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Book Review of The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, by Kai Ashante Wilson

I borrowed The Sorcerer of Wildeeps, by Kai Wilson, from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
Since leaving his homeland, the earthbound demigod Demane has been labeled a sorcerer. With his ancestors’ artifacts in hand, the Sorcerer follows the Captain, a beautiful man with song for a voice and hair that drinks the sunlight.

The two of them are the descendants of the gods who abandoned the Earth for Heaven, and they will need all the gifts those divine ancestors left to them to keep their caravan brothers alive.

The one safe road between the northern oasis and southern kingdom is stalked by a necromantic terror. Demane may have to master his wild powers and trade humanity for godhood if he is to keep his brothers and his beloved captain alive. 

Oh wow, I did not expect to not like this book. I loved A Taste of Honey and expected to love this too. It just wasn’t to be!

First off, the writing is beautiful. It’s very poetic. But, BUT all that poetry is at the cost of clarity. So many times I read passages and didn’t know what they meant or what was actually happening. I was constantly confused about the timeline, unsure if what I was reading was a flashback or something happening in the future or where I might be in between.

Second, there are the dialects the characters use. Now, I read an article by Wilson in which he talked about how important it is to him to include certain speech patters in his writing. He talked about cultural and linguistic hierarchies and such. And in general I don’t have a problem with this, applaud it even. But some of what was used in this book worked and some just felt painfully anachronistic, worse it’s a fantasy setting that might not even be on Earth. So some of the language just didn’t fit at all, even if I saw what the author was trying to do.

And then there was the ending; the did he or didn’t he, obscure, unsatisfying, probably tragic ending. Nope. That was the last straw for me. I appreciated the diverse characterization, the lovely cover and am open to more of Wilson’s writing, but this book was not a winner.

Book Review of A Taste of Honey (The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps), by Kai Ashante Wilson

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.

Skin Lane

Book Review of Skin Lane, by Neil Bartlett

This is how I set myself up for a perfect afternoon. Yoga pants all day, candy, several cups of tea and weather that barely broke 85°, after several weeks of near triple digits. Life is good.

Skin Lane

Skin Lane, by Neil Bartlett came highly recommended, so I bought myself a physical copy. (I don’t think it’s even available in e-format.)

Description from Goodreads:

At forty-seven, Mr. F’s working life on London’s Skin Lane is one governed by calm, precision, and routine. So when he starts to have recurring nightmares, he does his best to ignore them. The images that appear in his dreams are disturbing—Mr. F can’t think of where they have come from. After all, he’s an ordinary middle-aged man.

As London’s backstreets begin to swelter in the long, hot summer of 1967, Mr. F’s nightmares become an obsession. A chance encounter adds a face to the body that nightly haunts him, and the torments of his restless nights lead him—and the reader—deeper into a terrifying labyrinth of rage, desire, and shame.


I don’t think I can manage a real review of this. The best I can manage is a rambling wordgasim. There were passages in this book that left me so shattered that all I could do was read and re-read them, occasionally searching places to share. Like this part on page 46:

By the time he was what would now be called a teenager, his father, never quite sure what a widower was meant to do with children anyway, had taken to spending every evening alone in the front room with the evening paper; this meant that although by the age of sixteen Mr. F knew how to contribute a week’s wages to the household budget, how to scrub and bleach and to cook, no one had ever taught him how to feel. Indeed, the only real lesson his father taught him was that feelings should never be spoken of; his dead mother, for instance, was never mentioned, and there were no pictures of her in the house. When the younger of his brothers was killed, it was Mr. F who went to the door to get the telegram, and when he had given it to his father to read, the old man (men were old at fifty in those days) had done nothing but sit, stony-faced in his usual arm-chair, never saying a word, waiting until night had fallen and the house was dark before walking slowly upstairs, closing his bedroom door behind him, and shouting out his lonely, foul-mouthed, broken-hearted grief to the empty bed on which his children had been conceived. That night, Mr. F again found himself sitting on the stairs, with his head on one side, wondering what the noises meant. Wondering why the door had to be closed before they could be spoken.

It’s a little long for sharing, but I was so effected by it that I tried posting it on Goodreads. When it didn’t fit and I couldn’t bring myself to prune it, I read it to my husband and posted it on my personal Facebook page instead. I needed someone to share the experience with me before I could move on. This pattern of mundane, mundane, mundane, emotional gut-punch was one that Bartlett used to great effect on several occasions and it never failed to enrapture me.

The use of language and pacing to elicit feelings was sublime. I didn’t even mind that the pace was slow and the story really a little on the depressing or melancholy side. The luscious prose made up for any small detractions I could find. Made up for the fact that Beauty was a little shit, of course he was. He’s a pampered 16-year-old boy, unable to grasp the gravity of the situation he founds himself in; practically unaware of it really. Made up for Mr. F’s occasionally un-relatable lack of emotions, which let’s be fair, was instrumental to his character.

Honestly, I have nothing constructive to say. Go read it. There were moments I didn’t like in the book, but by the last page all I could do was curl the book into my chest and hug it to myself. It will go on my to-keep shelf. It should probably go on yours too.