Hello, friends! It’s my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones and I’m very excited to share my thoughts and favourite quotes with you today.
Thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!
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The Drowned Woods
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 16 August 2022
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
A magical, ethereal fantasy from IndieBound bestselling author Emily Lloyd-Jones.
Once upon a time, the kingdoms of Wales were rife with magic and conflict, and eighteen-year-old Mererid “Mer” is well-acquainted with both. She is the last living water diviner and has spent years running from the prince who bound her into his service. Under the prince’s orders, she located the wells of his enemies, and he poisoned them without her knowledge, causing hundreds of deaths. After discovering what he had done, Mer went to great lengths to disappear from his reach. Then Mer’s old handler returns with a proposition: use her powers to bring down the very prince that abused them both.
The best way to do that is to destroy the magical well that keeps the prince’s lands safe. With a motley crew of allies, including a fae-cursed young man, the lady of thieves, and a corgi that may or may not be a spy, Mer may finally be able to steal precious freedom and peace for herself. After all, a person with a knife is one thing…but a person with a cause can topple kingdoms.
The Drowned Woods—set in the same world as The Bone Houses but with a whole new, unforgettable cast of characters—is part heist novel, part dark fairy tale.
Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.
TL;DR: The Drowned Woods is a lush and atmospheric dark fairytale-esque story that I absolutely loved! ELJ’s writing was absorbing and I loved how Welsh folklore was seamlessly interwoven in the story. The setting came so vibrantly to life but it was the characters who made me love this story most—especially the bestest, goodest little corgi to exist, Frevor! Mer and Fane were so easy to root for and I loved how everything came together in the end. If you loved ELJ’s The Bone Houses then you’re in for quite the easter egg treat at the end of this book! 😉
The minute I learned that ELJ was releasing a book this year, I immediately knew that I had to get my hands on it because I loved the previous book of hers that I read. I’m so happy that this didn’t disappoint me because I’ve been so looking forward to it! 😍
“A person with a knife was one thing. A person with a knife and a cause could topple kingdoms.”
I loved ELJ’s writing and I was sucked right in from the first few pages. The setting was vivid and the atmosphere so immersive—it read and felt like a dark fairy tale full of magic, danger and intrigue. I loved the Welsh mythology that is so naturally woven into the story and I enjoyed reading about the lore of the tylwyth teg and learning about how different kinds of magic worked through nature and the fae. The plot itself was easy to follow and the majority of the story revolves around this small crew of individuals planning a heist to take down the cruel prince of Caer Wyddno. I was hoping that there would be a stronger “found family” vibe from this crew but the whole time I was just thinking “don’t trust anyone” but it was still lots of fun to see how the heist would unfold and of course, nothing ever goes according to plan. There are unexpected magical enemies, traps and surprisingly heartbreaking betrayals.
“If this were an old story, she would beat him. She would find a clever crack in his defenses and bring down the murderer, prove that goodness and decency mattered. But this was not an old folktale; there were no heroes.”
That said, it was the characters who won me over. The story is broken up into three sections and two main perspectives, Mer and Fane, although we get another important perspective occasionally intertwined. Mer and Fane were fantastic main characters who simply did their best to deal with their unfortunate circumstances and did what they had to survive. They were incredibly easy to root for and though I loved them both, Fane was by far my favourite.
“People wanted her dead. And in her contrary heart, that made her want to live.”
Mer was born with powers and is the last water diviner to live and Fane also has magic but didn’t gain it naturally. I loved that between the two, Mer was the more morally grey, ruthless, and angry and she was so justified in her feelings. She’s had an incredibly rough life and was made to do unspeakable things that caused thousands of deaths when she was still on the cusp of childhood and I felt that anger simmering deep in her veins. In contrast, Fane had every reason to lose himself in anger and lash out at those who changed his life that fateful day in his past, but he’s so soft-hearted and holds himself with such care because he doesn’t want to hurt anyone and have what was done to him happen to someone else. Ugh, he melted my heart! I loved how they both found someone to understand what it’s like to carry the blessing and burden of magic with each other. I loved how their story unfolded and THE EPILOGUE. Omgosh friends, let’s just say that if you’ve read ELJ’s previous book, The Bone Houses, this will be a delightful tie-in and Easter egg connection that will give you full body chills—or at least it did me! Please, I loved it so much! 🥰
“Mer was a woman born with magic. And he was a man who traded seven years of his life for it. Perhaps between the two of them, they could do the impossible.”
It would be remiss of me to not mention Trefor, the goodest most adorablest corgi to have ever lived. ELJ always includes the oddest but sweetest animal companions in her stories and I love the role Trefor played in this one. He added levity to the more serious moments but not in a way that was distracting or weird. Also, if you’re worried about reading stories with animals cos you’re scared something happens to them, nothing bad happens to animal companions in ELJ’s stories, so it’s safe to read! 😉
“People—desperate people, in particular—will risk much for…” He trailed off, searching for the right word.
“Power?” she said.
“Choices,” he replied.”
Overall, this was such a wonderfully fairytale-esque story featuring intriguing Welsh lore, natural and fae magic, and characters who will win over your heart by the end. It’s dark and whimsical and entirely fantastic! I think it’s safe to say that ELJ has solidified herself as a favourite author and I can’t wait to read more by her in the future!
Emily Lloyd-Jones grew up on a vineyard in rural Oregon, where she played in evergreen forests and learned to fear sheep. She has a BA in English from Western Oregon University and a MA in publishing from Rosemont College. She currently resides in Northern California, where she enjoys wandering in redwood forests. Her young adult novels include Illusive, Deceptive, The Hearts We Sold, The Bone Houses, and the forthcoming The Drowned Woods. Her debut middle grade, Unseen Magic, will release in 2022.
Have you already read The Drowned Woods or do you have it on your TBR?