ARC Review: A Study in Drowning by Ava Reid

Posted by Jessi (Geo) on September 11, 2023 | 0 Comments

ARC Review: A Study in Drowning by Ava ReidA Study in Drowning by Ava Reid
Published by HarperTeen (9.19.2023)
Genres: High Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: eARC, 384 pages
Source: Edelweiss

3.5 Stars

Effy Sayre has always believed in fairy tales. She’s had no choice. Since childhood, she’s been haunted by visions of the Fairy King. She’s found solace only in the pages of Angharad - author Emrys Myrddin’s beloved epic about a mortal girl who falls in love with the Fairy King, and then destroys him.

Effy’s tattered, dog-eared copy is all that’s keeping her afloat through her stifling first term at Llyr’s prestigious architecture college. So when Myrddin’s family announces a contest to design the late author’s house, Effy feels certain this is her destiny.

But Hiraeth Manor is an impossible task: a musty, decrepit estate on the brink of crumbling into a hungry sea. And when Effy arrives, she finds she isn’t the only one who’s made a temporary home there. Preston Héloury, a stodgy young literature scholar, is studying Myrddin’s papers and is determined to prove her favorite author is a fraud.

As the two rival students investigate the reclusive author’s legacy, piecing together clues through his letters, books, and diaries, they discover that the house’s foundation isn’t the only thing that can’t be trusted. There are dark forces, both mortal and magical, conspiring against them - and the truth may bring them both to ruin.

My thoughts

“Survival is bravery, too.”

I had sky high hopes for this book going in, and while it sadly didn’t meet my expectations, I did still enjoy it for the most part. It was actually quite hard for me to rate this book because I had such mixed feelings over it. While I adored certain aspects of this book, I found others to be rather dull and dragging.

My absolute favorite thing about this book is how atmospheric it is! The overall feel is dark and moody and left me itching to make a mood board for it. (I don’t even do mood boards!) I had no problem picturing the Gothic setting and Hiraeth Manor in my head!

I wanted to crawl into the pages and live there! The world building, in the atmospheric sense at least, was positively superb. Unfortunately, I felt like so much effort was spent on the atmosphere and the manor itself that other aspects were left wanting. The rest of the world building was glossed over, and I had trouble grasping the politics and the relationship and backstory between the warring countries. There was little to no background history, so I never got a clear picture of the rest of the world in my head. The Manor was super vivid and everything else was blurred.

Was this the unreal world, or the real one? It all felt muddled now, like there was no longer a rigid border between them. There was black water rising and she could barely keep her head above the surface.

I found the characters to be lacking in dimension as well. Effie’s trauma and mental health were built with meticulous care in the same way the atmosphere was, and I felt like Reid did a fantastic job with both of those aspects of Effie’s character. However, it’s like she spent so much time on those two things that the rest was forgotten. Preston’s character was extremely bland in comparison (as well as all of the other side characters) and so was the romance, which lacked any chemistry or true development. This is a very slow paced, character-driven novel, so the fact that I didn’t care about the characters really diminished my overall enjoyment of the story.

I did enjoy the story-within-a-story aspect, and how that part played out. View Spoiler » That part was pretty cool, and even though I was bored for half the book, there were some fantastic and quotable passages sprinkled throughout.

“I’ve read your book a hundred times, maybe more. It was a friend when I didn’t have any. It was the only thing that said I was sane when the whole world was telling me I was mad. It saved me in more ways than I can count. Because I knew no matter how afraid I felt, I wasn’t truly alone.”

Regrettably, the ending felt rushed and left me wanting. The Fairy King was such a huge part of Effie’s life, yet when he’s finally revealed there’s only a small conflict followed by quick resolution. I ended up feeling very underwhelmed at the climax of the story.

“This isn’t a place for leaving. Things live and die here, but they don’t leave.”

Overall Assessment

Plot: 3/5
Premise: 4.5/5
Writing style: 3.5/5
Originality: 3.5/5
Characters: 2.5/5
World-building: 3/5
Pace: 2.5/5
Feels: 2.5/5
Cover: 4/5
Overall rating: 3.5/5

Jessi (Geo)

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