REVIEW: Honeycomb by Joanne M. Harris
A lushly illustrated set of dark, captivating fairy tales from the bestselling author of The Gospel of Loki with illustrator Charles Vess (Stardust).
The beauty of stories; you never know where they will take you. Full of dreams and nightmares, Honeycomb is an entrancing mosaic novel of original fairy tales from bestselling author Joanne M. Harris and legendary artist Charles Vess in a collaboration that’s been years in the making. The toymaker who wants to create the perfect wife; the princess whose heart is won by words, not actions; the tiny dog whose confidence far outweighs his size; and the sinister Lacewing King who rules over the Silken Folk. These are just a few of the weird and wonderful creatures who populate Joanne Harris’s first collection of fairy tales.
Dark, gripping, and brilliantly imaginative, these magical tales will soon have you in their thrall in a uniquely illustrative edition.
The tales are beautifully illustrated by renowned illustrator Charles Vess (Stardust, Sandman, The Books of Earthsea).
Dear Ms. Harris,
I’m almost embarrassed to admit how long it’s been since I read “Five Quarters of the Orange.” But when I saw this arc offered, I knew it was time to get back with reading one of your books. These tales drew me into the dark and tangled world of the Silken People who live among the Sightless People.
The book is a collection of individual fairy tales that weave together to tell the story of the often cruel and thoughtless Lacewing King and his people. He lives a life of debauchery and excess, focused only on himself, which scatters pain and anger among those with whom he interacts. Some of the stories initially don’t appear to connect to this and it’s only later that they join into the main narrative. Other stories – mainly the barnyard ones – are more fables and parables that ought to teach lessons in behavior and being kind.
A lot of the characters besides the Lacewing King are not kind. The Spider Queen, the Harlequin, the Wasp Prince, and the Moth Queen, among others, allow anger, spite, and revenge to drive their actions. Yet there are also a few who display love and devotion and figure into the emotional character arc of the King. Some tales have lessons to be learned about acceptance, freedom, misogyny, and independence. Moving in and out of most of them are the bees who have many tales to tell and who are generally reckoned to tell the truth.
I found that once I started reading, I was lost in the intricacies of this lush place and thrilled with the inventive worldbuilding. Still, taking breaks after 60-90 pages allowed things to keep from becoming overwhelming as the collection is quite long. These are fairy tales as they were originally meant to be – warning yet simultaneously entertaining, vivid as well as mesmerizing. B+