Review of A Study in Drowning by Ava Reid


A Study in Drowning by Ava Reid

To be published by Harper Teen on September 19, 2023

Thanks to the publisher for providing an advance review copy.

Plot Summary for A Study in Drowning

Effy Sayre has always believed in fairy tales. 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.

Review of A Study in Drowning

I read every book that's called Dark Academia, and only about 25% (in my opinion) really qualifies. If you want to see my criteria for Dark Academia and my list of adult and YA Dark Academia books, check it out!

But even though I do not think A Study in Drowning is Dark Academia, I did really enjoy it a lot. It's a literary mystery (an adjacent subgenre to Dark Academia) an academic rivals romance, a story of two university students from hostile neighboring nations, a Fae story, a story that highlights how bookish, anxious people can be heroic in their own way.

A Study in Drowning had great world-building

Both the setting and the work of Emrys Mryddin were really well thought out. Effy Sayre is from Lllyr, a country which is feuding with neighboring Argant. (I feel like these two countries are inspired by Wales and England, but in an alt history way.)

Effy is a university student in Caes-Isel, a northern Llyr town. She longs to study literature, but women are not allowed to do that, so she's the only female architecture student, a subject she doesn't enjoy. 

It also had an unusual main character 

Deeply anxious and prone to disturbing visions, Effy relies on her pink pills to keep an even keel. (It was hard to say if Effy's sensitivity to the paranormal was the root of her anxiety. She also has an interesting backstory that the book gets into.) 

Miserable at school but unwelcome at home, Effy enters a competition to renovate Hiraeth Manor, the home of Emrys Myrddin. Myrddin is the author of Angharad, Effy's favorite book, which is an epic about a mortal girl who falls in love with the Fairy King.

Upon arriving, Effy finds that there is another student there, an annoying Argantian called Preston. He believes that Myrddin didn't write Angharad and wants to prove it.

What Kind of Book is A Study in Drowning?

A Study in Drowning is one part literary mystery, one part romance, and one part atmospheric paranormal story. Yes, there's an academic element to it, but most of the book takes place at Hiraeth Manor, the creepy, crumbling seaside mansion that belonged to Emrys Myrddin. 

A Study in Drowning reminded me one of my most favorite books, Possession by A. S. Byatt. Like A Study in Drowning, Possession is a literary mystery about an imaginary romantic poet. But there's no Fae element.

I found A Study in Drowning to be an incredibly immersive and enjoyable read. I'm not the biggest fan of Fae fiction, but this book was set in the human world and the Fae elements were not the only part of the story. I think it will appeal to a lot of readers!