faerie realm, experiencing some danger there, and then wrapping everything up with a happily for now closure. Some readers appreciate the familiarity and predictability of such plot structures, but I do not and found it hard to push through because I just got bored.


What I do love about the predictability of the Emily Wilde books revolves around the armchair traveling. Each book is set in a different location with fantastic atmosphere (I love the cold and high elevations, so the Alps is so great) and guarantees encounters with faerie creatures who have charming and often hilarious idiosyncrasies. Readers will reunite with some old fae friends and converse with some old human ones as well.


If you’re looking for a fast-paced, action-packed romantasy, you won’t find it in Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands. Sure, it’s romantic. It certainly has brief blips of action and increased pace. The real action of Map of the Otherlands occurs at the very beginning and the very end of the book. The plot does not revolve around the romance in this one; it has a bit more substance to it with a romantic subplot. This is not a negative aspect for me; I always prefer my fantasy with more than romance. It is less hygge than its predecessor as well, as the characters spend quite a bit more time outside in the elements.


Overall, I have to rate this one a 3.5 out of 5. I did not enjoy the repetitive plot structure and slow pacing. I will still pick it up for my collection in hopes the future installment(s) will improve. If you loved the first one, definitely give this one a read. Though it’s not an improvement on the series, it’s certainly not a detriment.


My thanks to Del Rey at Penguin Random House via NetGalley for the eARC, for which I willingly give my own, honest opinion. (**This book will be published by Orbit from Hachette books in the UK**)



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