The Drowned Woods

Little, Brown. Aug. 2022. 352p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780759556317.
Gr 9 Up–As the world’s last living water diviner, Mererid has been branded as the property of the prince and expects to live a life on the run if she is to have any freedom at all. Then Renfrew, the spymaster who was her childhood mentor, proposes a deal she cannot turn down—a chance to have enough money to walk away and never be seen again, if she will just help him with one last task. Along with Fane, a boy cursed by the fae to kill anyone he strikes; his magic-sniffing Corgi sidekick, Trefor; Mer’s ex-girlfriend (and Princess of Thieves) Ifanna, and some other less savory individuals, Renfrew and Mer set out to be the first to successfully destroy the well of power that keeps the prince protected and bring him down, once and for all. In this work based on intriguing Welsh folklore, Lloyd-Jones has crafted a dark fantasy heist that maintains a consistently quick pace with gripping action scenes and complex (if somewhat static) main characters, though some side characters feel somewhat dispensable. Mer’s fiery temper, sharp tongue, and proclivity for violence are well-balanced by Fane’s gentleness despite the curse that makes him deadly. Mer’s bisexuality is of no consequence to the other characters in the story, and the dynamic between Mer and her ex, the Princess of Thieves, is rife with angst and emotion.
VERDICT This adventurous quest and its unlikely crew will provide an enjoyable escape for readers of all types of fantasy novels.

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