A soldier. A runaway. A barmaid. Mererid has played many roles, but beneath them all, she has always been a water diviner, blessed with the magical ability to control water in all its forms. Prince Garanhir secretly abused her power for years, until Mer discovered his treachery and fled. Now she longs for a peaceful home of her own, but when her mentor, Renfrew, asks her to join him for one final mission, Mer can’t refuse.
The mission is simple: Break into the prince’s castle to steal his gold and the source of his magic. Mer joins a crew that also includes a fighter, a scholar, a thief and a corgi. Along the way, she encounters old flames, uncovers kingdom-shattering secrets and realizes that carrying out the heist won’t be nearly as straightforward as she thought.
Emily Lloyd-Jones‘ The Drowned Woods is based on the Welsh myth of Cantre’r Gwaelod, a sunken kingdom purported to lie beneath Cardigan Bay and sometimes called the Welsh Atlantis. Set in the same fantastical world as Lloyd-Jones’ 2019 novel, The Bone Houses, The Drowned Woods introduces a large cast of new characters and stands easily on its own.
The novel has all the elements of a classic heist, including a band of experts who each have a specialized skill, a villain in a fortified stronghold and a seemingly impossible goal. Within this framework, however, Lloyd-Jones delves deeply into the psyches of each member of the crew to thoughtfully explore themes of morality and grief.
Outwardly, Mer seems fiercely independent, always prepared for every possible outcome, but she struggles with guilt over her time spent in the prince’s service. She longs for freedom and meaningful connections with others, but her own self-loathing holds her back. The rest of the crew is just as well developed, and each member brings compelling personal histories, emotional demons and ulterior motives to the collective mission.
Thrilling and perceptive, The Drowned Woods blends the most-loved aspects of a heist narrative with meaningful, profound portraits of characters who satisfyingly defy archetypes and expectations alike.