Books, Reviews

Book review – ‘A Taste of Honey’, by KAI ASHANTE WILSON

The official blurb:

Long after the Towers left the world but before the dragons came to Daluça, the emperor brought his delegation of gods and diplomats to Olorum. As the royalty negotiates over trade routes and public services, the divinity seeks arcane assistance among the local gods.

Aqib bgm Sadiqi, fourth-cousin to the royal family and son of the Master of Beasts, has more mortal and pressing concerns. His heart has been captured for the first time by a handsome Daluçan soldier named Lucrio. in defiance of Saintly Canon, gossiping servants, and the furious disapproval of his father and brother, Aqib finds himself swept up in a whirlwind romance. But neither Aqib nor Lucrio know whether their love can survive all the hardships the world has to throw at them.


My review:

Fair warning: ever since I read Kai Ashante Wilson’s ‘The Devil In America’ and ‘The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps’ last year, I have been an unapologetic fan of his writing. Both those stories shook me to my core as a reader, and affected the way I look at the craft of writing speculative fiction as a writer. ‘A Taste of Honey’ just reaffirms my opinion that Wilson is one of the most interesting and talented writers in speculative fiction right now.

To be sure, ‘A Taste of Honey’ is a very different kind of story than ‘Wildeeps’. It is set in the same world (though not in the same time period), but if ‘The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps’ was a thrilling epic fantasy wrapped around a love story, then ‘A Taste of Honey’ is a thrilling love story wrapped around a core of epic fantasy. (The fact that Wilson manages to pack epic fantasy stories into a short novel / novella format is another one of his magic tricks.)

The story’s central characters, Aqib and Lucrio fall in love (and lust) at more or less first sight, and then have to maneouver around all sorts of obstacles to be able to see each other. In the telling of that tale, Wilson also tells the tale of the world and the society, and the grander schemes going on within the world: there are god-like powers being wielded, magic, palace intrigue, psionics, and mathematics. (The way Wilson weaves together science fiction and fantasy when it comes to what is technology and science on one hand, and what is magic on the other, is just one of the hugely enjoyable aspects of this story.)

All of that world-building is woven into a story that grows ever more desperate for the two lovers, because the clock is ticking: Lucrio has to leave Olorum ten days after meeting Aqib, and by the time the ten days are up, things come to a head in quite a dramatic fashion. And the end? Well, the end…is the kind of twist that makes you want to read the story all over again.

The world-building in the story is extraordinary. I can’t help but compare Wilson to Gene Wolfe: like Wolfe, Wilson drops you into the story and then explains the world from the inside out – without slowing down or taking away from the story itself. Wilson’s talent for dialogue is also all over ‘A Taste of Honey’: characters speak different languages and dialects, switching between them depending on need, company, and situation. (One of my favourite details in the story is how Lucrio has learned the language of Olorum, but is unaware that he has learned the more “uncouth” version of the language.)

I tore through this book, and in the end, I was left with a craving for more: especially more stories from Wilson that are set in this world of gods and men, science and magic, mathematics and psionics. ‘A Taste of Honey’ is a blistering good read, and delves further into Wilson’s highly original story-verse. I can’t wait to read what comes next.

5 thoughts on “Book review – ‘A Taste of Honey’, by KAI ASHANTE WILSON”

  1. I love the way you review books. I’m so short on time and overwhelmed with other things in life that it’s often easy to be “ho-hum” about hearing a story described. But this is the second time when your description of something has me so intrigued that I either buy the book or send myself the Kindle sample, because I want more than the tantalizing glimpse I have from you. Maybe it has something to do with your author’s eye, and how you weigh books for not only the value of the story but the skill involved in the telling of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! That’s really wonderful praise. 🙂 Much appreciated. His short story ‘The Devil In America’ is what got me hooked. And The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps is an astonishing story as well… I highly recommend both of those too!

      Liked by 1 person

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