The Drowned Woods / Emily Lloyd-Jones / Book Review

When Mer escaped the King's court and her role as the King's water diviner, she knew she would always be living on the run. Fugitive and criminal, there was no other choice. So when the King's Spymaster shows up in her most recent place of employment, Mer knows it's time to flee once again.

But Renfrew hasn't come to collect her for the King. He's come with a job instead. Mer put her life of crime behind her when she left the court, but Renfrew promises more than she ever dreamed. He promises a life where she can set down roots. A life without the King.

Of course, for a job like this, only the best crew will do. 


This is a fun heist fantasy set in an immersive new world. Emily Lloyd-Jones doesn't skimp on worldbuilding, but that same worldbuilding doesn't overwhelm the quirky cast of characters. As far as heist fantasy goes, this book is top tier. 


  • Heist Hijinks: I love a good heist book—emphasis on good. There’s something so fun about gathering a ragtag crew of experts in their criminal fields. The planning, the scheming, the inevitable backstabbing—it’s a classic kind of story setup, and Emily Lloyd-Jones pulls it off so well. These characters have a found-family feeling, but at the same time, they’re never quite on even footing with each other. That sense of camaraderie—and perhaps impending disaster—makes this cast brilliant.  
  • Elemental Magic: I love elemental magic... when it's done right. Done the wrong way, it's simply "natural," with no real rules or drawbacks to it. Here, that's not the case. Water diviner Mer doesn't have limitless magic. Her power depletes as she uses it. She can't control every bit of water in every instance. But her magic is still useful enough within the established parameters to make her a prized commodity. It's not a vaguely ethereal gift, and it's not an overpowered super weapon. This is elemental magic done right. 
  • Balanced Worldbuilding: Another thing that Lloyd-Jones gets just right? The worldbuilding. The backstory of the world intermingles with just enough culture to set this world apart. It's a fleshed out backdrop to the heist story, and it doesn't overwhelm the story itself. Elemental magic mingles with royal spies and elven lands on the perimeter. There's courtly ambition, and there are common folk, too. This is a well-rounded new fantasy world that plays a real part in setting the mood and tone of the story--and building up the characters, too. 


  • Long Chapters: It took me so long to get into this book because I saw just how long the chapters are when I first stuck my bookmark into the pages. It can be hard to digest such long chapters, and it's demotivating (to me, at least) to know I have to dedicate a significant amount of time for each reading, even for just a chapter. This book is worth it in the end, but I would have started reading (and read much faster) if the chapters weren't so long. 
  • Kingly Intervention: There were several times throughout this book when the ruler of the land himself would do something, and I'd ask myself, "Doesn't he have people for that?" He felt a little too hands-on, both in flashbacks and in current-day shenanigans, and that pulled me out of the story. Perhaps if he were more sadistic, I'd feel a need for his hands-on nature. But as he isn't particularly sadistic, I was just left questioning. 
  • Sudden Traitors: A traitor here, a traitor there... everybody a traitor! Of course, in any good heist story, you can expect some betrayal. More so in a heist fantasy. But when the climax of this plot is made up almost entirely of betrayals that come out of the blue? They kind of lose their impact. The betrayal was fine, but the storytelling, at least on this particular point, was less than masterful. 



Those who liked Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows will appreciate this new talented crew of criminals. Fans of Tamora Pierce's Terrier will like this medievally-urban fantasy. 


Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Date: August 16, 2022
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


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