Kai Ashante Wilson’s The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps and A Taste of Honey are set in the same world, but are doing two totally different things; they have different characters, are set in different places, and are telling stories in different shapes. About the only thing they have in common is that they’re excellent.

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps is a kind of road novella: It follows a merchant caravan—and particularly its guards—as they go through a fantasy Africa, into the titular Wildeeps. The world-building is fascinating, because it feels mythic and numinous at first, but gradually becomes explicable (if still fantastic). That world-building and the great characters would be by themselves enough to make this a top-notch novella that should have been on award nominee lists. But what should have made it a winner is its use of language. Wilson is a stylist of the first order, with language deployed precisely and with great effect. The characters and the world-building both are expressed naturally just with stylistic choices instead of clumsy narration.

That same literary sensibility is present in A Taste of Honey, but here’s in the service of a courtly romance, more or less—a high-placed royal cousin of a fantasy-African kingdom falls for a fantasy-Roman soldier, and then we trace the story through the days of their affair, and its aftermath. The non-linear format isn’t used just to be clever, it’s essential to making the story work. One weird thing about this story is that it has a forbidden, frowned-upon gay romance in it, and I actually had to look up when it was written (2016), because half the books I read these days have a matter-of-fact gay romance or two in them, which made this feel a little old-fashioned.

So yeah, unrelated stories, and you could honestly read either of them without reading the other. But why would you? They’re both excellent, and are both highly recommended.


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