I borrowed Kai Ashante Wilson’s A Taste of Honey from my local library.
Description from Goodreads:
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.
First, 500 stars for that cover. It is amazing. I’d have read the book just for that. Yes, I really would.
Second, wow, I loved this writing style. Yes, it was problematic. At times it became overly florid and some of the dialogue is anachronistic, but mostly I loved it. I especially appreciated the difference in dialect between Aqib and Lucrio.
Third, the ending. For most of the book I was enjoying it, but I wasn’t loving it. The ending pulled this from a four-star read to a five-star read for me. Several complaints I’d harbored for most of the book were resolved in one fell swoop.
Fourth, I love the way gender norms were convoluted. Yes, if I’m honest, I often find this a cheap plot device and in a way it is here too, but I think it’s done usually well and I really enjoyed it. There were several points in the book where I just had to set it aside and laugh. This is never a bad thing to have happen, in my opinion.
Fifth, setting the book in a culture that more closely resembles Islam than Christianity. It’s fantasy, so it’s neither really, but so often you can see the roots of the imaginings and here it’s a refreshing change to find something beyond the strictures of the Christian church.
My only real complaints are the occasional missing word that I didn’t think was intentional, but rather editing mishaps, and that I didn’t feel overly connected to the characters. You don’t get to know Lucrio at all really and Aqib always felt a little detached; his life speeding by too fast to really grab ahold of. But over all, I really enjoyed this and will be searching out more of Wilson’s writing. I know, for example, that he has some free reads on Tor.com.