Today I am a reviewing a book that I have been waiting for ever since it was announced that it would be coming out this year. I fell in love with Sarah Chorn’s writing in her debut novel ‘Seraphina’s Lament‘ which remains my favourite book to date, and seeing the snippets that have been posted online and the information about the world-building that she has shared via her blog, I knew that I was going to love this book – set in a whole new world – just as much. So, at midnight last night I was sat kindle in hand, waiting for it to arrive, and even with my high hopes and expectations I was blown away by ‘Of Honey and Wildfires’.
From the moment the first settler dug a well and struck a lode of shine, the world changed. Now, everything revolves around that magical oil.
What began as a simple scouting expedition becomes a life-changing ordeal for Arlen Esco. The son of a powerful mogul, Arlen is kidnapped and forced to confront uncomfortable truths his father has kept hidden. In his hands lies a decision that will determine the fate of everyone he loves—and impact the lives of every person in Shine Territory.
The daughter of an infamous saboteur and outlaw, Cassandra has her own dangerous secrets to protect. When the lives of those she loves are threatened, she realizes that she is uniquely placed to change the balance of power in Shine Territory once and for all.
Secrets breed more secrets. Somehow, Arlen and Cassandra must find their own truths in the middle of a garden of lies.
Firstly, I have to say that I love the cover. It is beautiful, and now having read the book, it seems to fit the story even more perfectly.
The thing that stands out for me in both of Sarah Chorn’s book is the writing. She has a beautiful, lyrical style that paints the world and story around you as you read. The descriptions are visceral, and it means that even the darker moments are incredibly beautiful. This is not a book that you, it’s one that you experience, the emotions and atmosphere so vivid, so enrapturing that you feel it all alongside the characters – the tension, the heartbreak and sorrow, the love in all its forms – and by the time I reached the end this morning, I had tears in my eyes and a heart that was far too full, I don’t think that I will ever tire of this kind of writing.
The world-building for ‘Of Honey and Wildfires’ is completely different, and wonderfully woven together, blending the freedom of a secondary world, with the more traditional world of the Wild West and you can feel the effort and research that had been put into creating the world. This anchoring in something familiar, is then beautifully woven with one of the most unique magical systems that I have ever seen – the ‘gold rush’ is not a search for gold or oil, but for Shine – a magical substance that has become integrated into every aspect of life on the frontier. It is used for food and heat, supplies and creates an entire economy that extends beyond the part of the world we see, it heals and it harms – and even changes the appearances of those who live off it.
This wide, wondrous world, with it’s magic, is a backdrop for something much more personal. This is a story of family. Family in many forms, love in many forms, and yet each one is woven together, through love and devotion, sorrow and suffering, and across time.
The characters are so well written, whether they are the three POV characters – Arlen, Cassandra and Ianthe – or one of the wide cast around them, that you can’t help but be embraced by their lives, regardless of what ‘side’ they are on, and what sins they commit – whether personal or criminal. It is a harsh world, one where secrets are lurking beneath the surface, and where a single choice can carry more weight than a person can carry. Possibly my favourite character, is Christopher Hobson – a broken man, trying to do the best he can, loving a ghost and his children, his actions and choices splintering him and his children a little further each time, a shattering done for love.
If he is my favourite character. Then the relationship between Cassandra and Ianthe is the one that captured my heart, flooded it with sunlight and then broke me in the most beautiful way possible. There love is the purest throughout the entire book, a deep bond that is more than passion, more like a gentle breeze in the meadow they spend time together in. It’s so deeply personal, that you can’t help but feel it in every part of your body, and when they experience sorrow and pain, and later loss both sudden and lingering and drawn out, you feel it with them right down to your bones.
Arlen took me a little longer to take to, but that is because he is going through a journey and a metamorphosis throughout the journey, and as we travel with him, he opens up to us and becomes a character who it is easy to emphasize with. A child who wants to be loved, a person who wants to find themselves, and a man who finds where he belongs.
As with her previous book, this cast – particularly the main POV characters are very diverse, and yet it is done so naturally, that it is a integal part of the whole, and is certainly an aspect that I love and hope to see more of.
‘Of Honey and Wildfires’ swept me along from start to finish, and has left me with a book hangover that will last for some time, especially as I intend to read it again almost immediately (and again and again), and I can safely say it is firmly up there with Seraphina’s Lament as one of my favourite books.
Of Honey and Wildfires – Sarah Chorn [Self-Published, 2020] ***** (5/5 Stars)
(You can check out the author HERE)
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.