Bestselling Author Ava Reid’s YA Debut A Spellbinding Mix Of Magic, Myth, And Mystery

We are thrilled to be sharing an excerpt from Bestselling author Ava Reid’s forthcoming YA Fiction debut ‘A Study in Drowning’, out September 19 (HarperTeen), which NYT-bestseller Rory Power (Wilder Girls) called “a spellbinding mix of magic, myth, and mystery”. It is also a much needed, complex representation of mental illness, abuse, and minimization of women’s voices.

Drawing inspiration both from historical women silenced in literary and academic circles who had to fight for recognition, and folklore in which women stolen by supernatural entities had to outsmart their captors to gain the upperhand, ‘A Study in Drowning’ is both a gorgeous fantasy and a thematically significant novel that will resonate long after reading.

Effy Sayre has always believed in fairy tales. Haunted by visions of the Fairy King since childhood, she’s had no choice. 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. So when Myrddin’s family announces a contest to redesign the late author’s estate, Effy feels certain it’s her destiny.

But musty, decrepit Hiraeth Manor is an impossible task, and its residents are far from welcoming. Including Preston Héloury, a stodgy young literature scholar determined to expose Myrddin as a fraud. As the two rivals piece together clues about Myrddin’s legacy, dark forces, both mortal and magical, conspire against them—and the truth may bring them both to ruin.

After studio, Effy went to the library. She had turned in only one of her cross sections, and it wasn’t very good. The elevation was all wrong—lopsided, as if the museum were built on a craggy cliffside instead of the meticulously landscaped center of Caer-Isel. The university buildings curled around it like a conch shell, all pale marble and sun-blanched yellow stone. 

She never would have dreamed of turning in such shoddy work at her secondary school back home. But in the six weeks since she’d started university, so much had changed. If she had come to Caer-Isel with hope, passion, or even just petty competitiveness, it had all eroded quickly. Time felt both compressed and infinite. It rolled over her, like she was a sunken statue on the seafloor, but it tossed and thrashed her, too, a limp body in the waves. 

Yet now the words Hiraeth Manor snagged in her mind like a fishhook, propelling her toward some purpose, some goal, even if it was hazy. Maybe especially because it was hazy. Bereft of vexing practical details, it was much easier to imagine that the goal was within her reach. 

The library was no more than five minutes from the architecture college, but the wind off Lake Bala lashing her cheeks and running its frigid fingers through her hair made it feel longer. She pushed through the double doors in a hurry, exhaling a cold breath. Then she was inside, and the sudden, dense silence overwhelmed her. 

On her first day at the university—the day before Master Corbenic—Effy had visited the library and loved it. She had smuggled in a cup of coffee and found her way to one of the disused rooms on the sixth floor. Even the elevator had seemed exhausted by the time it reached the landing, groaning and heaving and giving a rattle that sounded like small bones being shaken inside a collector’s box. 

The sixth floor housed the most ancient books on the most obscure subjects: tomes on the history of Llyr’s selkie-hunting industry (a surprisingly lucrative field, Effy had discovered, before the selkies were hunted to extinction). A field guide to Argantian fungi, with a several-page-long footnote on how to distinguish Argantian truffles from the much-superior Llyrian varieties. An account of one of Llyr and Argant’s many wars, told from the perspective of a sentient rifle.  

Effy had folded herself into the most concealed alcove she could find, under a rain-marbled window, and read those arcane books. She had looked particularly for books on fairies, and spent hours thumbing through a tome about fairy rings outside Oxwich, and then another long-dead professor’s ethnography on the Fair Folk he encountered there. Such accounts, centuries old, were written off by the university as Southern superstition. The books she had found there had been spitefully shelved under Fiction

But Effy believed them. She believed them all: the rote academic accounts, the superstitious Southern folklore, the epic poetry that warned against the wiles of the Fairy King. If only she could have studied literature, she would have written her own ferocious treatises in support of her belief. Being trapped in the architecture college felt like being muted, muzzled. 

Yet now, standing in the lobby, the library was suddenly a terrifying place. The solitude that had once comforted her had become an enormous empty space where so many bad things could happen. She didn’t know what, exactly—it was only a roiling, imprecise dread. The silence was a span of time before inevitable disaster, like watching a glass teeter farther toward the edge of a table, anticipating the moment it would tip and shatter. She did not entirely understand why the things that had once been familiar now felt hostile and strange. 

She didn’t intend to linger there today. Effy made her way up the vast marble stairs, her footsteps echoing faintly. The arched ceilings and the fretwork of wood across them made her feel as if she were inside a very elaborate antique jewelry box. Dust motes swam in columns of golden light. 

She reached the horseshoe-shaped circulation desk and placed two hands flat on the varnished wood. The woman behind the desk looked at her disinterestedly. 

“Good morning,” Effy said, with the brightest smile she could muster. Morning was generous. It was two-fifteen. But she’d only been awake for three hours, just long enough to throw on clothes and make it to her studio class. 

“What are you looking for today?” the woman asked, unmoved. 

“Do you have any books on Emrys Myrddin?” 

The woman’s expression shifted, her eyes pinching with disdain. “You’ll have to be more specific than that. Fiction, nonfiction, biography, theory—”

“Nonfiction,” Effy cut in quickly. “Anything about his life, his family.” Hoping to endear herself to the librarian, she added, “I have all his novels and poetry already. He’s my favorite author.” 

“You and half the university,” the woman said dismissively. “Wait here.” 

Ava Reid is the award-winning, internationally bestselling author of critically acclaimed adult fantasies “Juniper & Thorn” and “The Wolf and the Woodsman,” as well as the forthcoming “A Study in Drowning,” her young adult debut. After obtaining her degree in political science from Barnard College, she moved to Palo Alto, where she continues to haunt university libraries. For more information check out Ava’s website.