Prepare to dive headfirst into the mesmerizing pages of “A Study in Drowning” by Ava Reid. This tale blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. In this enchanting novel, Reid weaves intrigue and magic that will leave you spellbound.
So, grab your metaphorical snorkel and embark on an adventure where every page holds the promise of discovery, where every word is a ripple in the vast ocean of storytelling. Welcome to a world where the boundaries of reality are redefined, and the only limit is the depth of your imagination.
Title: A Study in Drowning
Author: Ava Reid
Genre: Fantasy “romance”, Gothic Fantasy
TW: Off-page sexual abuse
“It began as all things did: a girl on the shore, terrified and desirous.”
A Study in Drowning
Euphemia “Effy” Sayre has always believed in fairy tales. She has never really had a choice. After being haunted by the Fairy King, she finds comfort in a book by her favorite author. Emrys Myrddin’s, Angharad.
So when Myrddin’s family announces a contest to design the late author’s house, Effy feels unsure if she should apply but knows it’s her destiny. Plus, it is the perfect opportunity to leave behind her recent trauma.
But Hiraeth Manor is an impossible task: a musty, decrepit estate on the brink of crumbling into the sea. And when Effy arrives, she finds she isn’t the only one who’s made a temporary home there. Preston Héloury, is studying Myrddin’s papers and is determined to prove her favorite author is a fraud.
Preston is an arrogant literature student. Gathering materials for the university’s archives, and questioning everything Effy knows about Myrddin. When Preston offers to include her name on his thesis—which may allow her to pursue the dream of studying literature —Effy agrees to help him.
As they unravel the story of Myrddin, Preston, and Effy start to suspect that Myrddin’s fairy tales may hold more truth than they realize.
Thoughts on Drowning
As my introduction to Ava Reid and her writing style, I found A Study in Drowning to not be a great place for me to “jump off the diving board”.
Ava’s passages are written smoothly. The story of A Study of Drowning is unique but I found it to be ordinarily so.
Effy is the only woman in the architecture program at her college in Caer-Isle. And with that has come some advances and trauma from a member of staff there. She is severely traumatized, constantly envisioning the incident over and over. Looking through Effy’s eyes is like looking through a fractured mirror. Nothing is clear, or as it seems. It is very warped, strange, and shattered. It almost makes her an unreliable narrator.
So when an opportunity arises to work on her favorite author’s home. While hesitant, she finds that it would be a great way to leave it all behind.
Many will feel this is a “romantasy”. And while there is some romance it isn’t at the forefront of the story.
“Your only enemy is the sea”
The dedication to this book reads: “This is a love story” and (mean this will all love) It is NOT. Now, fantasy stories are not all about romance for me, and I am not one to complain about a fantasy book having too little romance. But, when you start the story and get this dedication, it sets the wrong tone for the book.
Effy and Preston’s romance is underdeveloped at best. The entire conflict between them is one-sided anger over something stupid. Then it’s like Effy flips a switch and decides she wants him. There are a few moments of sudden pining, that were probably supposed to be tension, and suddenly they’re together.
While I would say A Study in Drowning has a great plot, it isn’t necessarily driven by the plot but more so by Effy and her beliefs. Typically I am a character-driven person (and if you are too this would be a great read) but I couldn’t find a minuscule amount of caring for these characters. Effy while obviously mentally going through something serious, feels a little too childlike, giving A Study in Drowning an overly YA feel.
“Everything ancient must decay”
Beyond this, it is slow-paced, and there are major holes and details missing in the story that never really get explained. There are mentions of magic but again, it never gets explained, so you are left feeling like you are missing something. The book could have had an additional 50 pages to flush it out a little more adequately.
The ending felt as if it didn’t quite fit. The Faerie King is resolved way too easily, especially given everything he represents in Effy’s life. I also was left with major questions. 1. Why was Drowning a capitalized word? What does the sleeper magic entail? What does hearing the bells mean?
“That was the cruelest irony: the more you did to save yourself, the less you became a person worth saving.”
So then the question is, do I think you should read it? While I say yes. I will also say no (and yes I will tell you why).
A Study in Drowning is a good story packaged in a way that is easily digestible. In addition, the story has great potential. If you go into it without setting yourself up with expectations (skip the dedication page) I think you will enjoy it. In turn, I say no because the story is basic and lackluster. I am not saying that every story needs to be poignant and thoughtful (some of the best stories aren’t) but I read for escappy (escape in Dori’s mind). Wanting to get swept up in a great time and feeling like I am not reading.
I felt like A Study in Drowning wasn’t enough of a great time until the very latter half of the book while winding down the story. So it gets 3 stars. I will explore Ava’s other reads. A Study in Drowning just wasn’t for me. I do recommend, it for the Gothic fans though.