Sunday, 11 June 2017

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson is a Hugo shortlisted novella and, I believe, the first I've read of the author's work (I have Sorcerer of the Wildeeps waiting in my TBR). I went into it with no particular expectations.

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.

This novella was consistently not what I expected. First it seemed like it would be a gay love story set in a Romanesque fantasy world — and it was — but then there was talk of quantum mechanics and holograms — women's work — and then... well, I don't want to spoil the ending. Suffice to say it was unexpected. The narrative structure also contributed to some of the unexpected turns. From our starting point, it jumps forward in time, then back to the next day. So we think we know what happens and we slowly find out why it happens. And it turns out there's good reason for telling the story in this way.

I enjoyed this story and only found it occasionally confusing. Not all our questions are answered (there's one I'm deeply curious about, but it's not something that matters in the end), but the ending is satisfactory, if bordering on bittersweet. I am interested in reading more stories set in this world, because it seemed like there was a lot more world than just that which was explored in A Taste of Honey, but not additional reading is necessary to enjoy or understand this novella. I will be keeping an eye out for more stories from Kai Ashante Wilson. I recommend A Taste of Honey to most fantasy fans.

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2016,
Series: No, but there are other stories set in the same world (eg Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, I believe)
Format read: ePub
Source: Hugo voter packet

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