A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

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.

A Taste of Honey is a beautiful, heartwrenching love story.

In the space of a few days, Aqib and Lucrio fall for each other, despite the opposition of law and mores in Olorum (content warning: the book shows open homophobia with physical violence). But their time together is running out, and Aqib has to make a choice that can have far-reaching consequences. Through flash-forwards, we get glimpses of a strange future for Aqib, while the present narration serves to unfold the passion between the two men, as well as the obstacles they face.

Told in an almost experimental writing style, where the melancholy language is peppered with modern expressions, the novella is full of twists and surprises. And not only when it comes to the plot; the worldbuilding often presents unexpected elements, with a magic system that brashly flirts with science-fiction.

While short, the story is nevertheless rich and captivating. The non-linear narration makes the scope feel larger, more epic. I was surprised at how the power structure, the social inequalities were never questioned, and I’m hoping Wilson revisits this world to explore it more. Furthermore, while a novella is the perfect format to tell this particular story, the setting, with its gods and strange magic, begs for a full-length novel.

I enjoyed myself thoroughly and devoured it in one heartbreaking sitting. I’d recommend it for everyone who wants a taste of bittersweetness.