LitStack Rec: Barbarian Days & A Taste of Honey

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

I appreciate books that start off seeming like they are going to be one thing, but then veer off and take you to unanticipated places. Kai Ashante Wilson’s newest novella, A Taste of Honey, is one such read.

I’ve come to understand that A Taste of Honey is set in the same universe as Mr. Wilson’s debut novel, 2015’s Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, and is a related story. Well, I’ve yet to read Sorcerer of the Wildeeps (I’ve meant to, but something seems to always waylay me), and I still enjoyed A Taste of Honey just fine.

From the cover blurb:  “Aqib bgm Sadiqi, fourth-cousin to the royal family and son of the Master of Beasts, has … 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 gay romance. But neither Aqib nor Lucrio know whether their love can survive all the hardships the world has to throw at them.”

Now, I will admit, I wasn’t impressed when I started reading the book; it seemed to be working awfully hard at being both edgy and naive. But shortly after getting past the first scene, I realized that there were larger themes at play – much more than what the cover blurb relates. Without losing the narrative integrity, I got swept up in a tale that eloquently explores how decisions made, for duty and for love, impact the people we become, borne out by more than just the lead characters.

But it also is a story about family honor, about how we react to the lives we live, and where we anchor our loyalties. And it’s about living to our full potential, and staying true to ourselves. And about sacrifice. And love – all kinds of love. For a small book, it covers a lot of bases, but does so with grace and with just enough drama, and with great skill (plus, some pretty agile gender role displacements). And at the end, it was not without intriguing surprises.

It’s a wonderful book, and makes me even the more driven to read Sorcerer of the Wildeeps. Not just to know more about the talents of Mr. Wilson, but also, to experience more of this world that he’s created. I have no doubt that you will find his works enjoyable, as well, and if you haven’t already, I urge you to pick up a copy of A Taste of Honey. It’s a fine read, indeed.

—Sharon Browning

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