Over the last few weeks, I did read/listens for a couple of YA books that I very much enjoyed. The Drowned Woods is a dark fairytale/fantasy/folklore story from Wales and Enola Holmes and the Elegant Escapade is a mystery/adventure story. I recommend them both.

The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones, Moira Quirk (Narrator)

Published August 16th 2022 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Hatchette Audio

4.5 Stars:

I do not read a lot of fantasy, but this book called to me. The Drowned Woods is Welch Folklore, based on the Welsh myth of Cantre’r Gwaelod, which explains the origins of cardigan bay on the west coast of Wales. This book is set in the same kingdom as The Bone Houses, but I have not read that book and had no trouble enjoying The Drowned Woods. This story follows 18-year old Mererid, ‘Mer’, who is the last living water diviner. When her powers were discovered, she was taken from her home and forced to live in the castle of Prince Garanhir. He forced her to do terrible things that resulted in the death of many innocents. She was able to escape and has been hiding away ever since. Then one night, the Prince’s guards find her and plan to bring her back to the castle. Her old handler, Renfrew, the Prince’s ex-Spy Master, approaches her with an opportunity to bring the Prince down and free her from her bonds. All she has to do is steal an important magical artifact that in a sense secures the Prince’s control over their kingdom. With an unlikely team, including a fae-cursed young man, the lady of thieves and an adorably-loyal corgi named Trefor, they plan to use their special gifts and skills to find the treasure and bring down the prince.

I really enjoyed this story. The setting, the characters and the format of the story pulled me right in. I loved watching this group come together and set off on their quest. They were not all in it for a noble purpose, but doesn’t the end justify the means? The main characters, Mer, Fane (the fae-cursed young man), and Trefor (the corgi that could sense magic) were so well developed. I loved how they met up as well as watching their relationship develop. Fane’s story was very interesting and my heart broke for him. Mer was such a strong character. She was caring and just wanted to make amends for some of the terrible things that happened due to her power. She was extremely loyal as well, and even when she found out what some of the group she was with had done, she was willing to forgive and help them survive. There were a lot of twists to this one and by the end I was on the edge of my seat. With magic from the other folk, a power that is evil and must be destroyed, a corgi sidekick who is absolutely lovable, and characters that see what they need to do and do it, as well as a wonderful ending that tied the story up well, this book ticked all the boxes for me and I highly recommend it. The title, The Drowned Woods, come from the legend and the rumors that carbon dating of exposed parts a submerged forest on the shore of the lake back in 2014 and 2019 showed that they were from 1500 B.C. I did a read/listen of the book and enjoyed both formats. When I got near the end, I read, as I wanted to find out what was going to happen as quickly as possible. The narration by Moira Quirk. She does a great job with the voices, emotion and expression making this an enjoyable book to listen to. If you enjoy dark fairytales, fantasy or Welsh Folklore, then I recommend you pick this one up.

Enola Holmes and the Elegant Escapade (Enola Holmes, #8) by Nancy Springer, Tamaryn Payne (Narrator)

Published September 6th 2022 by Wednesday Books, Macmillan Audio

4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is only the second Enola Holmes book I have read or listened to, but I do plan on reading them all eventually. Enola is the younger sister of well-known detective Sherlock Holmes. She is just as smart (maybe smarter) and intuitive, but being female, she has a lot of roadblocks and limitations in her way. She lives independently in an apartment for women and works as a scientific perditorian (a finder of persons and things). Enola’s friend, Lady Cecily Alastair, is under the complete control of her father, who wants her to marry a man of his choosing, but Cecily is against it. She has been locked in her room, but is able to get a message to Enola, who arrives to her home to investigate. She escapes and disappears in London, leaving Enola to find her. Lady Cecily also has a huge secret, she has disassociative personalities. I love Enola’s description of her being “left-handed” or independent and competent, and also “right-handed” or meek and mild. Enola must find Cecily, get her out of the grasp of her nasty father, and get her the help she needs for her mental-health.

This timeframe is full of change. Women were considered property and Enola as well as the Sisters of Suffragettes were trying to get things to change in Victorian England. Lady Cecily was one of those women who were being forced to marry for the good of the family fortunes, not for love. Both she and her mother are treated abysmally by their father and husband. The notion of mental-health is also brought forward in this book. Considering the time, the idea of seeing a doctor to help sounds a bit before its time, but I loved that inclusion. The story itself was enjoyable. Sherlock is hovering in the background, keeping an eye on Enola and coming to support her when she needed it. I enjoyed seeing the family dynamics. Enola narrates this story and we see it from her eyes. She is a great character, friendly, smart, intuitive, tenacious yet is able to blend in with others. I liked seeing her home and servants come into play. The mystery was interesting, the story fast paced, and the conclusion satisfying. If you enjoy a good YA mystery, with great characters, clean and not graphic, then pick up any of the Enola Holmes book, especially this one. The audiobook was once again narrated by Tamaryn Payne. This was an enjoyable book to listen to or read and I enjoyed both formats.