the Little Red Reviewer

Death and Honey, by Hearne, Bowen, and Wendig

Posted on: February 18, 2019

Death and Honey,  novellas by Kevin Hearne, Lila Bowen, and Chuck Wendig

available Feb 28th 2019

where I got it: received ARC from the publisher (Thanks Subterranean Press!)

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Death and Honey has some original and unexpected things going for it.  Things that might turn you off, but shouldn’t. Lemme explain. The three novels contained in this volume take place in world already created and developed by these authors, and these stories take place rather late in the game for a number  of these characters. You might be thinking to yourself that either you’ll feel lost because you’re only on book three of Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series, or you’re woefully under read in Lila Bowen’s Shadow series, or maybe you barely got to the end of Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds (oh, you weren’t thinking any of that? Must have been me that was thinking those thoughts).  Can you enjoy a story that takes place near the end of a series if you didn’t read the middle part? And what about spoilers??

 

The answers are Yes, and Yes.  Yes, you can fully enjoy these stories even if you have no idea who Oberon is, even if you have no idea who Rhett Walker is, even if the name Miriam Black doesn’t mean anything to you.   And yes, sorry, there are a few spoilers. Fans of the Iron Druid will find out just a teeny weeny bit about Ragnarok, I’m not familiar enough with the other series to tell you what was a surprise, and what a spoiler.  But so what? Reading a short story that takes place near the end of a series is like having dessert first. And what, like you’ve never read a McMaster Bujold out of order? (or, again, that could just be me)

 

Oh, oh the second weird and unexpected thing! I nearly forgot. All of these stories have to do with bees.  And honey. Sometimes the bees are nice, sometimes they aren’t, sometimes they are just bees. And everyone likes honey, right?  (I can’t possibly be the only one here who eats honey out of the jar with a spoon)

 

Also?  excellent full color artwork by Galen Dara!

 

Don’t want spoilers, just want my final thoughts?  Scroll all the way to the bottom.

 

Yo, so I’ve read a few of Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books, and yeah, I enjoyed them. But you wanna know what I really, really like? Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries!  Take your standard cozy mystery formula, but the sleuth is Oberon, Atticus’s psychically bonded Irish Wolfhound! Oberon’s sense of smell is amazing, he’ll do just about anything for a treat, he wonders why humans do such weird things all the time, and above all, Oberon wants Atticus to be happy.  In The Buzz Kill, Oberon and Starbuck find a body at the foot of a tree, a tree that has a giant beehive in it! Atticus is trying to stay under the radar, and instead gets sucked into helping the local police investigate the murder. Hearne has fun with the light heartedness, each chapter title is a play on words having to do with bees, flowers, or honey.

Atticus is still physically and mentally recovering from the events of Ragnarok, he’s coming to terms with the fact that his life is forever changed, he’s not sure he’s ready to be around people. Oberon, smart as he is, doesn’t quite pick up on the nuances of humans. This was by far my favorite novella in the volume. I enjoy Atticus and Oberon as characters, I love their relationship with each other,  and I appreciate how Oberon helps Atticus see things he wouldn’t usually see. It’s funny how animals can sometimes see more and deeper than humans.

 

I’m torn on Lila Bowen’s Grist of Bees, so let me tell you what I liked first. I’ve only read one of Bowen’s Shadow short stories (and there is an entire series of novels about him!), so I went into Grist of Bees knowing just the basics about Rhett Walker.  And damn do I love the sound of his voice. He’s finally settled down, and he and Sam are enjoying a quiet life. But, when you’ve got a monster hunter inside you, the quiet life doesn’t last long. A buzzing bee pushes Rhett to a neighboring village where he learns a child has been kidnapped.

Everytime Rhett says “damn it!” I got a smile on my face. This guy, who just wants to milk cows and live on a farm, is basically getting Indiana Jones’d back into things, and he’ll do it, but he’ll complain in the most endearing way possible the entire time. So yeah, loved Rhett’s voice. Would love to hear an audio version of this story.   I also enjoyed Rhett’s interaction with Buck (don’t worry, you’ll figure out who Buck is), and a talking goat. So, what could I possibly have not liked? I felt the story dragged on too long. I was ready for the pace to pick up long before it actually did. Yeah, yeah, life is slower in the old west, and it takes a while to ride a horse from point A to point B, and I respect that the pace of the story should match the environs.  Still, chunks of the story dragged for me. Your mileage may vary.

 

Leaving the hardest part of this review for last. I’ve never met him, but Chuck Wendig is super cool online, seems like he’s a super nice guy in real life too.  Gives lots of good advice, seems just a wonderful human being. So don’t tell him that I could barely get through Blackbirds, by the end I was #hatereading that poor book.  And Mirian Black, who has a near cult following? Meh. Put plainly, I find Wendig’s work to be too dark, too depressing, too angry and just too grim for my tastes. The dude is a fantastic author, or so I’m told.  He’s great, he just doesn’t write the kind of stuff that I find enjoyable to read.

 

Interlude: Tanager had everything I didn’t like about that first Wendig novel I read: grim angry people who make terrible decisions, own their decisions, and then get grimmer and angrier, and everyone is completely miserable by the end, because revenge tastes like ashes.  I guess i’m just burned out on grimdark? Anyway, this novella features Wren Martin, and a ton of spoilers of what went down with Miriam and her boyfriend. Wren’s on her own now, but her cash won’t hold out much longer. Chased by a psycho in a mask, ask he’s about to go in for a killing shot,  he’s attacked by a swarm of bees. Someone was controlling those bees, and Wren is about to find out who. And maybe get some revenge in the process. I liked that Wren found some happiness with Jimmy. The beginning of this novella was not enjoyable for me, but I admit that I did enjoy the end, and I’m happy I read the whole thing.

 

Final thoughts:  hmm.. Maybe you do need some context and some background of the lives of Atticus, Rhett, and Wren to enjoy these stories? Thinking back, that was probably my major issue with Grist of Bees.  I knew just enough about Rhett to be really dangerous, not enough to have any context at all of his motivation. When it comes to needing context, your mileage may vary.

 

Also,  Honey.   Honey literally represents the sweet things in life.  You can’t help but be happy while eating honey, right?  It tastes like liquid happiness. And all these characters – Atticus, Rhett, Wren,  they are still determining if they deserve to be happy. Even if they find happiness, they’ve got to convince themselves that they are allowed to be happy, that they are allowed to enjoy finding and keeping a happy life.  Yes, you do deserve to be happy. Eat the honey.

 

You’re already invested in the lives of Atticus, Rhett, and Wren?  You too deserve to be happy, and eat the honey. This book was written for you!

 

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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