Book review: Of Honey and Wildfires by Sarah Chorn
Title: Of Honey and Wildfires (Songs of Sefate #1)
Author: Sarah Chorn
Publisher: Self published
Page count: 387
Rep: Disability (illness), LGBTQ+, F/F, Trans
Of Honey and Wildfires first pinged on my book radar several years ago when I saw its cover shared on social media (and what a beauty it is)! Since then, I’ve encountered multiple readers who do nothing but sing praises for this book.
And they were 100% right to do so. I can’t believe it took me this long to get to it.
Seriously, if I could give this book a 6 out of 5 stars I would. The language, the characters, their journey and the twists: chef’s kiss.
However, if you’re looking for a pacey action-adventure western, this isn’t it. Of Honey and Wildfires is very much a character driven fantasy-western. Based in a world where “shine”, a substance with magical properties, is the currency of the land and its extraction from the earth strictly controlled by a single corporate mogul, Matthew Esco. Cut off from the rest of the world by a magical barrier, life in Shine Territory is difficult and rife with indenture, disease and shine addiction.
In the midst of it all, we follow two interwoven stories. The first of Cassandra and Ianthe, with Cassandra being the daughter of an infamous outlaw and Ianthe slowly dying of consumption (Tuberculosis). The second is that of Arlen Esco, heir to his father’s corporation, and on his first journey into Shine Territory.
This writing in this book is lyrical, full of raw emotion that grabs you and doesn’t let go. As a reader, I got to live and breathe with these characters; I was transported into their shoes, able to feel their pain, confusion, joy and heartbreak.
Perhaps a little unusual are the timelines of the two main stories, which tend to jump around.
However, there’s a clear sense the narratives are both counting down to an event that will change all the characters’ lives—and maybe Shine Territory too. The majority of Cassandra and Ianthe’s storyline is set 10-plus years in the past, with each subsequent instalment inching closer to the “present day” story of Arlen. Meanwhile, Arlen’s story begins weeks before this life-and-Shine-changing event and jumps between days and hours before it goes down—and even a few hours after it as well.
The result is a compelling mystery as with each new chapter the reader is given more information to not just live alongside the characters, but get tantalising glimpses into how the drama will unfold—none of which, you can predict with any amount of certainty.
There are too many beautiful, moving moments in this book to pick a standout. Nor could do I dare share any without risking spoilers, but suffice to say this book pulls on your heartstrings. It’s heavy on the emotion and atmosphere in a way I’ve rarely encountered, and when you’ve turned the final page you’re both wrung out and dying for more.
In all, if you love fantasy with characters that feel real enough to walk beside you, full of lyrical writing and a mystery that keeps you doggedly turning the page at 2 in the morning, then Of Honey and Wildfires is a must read.
Liked this review? Join Nikky's mailing list to recieve regular updates—and a free story!