I am still slogging my way through The Queens of Innis Lear. I’d DNF it but right now it feels like a battle I need to win. Hoping to get it done this weekend. So in the meantime, I haven’t been very motivated to read much else.
I did quickly squeeze in A Taste of Honey for a buddy read though. This was part of Tor.com’s free novella offerings for Pride Month. Did you know they give away a free book every month? You can visit that page here, and download a copy of The Murders of Molly Southborne by Tade Thompson for free until June 29th.
Blurb (from GoodReads): 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.
This is told in three parts. Part one I enjoyed a lot. It’s lets the reader see how Aqib and Lucrio first meet and was a great set up for the romance. It was pretty hard not to ship these two right from the start. Part two I struggled with. It’s told in alternating timelines that jump all over the place. There’s a reason for it, but it doesn’t make it any easier to digest. Part three is about the same length as part one and gives us the conclusion.
A lot of the time during part two I was frustrated. I read a quote from another reviewer once (that I can’t find now, so this quote isn’t exact so I can’t credit correctly) that said something along the lines of: “There are two great sins an author can commit when writing a book: failing to meet expectations, or failing to set them. Of those two, failing to set them is far worse.” (Seriously, not exact- Google gives me nothing.) I had been struggling with this in some stories for years, and never had words for it until I read that.
I feel like A Taste of Honey very much fails to set any expectations for the reader. Throughout the entirety of part two I was just wondering why I was being told this story. I didn’t feel glued to the page or compelled to keep reading. I can’t explain why without spoilers- but I will say that the plot of this story is not: Aqib and Lucrio must overcome the prejudices against gay men in their society and amongst Aqib’s family in order to be together and get a HEA. Is that a pretty straightforward and rather generic romance plot? Yeah. It is. But it comes with the suspense built in. And readers would have read this story based on that alone, because these characters were fantastic, the world building was unique, and their relationship was beautiful.
Instead we’re given something else entirely that feels more like the saga of a man who’s life has big dramatic events, but in which he has no agency to change things. Therefore there is no suspense.
The world building is super unique and I loved the parts with the animals. Although magic isn’t really my thing, there do seem to be some vague rules about the system and that too, felt unique. If you’re the kind of reader who enjoys piecing together the information about the world for themselves, this may be a great choice for you.
I’m not going to spoil anything, so I’m not going to set any expectations for you either, but if you can slog it through the middle to get to the end it does make up for some of the slow going middle parts. A few of the other buddies that read this enjoyed it much more than I did so if you like, we can all just blame that other book I’m reading for putting me in a bad mood.
Have you read this book? What did you think of it?