A Study in Drowning is a novel that explores several dark themes. Effy Sayre is a young woman who has suffered trauma in her life. She is a voracious reader with a vivid imagination, and her real life visions of the Fairy King she reads about earn her the label of being mentally unstable. She is given pills to keep the visions away and help her sleep, and because women in her world are not permitted to study literature, she enrolls in an architectural college. When she wins a competition to design a manor home in honor of her favorite deceased author she is overjoyed, but, like a fairy tale, the job comes with three conditions: the manor house must have room for all of the author’s relatives, it must be large enough to house all of the author’s books, and it must reflect the spirit of the writer.
When Effy arrives at the mysterious seaside cliff to begin her work, she meets Preston, a literature student from the country’s most prestigious college who is working on a biography of the author. Preston and Effy are at odds regarding the life and work of the author, and sparks fly even as the two students are physically drawn to each other. Together, they uncover mysterious details about the landscape and the past.
This book is full of Gothic details and fairy world references that will delight audiences who enjoy dark academic tones. Like the best dark academia, A Study in Drowning presents the aesthetic appeal of university life and creative pursuits while also revealing its heavy underside. This is a great choice for readers interested in an atmospheric read that uses supernatural elements to explore how stored trauma from the past can permeate the present.
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Thank you to NetGalley for a free copy of the book in exchange for a fair review.
Kelly Jarvis is the Special Projects Writer and Contributing Editor for The Fairy Tale Magazine. Her work has appeared in Eternal Haunted Summer, Blue Heron Review, Forget-Me-Not Press, Mermaids Monthly, The Chamber Magazine, and Mothers of Enchantment: New Tales of Fairy Godmothers. She teaches at Central Connecticut State University.