Book Reviews, Fantasy

Review: Of Honey and Wildfires by Sarah Chorn

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.

This is a powerful novel and no mistake! With lyrical language that will tear open your heart over and over, and characters that breathe and step out of the pages, I couldn’t help but fly through it. Though I was initially unsure of the setting, the frontier out in the Wild West, this book certainly made a case for me trying out more westerns. The longing, freedom, and possibility that ooze out of each character, despite their harsh surroundings, is inspiring and captivating. Shine territory, where the magical oil-equivalent shine has been found, has both a sense of the infinite and entrapment. Wide opens skies, great mountains, and endless fields contrast with the controlling company that owns it all, and the magical Boundary that determines who leaves and who stays.

‘To understand the end, you must know the beginning. I will dissect myself for you.’

The story opens with a haunting prologue, and is then framed by ‘The Interview’ set in the present day and slowly giving us the events that lead up to it. One of those being interviewed is Cassandra, the daughter of a local outlaw who works to undermine the company that owns Shine Territory, and its head Matthew Esco. After the death of her mother, Cassandra’s father leaves her with his sister to be raised in normal society, but his shadow follows her and she remains an outsider to the town. Her story is told from this moment, at five years old, when she is left with her aunt and uncle, and slowly escalates towards the climax of the book.

Alongside this is Arlen Esco’s story, which begins two weeks before the culmination of events, and follows the son of Matthew Esco, the owner of the Territory, as he is sent out to see it for the first time. He soon discovers that certain things are not what he expects, and that these might change the way he views himself and his role in the company. Arlen and Cassandra’s narratives are tied together throughout by the short yet heart-gripping chapters of Ianthe, Cassandra’s best friend and lover, who is slowly and painfully dying from a lifelong illness. These chapters are full of anguish and poetry, and give the book a unique atmosphere, and all three characters are being pulled along towards an inevitable end, linked by invisible threads.

‘ “There’s a land,” he said. “Far, fr away, across an ocean with a whirlpool for a heart. This is where the world starts, and the world ends.” ‘

Though this book deals so closely with grief, loss, and oppression, there is a hope that shines through it, and the ending left me feeling bittersweet. Satisfied, yet mournful. There is a soft magic beneath it all, that unravels the darkness of the events. One of the biggest things that, for me, create this aura is the story of Sefate, which appears a few times throughout. It is a story told to Arlen by his governess, about the tree at the start of the world. This briefly mentioned myth stayed with me, and made me nod in appreciation at the source of the series name: The Songs of Sefate.

With Of Honey and Wildfires, Sarah Chorn has created a brilliantly balanced world of possibility and fate, and I urge readers of all genres to submerge themselves into her writing, with its lyrical style and incredible character work. Plus, the cover of the book alone should be enough to convince anyone to pick it up!

Book Info

Published: 28th April 2020 by Sarah Chorn
Genre: fiction, fantasy, fantasy western
Pages: 247
Series: The Songs of Sefate, book one
Narration style: multiple points of view, third and first person
Format read: ebook
Trigger Warnings: suicide, death, illness

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