Once upon a time, the kingdoms of Wales were rife with magic and conflict – and eighteen-year-old Mererid ‘Mer’ is well-acquainted with both. As the last living water diviner, she can manipulate water with magic – a unique elemental power many would kill to possess.
For years, Mer has been running from the prince who bound her into his service – and forced her to kill thousands with her magic. Now, all Mer truly wants is a safe, quiet life, far from power and politics.
But then Mer’s old handler – the king’s spymaster – returns with a proposition: use her powers to bring down the very prince that abused them both.
Mer is a water diviner, someone able to manipulate water through magic, a skill that puts her on the top of everyone’s lists be it to hire her, or kill. After escaping from the Prince who bound her to his servitude, she has been living a life on the run, never staying in one place long, trying to keep her head down. But one night, her past comes back to haunt her. Renfrew, her old mentor and the man who took her from her family has found her, and he needs her help. He no longer serves the Prince, and he has a plan to take him down, but he needs Mer’s skill to make it possible. Mer is reluctant at first, but she soon realises that a life on the run is no life at all, and if this plan works, she could finally set down roots somewhere safe. Alongside a body guard, a historian, a miner, a thief and one cute ass Corgi, Mer and Renfrew set off on a journey that could change their lives. As long as their willing to make sacrifices for it to happen.
I’d read a lot of hype for this one, and it’s safe to say it hit the spot for me. Told from fluctuating POV’s, The Drowned Woods tells the tale of a group of people who are longing for something, a safe place, notoriety, freedom, revenge, and the lengths they will go to achieve it. Mer is the main character as well as our main POV. She’s a girl who has never known safety, always having to hide who and what she was for fear of the Prince finding her. She longs for somewhere safe, somewhere she can lay down roots, call home, and while she is indeed a little broken inside, she’s also incredibly witty, headstrong and not too shabby in a fight. The second ‘main’ POV is that of Fane, the ‘muscle’ they hire for a very specific part of the plan. Thanks to deal he made with the otherfolk, he is more dangerous than anyone can know, and that, alongside his tragic past ensure that he and Mer form an unlikely bond throughout the journey,
Renfrew and Irfanna are our other two characters who get POV’s though there’s are significantly smaller than Mer and Fane. Both have a backstory with Mer, one her tutor, the other an ex and both have their regrets when it comes to their treatment of Mer. I do wish we would have got a little more time with Irfanna, she was by far the wittiest and likeable of the lesser members of our crew & I would have liked to spend a little more time with her. But without a doubt, my favourite character was Trefor the Corgi who is just the bestest boy ever. Honestly, I thought that Lloyd-Jones could read my mind at one point, because every time our characters were in danger all that was going through my head was ‘where’s Trefor?’, ‘I hope Trefor’s ok,’ and she would pivot to him to put my mind at ease.
If you’re a fan of folklore you need to check this book out. This was a whole part of Welsh lore that I knew nothing about, but after reading this book I went down a bit of a rabbit hole & found out that the setting of this story is where I used to spend a lot of my summer holidays as a kid which was pretty cool. She gives us a good insight into the otherfolk, thanks to Fane’s background (although I could have read so much more of the lore around this.) But the main magic and lore she focused on was Mer’s water divination. I couldn’t get enough of the scenes where Mer used her power, Lloyd-Jones absolutely brings her magic to life, she shows the limits of her power, as well as it’s strengths and the use of it in battle scenes was so expertly done.
One thing I loved in this story was the romance and I think it’s because it was just so subtle. It wasn’t thrown in your face like a lot of YA, not that I mind romance being thrown in my face, but I enjoyed that this was more two people coming to know and appreciate each other, it was shown in the quietness of their interactions. How Fane felt more at ease with Mer because she might be the one person who could beat his own magic, and how Mer appreciated that Fane never wanted her for her magic, never wanted to use her. It was beautiful, slow burn and just a really hopeful story and I adored every second of it. Plus wingman Trefor has my heart.
If you enjoy fast paced stories filled with lovable, and not so lovable characters, epic magic, fight scenes and plenty of folklore I can guarantee you will love this book. Lloyd-Jones has definitely ensured I will be checking out her backlog, and will be eager to get my hands on whatever she graces us with next.