A Study in Drowning by Ava Reid – Spoiler Free Review

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“How terrible, to navigate the world without a story to comfort you.”

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Effy Sayre has always believed in fairy tales. Haunted by visions of the Fairy King since she was a little girl. Her tattered copy of Angharad – Emrys Myrddin’s epic about a mortal girl who falls in love with the Fairy King, then destroys him – is the only thing keeping her afloat. 

When Myrddin’s family announces a contest to redesign the late author’s estate, Effy applies, feeling it is her destiny. 

However, the truth is that Hiraeth Manor is musty, decrepit, and an impossible task to try to save. Its residents are far from welcoming to boot. Including Preston Heloury, a stodgy young literature scholar determined to expose Myrddin as a fraud. 

As the two rivals piece together clues about Myrddin’s legacy, dark forced both mortal and magical, conspire against them. And the truth may just bring them both to ruination. 

Thoughts on the Plot

On the surface, this book is a dark academia and (loose) rivals to lovers story. Under the surface, however, is a book that tackles institutional sexism, folklore, questioning perceptions of reality, and bigotry.

This book is incredibly well written and a bit on the shorter side of most novels at around 260 pages. Which is why I am still so shocked it took me two months to read it. 

I did also enjoy Ava Reid’s writing and the atmosphere she creates is so incredibly eerie as well which lent itself very nicely to the storytelling aspects of the book. 

However, the characters are the real point of the book and the issues they face. So let’s move on to them. 

Thoughts on the Characters

Effy Sayer is my anxiety-ridden lover girl and I wanted to give her a hug so badly. She is stuck in an endless cycle of feeling like a burden to everyone around her, is very mistreated, and trying to prove herself in a world full of men. 

The problem with Effy is her ability to be unreliable because of the said issues in her life. She does not trust herself because she has been told by people close to her and even medical professions that she can get “hysterical”. 

Which is beyond frustrating, but also lends itself to the inequality message of this book. 

Where the characters fell a little flat for me was with Preston Heloury. This literature snob whose only personality trait is proving Effy’s favorite author is a fraud. 

Myrddin’s son who runs the estate in the book, is just a creep and I very much disliked him. But again, he works well for the inequality messaging of this book. 

Of all my gripes with the characters, Preston comes off as so bland. Other than the little stories he tells Effy later on in the book about his past, he just comes off as severely lacking in the personality department. 

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the “I’ll take care of you” promises Preston makes Effy because its somehow okay when its Preston because he has good intentions. 

I wanted Effy to be so much stronger than she was throughout this whole book. But it is also Effy’s anxiety and sensitivity that is her strength and why I love her so much. 

There weren’t too many side characters of importance, but the side characters we did get were interesting to various degrees. The main focus is primarily on Effy and then Preston. 

In my reading recap, I compared Effy and Preston to Iris and Roman of Divine Rivals and that comparison still stands true. Preston’s ability to trust and support Effy still makes my heart happy. 

Overall Thoughts

I genuinely enjoyed this book. The misogynistic messaging is very, very strong in this book. But I really liked the note it ended on. 

Effy is one of my more favorite main characters, purely for her relatability and ability to achieve some character growth by the end of the book. 

Was it a lot? No. But it still is important. 

Preston and Effy have my whole heart and while there is a line Preston says at the ending of the book that has me giving Ava Reid some side eye. This was an enjoyable read once I got into it. 

So a solid 4 stars out of 5 stars. 

You Might Also Like: Divine Rivals Review // One Dark Window Review

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