The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones is a Welsh folklore inspired fantasy read that came in an Illumicrate box. It follows a young woman who is the last living water diviner, someone who can find and control water.
Our water diviner, Mer, is captured by the prince of her kingdom and bound into his service. Through him she has caused the death of many people, as he poisoned the water sources that she found under his orders. She escaped the prince and was living a life on the run until Mer’s old handler found her, and suggested a way to bring down the prince and free the kingdom from his rule.
Firstly, Emily Lloyd-Jones is an American. I assume with her surname there is Welsh heritage there, but she is from Oregon, USA, and that does mean this is not an own voices story. Lloyd-Jones has written Welsh based/inspired stories before that Welsh readers haven’t exactly… loved the representation inside. Given that this came in a British (clearly English) book box, I’m disappointed that Illumicrate once again chose an American author. But as I don’t know enough about Wales I can’t speak to whether this book badly represents the country or not. I recommend finding own voices reviewers to confirm that aspect.
Separate from the representation issues however, this is a fun, basic, little read. It’s a sweet book, and quite a quick one to get through meaning that I’ll recommend this YA fantasy to any teens who ask. I adore the little Corgi that features through the book, definitely the best character 😉 but a lot of the other characters fell flat, despite the attempts at development and at adding in depth. We do get LGBTQ+ representation in here, which is always great, but even then the relationships portrayed felt quite flat and one dimensional.
This book has one of the most “fairytale” endings I’ve read in a long while, especially as an adult. Not everything goes right, but the characters end mostly happy and with that uptick of “the world is getting better”. This was marketed as “standard” YA but I definitely feel as though it leans towards younger YA instead. Nothing wrong with that at all (some of my favourites are in that bracket) but it did mean I went in with the wrong expectations.
The plot is the most interesting thing about this book, and it did show a lot of promise. But? The twist at the end was just… so unrealistic for how she had portrayed the characters so far? There wasn’t enough character depth to justify the choices that they made, and not enough weight given.
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 6, Atmosphere: 7, Writing: 6, Plot: 7, Intrigue: 7, Logic: 6, Enjoyment: 7, giving an average of 6.57 and a 3.5* rating.
Highlight here for trigger warnings: character death (on-page), child/spouse death, suicide, drowning, slavery, torture/branding, severe injury, violence, poison, guilt, self-loathing.
This is definitely a fun read, I wouldn’t want to put anyone off reading it. Just be aware what you’re going into. A fun, basic fantasy read that won’t stick in the mind but will be a bit of fun whilst you read it.
Have you read The Drowned Woods or anything else by Emily Lloyd-Jones? I’d love to hear what you think of her writing!