Book Review: THE DROWNED WOODS by Emily Lloyd-Jones

I received an audiobook ARC from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in purple on blurred pink and purple image
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: standalone

Blurb:

Book cover for THE DROWNED WOODS: title in white on purple tree tops under pink sky with a castle

The right cause can topple a kingdom . . .

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. As the last living water diviner, she can manipulate water with magic – a unique elemental power many would kill to possess.

For years, Mer has been running from the prince who bound her into his service – and forced her to kill thousands with her magic. Now, all Mer truly wants is a safe, quiet life, far from power and politics.

But then Mer’s old handler – the king’s spymaster – returns with a proposition: use her powers to bring down the very prince that abused them both.

Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

This was such an enjoyable read, a fantasy heist inspired by Cantre’r Gwaelod, or the “Welsh Atlantis.”

There is a small sort-of crew of six in the book, all with their own secrets and haunted pasts. I say “sort of” as the book only focuses on four of them (three of whom are POV narrators.) Mer has the most page time by quite a way, followed by Fain (?sp – sorry can’t find the spelling online anywhere!) who is an Iron-Fetch, a young man who works for the Other Folk to remove iron from their lands in exchange for magic that can kill. The last POV is Ivana (?sp), Mer’s ex-lover and princess of thieves.

I liked that we didn’t focus on the whole group, but rather this core trio. We got to see the others through their eyes and spend more time on their pasts and how it haunted them. It’s why I’d say this is a “sort-of heist” rather than a heist book – the focus of the book is not the mission to steal from the well, but rather these characters working out how to come to terms with what they’ve done and how to become the people they want to be.

Plus having more than one POV worked very well for the ending where they were split up trying to deal with the heist fall-out. I think the ending was what made this book work so well for me, the way it really challenged the characters and forced them to reckon with their past bargains and work out who they’d be up against the wall.

The narrator, Moira Quirk, was great – bringing the pacing the life with varying narration speeds, and also all the Welsh accents too. I was listening to this right around when I was very distracted (heat! so many chores! deadlines!) but I was still sucked in every time, despite it being a set of circumstances that should have made listening hard, and I attribute it to the narrator bringing it so vividly to life.

This is apparently set in the same world as the author’s previous book, which doesn’t currently have a UK publication. Hopefully this does well enough that the publisher for this book picks up the other book as I want to read it now!

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