A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

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When we first meet Aqib, he’s taking the prince’s cheetah for a walk. We learn he is charged with taking care of the royal menagerie. He’s a member of the privileged class due to being a distant cousin to royalty. He’s also a bit of a snob and disdainful of the working class.

Aqib meets a foreign soldier named Lucrio who speaks in modern slang. This pulled me out of the fantasy world for a moment, but I soon learned that he spoke this way to indicate that he’s lower class and he learned to speak Olorumi from sailors. Lucrio’s native language is Latin (or a language very similar to it). He comes from Daluçan which is a land reminiscent of ancient Rome.

The two fall in love, although there are obstacles to their romance including Aqib’s homophobic brother, pressure from Aqib’s family to marry a high-born woman to raise the family’s status, and the fact that homosexuality is forbidden by Aqib’s religion.

The author sometimes doesn’t put dialogue in quotes or suddenly summarizes what was said, which is an interesting style. The story is also told out of order, but there’s a reason for this that becomes evident towards the end. The surprising reason the book is titled A Taste of Honey isn’t revealed until the end either.

There’s a lot of great world-building here. Olorumi is an interesting place where physics and math are considered women’s work. Magic gets introduced to the story towards the end. We learn certain people have supernatural abilities and we meet the Ashëans who are referred to as gods because of both their magical power and their high level of technology including holograms. The sudden introduction of magic and technology into the book towards the end was a bit jarring, but I think the author pulled it off.

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