The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones (published by Hodder & Stoughton) is the 2023 winner of the Tir na n-Og English-language Award for children and young people’s literature.
The winning book was announced on The Review Show on Radio Wales at 18:30 on Friday 2 June 2023.
Established in 1976, the annual Tir na n-Og Awards celebrate the best books for children and young people in Wales. They are organised by the Books Council of Wales and sponsored by CILIP Cymru Wales, the library and information association. The winning authors each receive a cash prize of £1,000 sponsored by CILIP Cymru Wales, as well as a specially commissioned trophy created by Aberystwyth and Tregaron-based designers Dawn’s Welsh Gifts.
The Drowned Woods is both fantasy and thriller, set in a time in which the kingdoms of Wales are rife with magic and conflict. The main character, eighteen-year-old Mererid – or ‘Mer’ as she is known to the reader – is well-acquainted with both the good and the bad aspects of these kingdoms. 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: she is to use her powers to bring down the very prince that abused them both.
This winning title is the second book to be won by an author living in America. Emily Lloyd-Jones joins author Nancy Bond, who won the 1977 Tir na n-Og English-language Award with her novel A String in the Harp.
Emily Lloyd-Jones said: “I’m thrilled that The Drowned Woods has won the Tir na n-Og English Award! I can’t imagine having to choose between the shortlisted books — all the authors are so talented. I would like to extend my gratitude to the panel of judges, to the Books Council of Wales, and to my publishing team at Hodder. My love of reading was kindled by books based on Welsh folklore, and I’m excited to share those myths with a new generation of readers.”
Simon Fisher, from the judging panel, said: “Game of Thrones comes to Cardigan Bay! The Drowned Woods is a vividly imagined medieval heist full of danger, threat and magic. Drawing on Welsh mythology, including the legend of Cantre’r Gwaelod, this YA fantasy thriller is hugely enjoyable and will have wide appeal.”
The books on the 2023 shortlist introduce young readers to a whole cast of memorable characters that star in an array of exciting and enjoyable stories. The shortlisted titles exemplify the power of a good book to spark the imagination.
The other shortlisted titles for the English-language category are:
- The Mab by various authors edited by Eloise Williams and Matt Brown, illustrated by Max Low (Unbound)
- The Blackthorn Branch by Elen Caldecott (Andersen Press)
- The Blue Book of Nebo by Manon Steffan Ros (Firefly Press)
This year, the Books Council of Wales introduced a new element with the introduction of the Readers’ Choice Award. This is a special award chosen by children and young people who took part in the Tir na n-Og Shadowing Scheme. The winner of the Readers’ Choice Award was also announced today with The Mab, by various authors and edited by Eloise Williams and Matt Brown, illustrated by Max Low, named the 2023 winner.
Amy Staniforth from CILIP Cymru Wales said: “Many congratulations to the winners on their terrific achievement. We are proud to sponsor the Tir na n-Og Awards again this year, and to continue helping children and young people to discover the very best of books from Wales and about Wales.”
Helgard Krause, Chief Executive of the Books Council of Wales, said: “Thank you to everyone involved in this year’s competition, and many congratulations to the winning authors, whose stories have stood out among the many fantastic titles on the shortlists. And a special thank you this year goes to the children and young people who have taken part in the Shadowing Scheme and contributed with such enthusiasm to the Readers’ Choice awards.”
The winners of the two Welsh-language category Tir na n-Og Awards 2023 were revealed at the Urdd Eisteddfod in Carmarthenshire on Thursday 1 June 2023. The winning titles are Dwi Eisiau bod yn Ddeinosor by Luned Aaron and Huw Aaron, and Manawydan Jones: Y Pair Dadeni by Alun Davies. Manon Steffan Ros was awarded the Readers’ Choice Award in both the primary and secondary age categories with Enwogion o Fri: Nye – Bywyd Angerddol Aneurin Bevan and Powell.
The other shortlisted Welsh-language titles are:
Primary age category
- Enwogion o Fri: Nye – Bywyd Angerddol Aneurin Bevan by Manon Steffan Ros, illustrated by Valériane Leblond (Llyfrau Broga)
- Dros y Môr a’r Mynyddoedd by various authors, illustrated by Elin Manon (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch)
Secondary age category
- Gwlad yr Asyn by Wyn Mason, illustrated by Efa Blosse Mason (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch)
- Powell by Manon Steffan Ros (Y Lolfa)
Further details about the awards and the titles can be seen on the Books Council’s website.