Book Review: A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

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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.

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I’ve been in the mood only for novellas for quite a while now, somehow just not finding enough patience to read longer books. So when I mentioned the same to my dear friend Nandini, she recommended me this Hugo nominated novella which I had never heard of before. And because I trust her recs a lot, I decided to give it a try.

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This is definitely one of those books which I would never read of my own volition. The writing wasn’t always easy for me to follow or understand, with the prose and the metaphors going above my head but I felt the emotion behind the story a lot – and that’s the beauty here. In a story of just about 160 pages, the author took me on a journey of beautiful love, the heartbreak of separation and paths not taken, the devastation of not knowing what could have happened (or even knowing it) – I felt joy and I also wept and I just about felt all kinds of emotions while reading. The world is also very fascinating with its gods, the magic being mixed with advanced science, affinities for animals etc and though it was kept mostly vague, it was enough to grasp the crux of the story. The story is also told in multiple timelines, so when the twist is revealed towards the end, I was just completely in shock. That’s some amazing twisty writing.

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I think I didn’t really read the blurb before I started reading because I didn’t realize it was going to be such a poignant romantic tale of two star-crossed lovers. Aqib and Lucrio’s tryst starts off as instalove on steroids but I didn’t mind that even a bit here – there’s just so much honesty in their love that I was mesmerized and then was distraught when I realized they wouldn’t get to be together. I don’t want to say anything else because I’m scared I’ll give away too much of the story and it really needs to be experienced. There are also a host of other characters whom I had all kinds of feelings for, and it’s really the author’s talent that he makes us feel invested in every single character’s arc in such short time.

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In the end, I can just say that despite being slightly out of my comfort zone, this novella enchanted me with its most memorable love story and I’m so glad I gave it a chance. We all have those moments of “what-ifs” in our life, when we ponder about missed chances and connections and wonder what other life we could have lived – this story brought all such thoughts vividly back to my mind and that’s why I know I’ll remember this for a long time to come.

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