A 2017 Nebula Award finalist in the novella category. Written by Kai Ashante Wilson, it weaves the story of Aqib, a young man fated to take his father's place as 'Master of Beasts' in a royal court, who finds himself pulled in two sharply different directions. He is sought after as husband by a royal princess, which will boost his family's fortunes, yet he has also fallen in love with a foreign soldier. The tale of his torrid and forbidden whirlwind romance is intercut with the future life, and the daughter, he will have if he chooses the princess.

The book is by turns a romance and a SF/fantasy mashup: it seems mostly fantasy at first, but it evolves that the princess is a mathematical savant and her help is sought by 'gods' with a complex physics problem to solve and a desire to ascend beyond the flesh in a version of the Singularity, and the genre lines become blurred.

The book easily carried me along, and unlike some reviewers I did not find the book's alternating between two timelines to be distracting. It all comes together at the end for a resolution that I found both satisfying and sad, as Aqib makes a choice that seems equally wonderful and tragic, between the two great loves of his life.

The book's cover (by SF+F illustrator Tommy Arnold) shows the young Aqib, a cheetah from his menagerie, and his lover Lucrio, the soldier. This let me know that the characters, like the author, have dark skin tone, but race is not a strong theme in the book. The romance is, and while the love between the men is forbidden in Aqib's society, their romance is tender and well portrayed, and their seemingly-inevitable parting is moving.

Recommendation

A Taste of Honey is a good, interesting read. I enjoyed it, and rank it equally with fellow novella nominee The Ballad of Black Tom. A Taste of Honey is published by Tor, as a slender 153 page book that may be lost amidst 1000+ page fantasy tomes, but deserves to be seen as their equal, if not more.


References

Borrowed from the library and just finished it.

Nebula 2017 novella nominees reviewed on e2:

I haven't read the other 2017 Nebula novella nominees yet.

For SciFiQuest 3017: The Frontier that Wouldn't End
...And they'll continue noding it forever just because....

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