Every now and then I find a book that is everything I want in a fantasy story. I wish I could say my tastes are obscure and cool but my favourites are pretty much blockbusters of the fantasy lit world; Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Uprooted, and of course The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The best fantasy works for me are ones that embrace the folklore they’re based on, be it Clarke’s faeries, Novik’s folk magic, or Tolkien’s loving appreciation for the Eddas and the magic of woodland. Drowned Country the second instalment in the Greenhollow Duology by Emily Tesh is one of these books. It’s pretty common to compare authors to bigger authors it often comes off as disingenuous but in this case I promise it’s not.
SOME SPOILERS AHEAD
This second book follows the folklorist Henry Silver who has replaced Tobias as the wild man of Greenhollow wood whilst Tobias has mysteriously left to be a companion to Mrs Silver in her practical folklorist pursuits. Silver joins them in a quest to find Maud a young girl who appears to have been taken by a 900-year-old vampire. Along the way we have flashbacks over the years between the two books and what led to Tobias leaving the wood.
Personally I preferred Drowned Country to Silver in the Wood possibly because I craved the characters for so long in between that I found this book more satisfying. Unlike the last this novella didn’t feel to short it didn’t feel rushed it felt so beefy and full that I took a few days to read it, stopping to consider things and let the ways of the wood wash over me. Basically I feel like Tesh has found her stride with this book and I am so excited to see what she does next.
I think what I enjoyed the most was the double bluff of this story. This is a bit spoiler-y so apologies but what starts out as a vampire story quickly becomes a fae one. It took me a while to pick this up because I wasn’t feeling vampires exactly but once I did I was pleased to find out it was about much more. This book, really, is about nature, the lie of immortality, and finding a life you are suited for and Tesh weaves it all together so fantastically it’s a joy to read.
I’m still holding out hope that Tesh will deliver a full novel at some point or even a series I can really sink my teeth into the way a vampire would a missing girl or a starving faerie would a sour apple. Her images stick with you, haunting you and playing on your mind for days on end, sometimes months after reading I really can’t wait to see what she does next.
And you can check out my review of the first book Silver in the Wood here.