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.
I’ll put my hand up and say that I’m rarely a fan of literary style prose. I often find myself confused, lost in the metaphors of what the author is trying to convey. When I stepped in to Sarah Chorn’s wild western fantasy, Of Honey and Wildfires, I entered a world of poetic prose, coloured by the shine of this world’s magical oil you could say (look at me being poetic!) yet none of Sarah’s beautiful prose hindered or confused me. It enticed me, cast a spell and dragged me in, and I fell completely into this world.
Set in a fantasy American west, this is a world where oil possesses magical properties and is much sought after, leading to wild-west like power struggles and a business baron who rules over it all. The story focuses on three POV characters and the relationship between themselves and the outlaw who ties them all together. These character’s history unravel as we travel through their past in alternating time lines that eventually coalesce to a heartbreaking end. But to reveal anymore would be spoilers!
Whilst this is a fantasy tale, it focuses more on the relationships between characters, their demons and struggles, and less on action, but there are plenty of moments that’ll have you clutching at your chest.
What I’ll whine about:
The magical oil of this world is known as shine, and whilst we learn of its effects throughout the story, such as the ability to light fires or make rotten food healthy and edible again, we don’t learn an awful lot more about how shine works or how it came to be. There are certain characters which are immune to shine, whereas the majority are so affected by it that it turns their skin into a colourful hue or leaves them with a crippling addiction. I would have loved to learn more about shine and how it can be used, and hope that some of my questions will be answered in the upcoming sequel this summer!
What I’ll gush about:
It’s the characters who make or break a story for me, and I loved getting to know the three POV’s of Cassandra, Arlen, and Ianthe on their separate journeys, and watching these journeys finally come together. This is a story bursting with emotion, and these poor characters really go through hell alongside their families.
The main source of emotional angst comes from the father figures of the story, and how the characters relate to their fathers and whatever sins their fathers have committed within this harsh world. I found this especially relatable as I lost my own father a few years ago, and my own conflicted relationship was mirrored in Cassandra and Arlen’s. I wouldn’t say this was an overly dark story, but certainly a bittersweet one that doesn’t shy away from exploring these emotional depths.
I also loved the representation within this world as well, and how it is never treated as an oddity, but is welcomed with open arms.
Of Honey and Wildfires is full of emotional moments which are wonderfully woven together into a tragic tale that sings a mournful dirge.