Reviews

Of Honey and Wildfires by Sarah Chorn

theshaggyshepherd's review

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4.0

Of Honey and Wildfires // by Sarah Chorn

I can say with all honesty that this book was unlike any other fantasy book I have read. I could say that it reminds me of this in one moment but then it reminds me of an entirely different one the next and all of them and none of them would do the comparison justice. One moment it is whimsical in its descriptions of nature and characters’ feelings but in the next moment it turns unflinchingly raw and brutal in the way it cuts into the reader’s heart. This woman does not shy away from tragedy. I was warned that my heart would be broken by the time I finished this book and the warnings were true but I still cannot wait to get back into this world and have my heart broken anew by more Chorn’s beautiful writing with the next books in the series.

I loved the mixing of points of view and timelines. While some things felt a little unclear at first, the gradual reveal made for a great slow burning effect throughout the story in a way that wouldn’t have been as good if everything was moving strictly chronologically. What really added some incredible depth to this book was how entirely different each POV was, not just because the characters had different personalities but because the way they viewed the world varied so immensely. I do wish there would’ve been a little bit more detail about the shine, the ways in which it affected the community and how it was utilized in every-day life, but in all honestly, I just did not want this book to end. I have a feeling it will end up in my top ten this year.

I bought Oh, That Shotgun Sky the same day I finished Of Honey and Wildfires. I had already pre-ordered Glass Rhapsody by then simply because I wanted to support the author since she is so sweet to everyone but finishing oHaF two weeks before the release of it made for a terrible wait. Of course, as it so often happens, life got in the way and I haven’t been able to read the novella yet but I definitely plan on reading both it and Glass Rhapsody as my first two books during #IndieAugust.

wildfaeriecaps's review

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5.0

I read this book long after forgetting what it was about, which was an interesting experience. I loved the "wild west" meets faerie kind of setting. The world building was super interesting and the characters made me want to know more about them. I was a bit lost on plot and stakes but by the end I figure it was sort of like a slice-of-life story, but not. In any case, it was intriguing and enjoyable to read.

mxsallybend's review

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5.0

The best stories are those you experience, the ones that get inside your head and your heart, but it’s storytelling of a whole other level when you know there is heartbreak and sorrow ahead, and yet you feel compelled to see it through, not just to know the ending, but to experience it in all its heartrending agony.

Coming into Of Honey and Wildfires, I already knew Sarah Chorn was an exceptional writer and editor (check out my review of Seraphina’s Lament), but this . . . this is that whole other level and then some.

Before I get into the characters and the emotions, I want to talk a bit about the world building here. In many ways, this is an old fashioned Western, complete with horses, railroads, mining towns, outlaws, and a new frontier, but there’s an integral element of magic flowing throughout. It’s not oil or gold or anything so commonplace that settlers are mining, but something called Shine – a sort of liquid rainbow that flows from beneath the Earth, a magic substance that provides light and heat, that preserves food and cleans water, that strengthens and heals in small amounts . . . and which also poisons, alters, and destroys. The lucky settlers who live on Shine are blessed with gem-like skin tones and hair colors, while the unlucky ones are plagued by an all-consuming addiction that belies that outer beauty.

Set against that backdrop we have a story of family, one that’s as much about sorrow and suffering as love and loyalty. Cassandra (shunned for being untouched by Shine and loathed as the daughter of an outlaw), Ianthe (dying of both consumption and an addiction to the Shine that treats it), and Arlen (ostracized for being an outsider and despised as the son of the Shine Company) are the three POV characters, with a story that slowly weaves together the distant past, recent past, and immediate present, even as it exposes ties of family and explores bonds of love.

As the outsider, having traveled to Shine Territory for the first time, it is Arlen who occupies the most space inside our heads. It is through his experiences that we come to understand the corporate exploitation behind frontier opportunity and appreciate the pain and suffering behind easy luxury. He’s a bit cold, a bit hard to get to know, but definitely a sympathetic character who makes us care about what is happening in Shine Territory, and who gives us hope that maybe things can change. Without betraying a secret, Arlen is also a character with whom I can identify, with whom I share a certain sense of self, and I thought that aspect was handled brilliantly.

It is Cassandra and Ianthe who get deep inside our hearts, though, who demand that we experience their stories with them. I won’t lie to you – there is more grief and sorrow and pain wrapped up in them than any reader should be asked to witness, but there is also a deep, pure, innocent love. Theirs is a love of tender hand-holding, soft words, and quiet company, yet it’s far more powerful and poignant than wild kisses and passionate embraces. The sorrow of their impending parting is more than enough to leave eyes watering, but the other pains that they’re burdened with, the other sorrows they share, I challenge any reader to get through this with dry eyes.

Had this been any other book by any other author, I might have chafed a bit against the pacing, which sees so much plot crammed into the last 50 pages, but for once I wasn’t thinking about problems, challenges, quests, or climaxes. I was wholly consumed by the characters and the relationships, and knowing (or suspecting) what was to come, I didn’t begrudge them a moment of their time together. Similarly, while I might have otherwise bemoaned how much happens off the page, especially in those final pages, it’s not those plot elements that drive the story but the emotional reactions they prompt.

Finally, it must be said that Of Honey and Wildfires is a beautifully told tale, one with word choices and phrasings that made me pause on a regular basis to simply admire the artistry of the narrative. It’s a book that is beautiful and painful at the same time, something so overwhelming and all-consuming that, as a reader, I find myself feeling guilty for the fact that it had to come to an end. You’ve never read anything quite like this before.


https://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.com/2020/04/fantasy-book-review-of-honey-and.html

thebookwormsfeast's review

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4.0

This was such a breath of fresh air. Not an overly happy one, as the storyline is not light, but I loved the way the world was built up. We follow along as the wild-west develops with a Victorian sense of industry, little mysteries are peppered in amongst the tale, and there is a strong sense of family relationships that bind the people to each other and the land. I also loved that despite being a historical setting, we had some great LGBTQ+ rep treated with acceptance from the other characters.

It's so beautifully written - I highlighted so many lines. Even with all the horror and strife this world has, the writing had me enchanted. I won't go too much into the nature of the narrative, as personally, I love to know as little as possible before going in - but these people are oppressed with a company putting a spin on it of "oh aren't we great for giving them jobs - you're happier this way". This leads to some haunting beautiful passages.

Pacing-wise, I did feel impatient at times - as the timeline jumps around, prolonging the details and plot points from each time and person - but I enjoyed this flitting around, and it is more just my desire to get to the heart of it. We have chapters headed with characters at different ages of their life, but also some as a few days ago and growing closer. These I was so so eager to reach as you could feel it reaching a climax.

I really enjoyed how magic was worked in with a twist on oil, but I must admit I'm a little confused over some of the mechanics concerning two central characters, but maybe I just missed something. That's all I am going to gripe over though, so it's very negligible. I loved watching the storylines all weave together to give us a feeling of hope by the end, and I do need to get onto the second book, Glass Rhapsody, which publishes this week!

yrc's review

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4.0

This book was really terrific, and it put me through basically every emotion humanly possible. When it was sweet, it wasn't too sticky, and when it hurt, the pain was soul deep.

We follow the character of Arlen who's the son of the head of shine company on his voyage to the frontier. Many concepts and ways of life which seemed to Arlen so obvious suddenly were cracked and turned inside out for various reasons. The other MC was young and orphaned Cassandra, who life is full of grit from a very early stage, but she too had an important role to play, though from a different direction.

There is really so much in this book. Since I *never* like romance in SFF books I read, I was positively surprised that it really worked for me and didn't choke the rest of the story. I totally tip my hat to Sarah for that achievement. This is a book that dealt with adult themes of morality, social conformism, loyalty and treason- and does it well enough to make some people scream!
The characters were great and felt real to me, and the system revolving around the oil like shine was very intriguing.
I also am making an effort to read more diversly (both authors, worlds and characters), and this book is a good step in that direction.
Overall I thought this book was great, for those willing to feel. Highly recommended!

rpmrangers's review

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adventurous emotional medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0

bkwrm1317's review

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emotional hopeful sad tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? N/A
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5

Won in a giveaway. Different than what I’d usually pick up and enjoyable! Scenes of Cass losing her love hit me hard in the feels just a couple days after the six month mark of losing my late partner last November after an illness that physically consumed him like Ianthe, but was probably healing to read the words nonetheless. 

Recommend reviewing CWs for folks 💜

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tawallah's review

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adventurous emotional mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.0

connorjdaley's review

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adventurous challenging emotional mysterious sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

I read this one for the Indie Ink Awards, but I got the book on kindle from a free event ran by the author!

The author’s Twitter says, “Books on Amazon. They’ll break your heart,” and I don’t know for sure if she meant her own, but she’s certainly still right. This is one of the most heartfelt, and heartrending stories I have ever read. Every sentence is like a gut punch. Destroying the reader with ease. 

This novel is also one of the more unique stories I’ve ever read. It’s fantasy, in a fantasy world, and yet it still reads like a period piece or historical fantasy for the Wild West. It has that industrial, gritty feel of a cowboy western, and it technically has a train heist!

The boundary, an invisible line to most that demarcates the civilized from the other, is where the fantasy elements are amped up. Inside the boundary folks are imbued through all things shine. Shine is somewhat like an essence or drug-like substance like in Dune, however here it functions as so much more. It stops the aging of food, keeps it at the correct temperature, stops rot, it heals people, and yet it can also destroy. Those that live with it and intake it show its use through a variety of colors. Your skin and hair may be orange or purple, green or blue. 

In many ways this novel functions as a slice-of-life story. Except that every single character is being emotional decimated over and over, with nothing good staying. Cassandra has perhaps the most hurtful experience of all. And she has over a 15 year journey to her finally reaching her max. Arlen thinks everything is fine until it’s not. Sadly he doesn’t get to choose finding this out on his own, it’s thrust at him, as it so often is in life. 

The author uses such broad strokes and fanciful writing that the mundane reads magical, the typical is anything but. And every paragraph and page is truly emotionally astounding. Metaphorically, lyrically, poetically brilliant. 

Personally a 5/5*. Just fantastic. 

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crystina_luna's review

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adventurous mysterious slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0