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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Mini-Review: Of Honey And Wildfires by Sarah Chorn (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Seraphina's Lament
Read Stalin, Communism & Fantasy by Sarah Chorn (guest post)
Pre-order Of Honey And Wildfires over HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Sarah has been a compulsive reader her whole life. At a young age, she found her reading niche in the fantastic genre of Speculative Fiction. She blames her active imagination for the hobbies that threaten to consume her life. She is a writer and editor, a semi-pro nature photographer, world traveler, three-time cancer survivor, and mom. In her ideal world, she'd do nothing but drink lots of tea and read from a never-ending pile of speculative fiction books.

OFFICIAL OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Of Honey And Wildfires is the sophomore effort by Sarah Chorn and it’s a vastly different story than her debut Seraphina’s Lament.

OHAW is set in a western setting (circa 1800s of the American West) that’s just about on the cusp of exploration and having new wonders showcased. The story is set from the viewpoint of three characters: Cassandra, Arlen & Ianthe. The story is also set in two different timelines as we get to see Cassandra as a young child and in the near present while Arlen is recounting the story until the present climax. Ianthe has her own thing but that way lies spoilers. The world and the story is infused with this magical substance called Shine. It literally has changed the ways and thinking of the populace. It’s a substance that enhances all inanimate things it comes across and yet casts a heavy toll on the living. Matthew Esco is the person who discovered it and created an empire around it. Arlen Esco is his son who now is sent to the Shine territory to see firsthand how shine is extracted and how to further increase profits.

Cassandra isn’t an orphan but we find out how she has had a semi-orphan like childhood and why her father abandoned her. Ianthe is her friend and we see what happened to her to have her in the state which she is in. The world that’s showcased is a very much a brutal capitalistic one. Through Arlen’s eyes, we see all the worst that humanity can think of. Child indenture (slavery all but in name), forced addiction that hollows out the human bodies & mind, lifelong interest rates that never let the families escape their service. All of this and more is very adroitly shown by the author while not even focusing on it. The main focus as always are the characters and the tribulations they face.

I love how Sarah manages to showcase the worst of humanity but at the same time, she still is also able to provide hope by having her character experience kindness, goodwill and strength in the most unlikely quarters. Both Arlen and Cassandra are victims of fate but they have the drive in them to want or dream of a better future. They aren’t shy to avert their eyes from cruelty and keep in it their mind to see what they can do to change it. Sarah’s prose is exceptional to say the least, and in this book, we get many, many examples.

This book deals with a lot of tough subjects and Sarah doesn’t make it easy on her characters and neither is it easy for the readers. This book deals with some of the darker aspects of the western living. This book isn’t much on action but it more than compensates with the world and magic system. I loved how layered the world is and how understated the magic system. For me, there were no complaints about it. I’m sure many others will have their own thoughts but for me this book is a special one for the way it explores all of the themes within.

Lastly the author also does an admirable job of spotlighting LGBT characters in this setting. Especially with her main characters, she talks more about this in also this guest post over at the Bibliotropic blog. She takes the hard route in making them seem intrinsic to the plot and setting and making their identity/sexuality/gender just another layer but not its defining one. I loved this method as it provides the impetus that everyone is more than just a sum of their personas. Hats off to Sarah for spotlighting this important issue and yet making it seem au naturel rather than a shiny addition just for the sake of it.

CONCLUSION: Of Honey And Wildfires is a special book and it’s a standalone to boot. Sarah Chorn is an author who’s taking a different path, her books aren’t for everyone but they are magical to say the least. Of Honey And Wildfires is a book that’s doesn’t shy away from showing the worst of humanity but in doing so, it showcases the best of what Sarah Chorn has to offer. Lyrical prose, amazing worldbuilding and exceptional characterization, what more can you ask for.

1 comments:

Patricia Bellamy said...

This review is amazing. Can you also make a review about this book The Other Side of Love by Attilio Guardo. It is a romance and fantasy book. Here is the link: https://www.artgbooks.com/book-the-other-side-of-love-by-attilio-guardo/.
Thank you.

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