Honeyed Words

by J.A. Pitts

Cover image

Series: Sarah Beauhall #2
Publisher: Tor
Copyright: July 2011
ISBN: 0-7653-2907-7
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 412

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Honeyed Words is a direct sequel to Black Blade Blues and probably doesn't make sense to read out of order.

Sarah, Katie, their friends, and Katie's family are still recovering from the climactic events of Black Blade Blues and licking their wounds, but things are slowly looking up. Sarah is getting more comfortable openly expressing her sexuality, although there are still tensions, and her relationships are improving. The city of Vancouver also seems to be recovering. But major political shifts among the nonhuman races have echoes and ramifications, and after a kidnapped singer and a murdered dwarf, Sarah is pulled back into the turmoil.

If you liked the world-building in Black Blade Blues, Honeyed Words is more of the same, but with more variety. Pitts adds elves to dwarves and dragons, shows considerably more of the supernatural world beneath the surface of human cities, and introduces Sarah to some new types of danger. There are a few more glimmers of the history of Sarah's sword and the nature of the gods in this universe, but still nothing conclusive. Pitts broadens the world-building rather than deepening it. But I liked the new characters. Teenage elves with obsessions make for great characters, and the demon who shows up about halfway through is delightful.

As with the first book, this is mostly a story of things happening to Sarah while she tries to muddle through as best she can. There isn't much in the way of grand strategy or of seizing control of the plot. She just tries to do the right thing and gets lots of help from lots of friends. But the plot moves right along, and it's mixed with a healthy sense of normality that I find refreshing. She needs work as a blacksmith, she's trying to support a friend without having much money of her own, the living arrangements this forces are a bit of a strain for her own relationships, and her broken relationship with her family continues to lurk. Much urban fantasy is built around the premise of a regular person thrust into a fantasy world, but much of it then discards normal life once the supernatural starts. I think Pitts does a particularly good job of keeping his protagonist's life grounded in the ongoing mundane problems of living.

It's also more fun to read about Sarah when she isn't quite as angstful. Over the course of Honeyed Words, she seems to be growing into a person who can accept who she is and feel secure about her place in the world. That's nice to see.

The downside to this book is that, while it's full of quite a lot of stuff, not all of it coheres that horribly well. It has a certain "middle book" feel. The major plot resolves, but with some significant lingering consequences and something of a cliff-hanger last chapter. Most of the threads left open by the first book are still open here. There's character growth, and setup for some resolution, but not a lot of actual resolution.

I still like this series, though. I like urban fantasy that isn't about vampires and werewolves; berserker blacksmiths and Norse legend has much more appeal, and I want to read more of it. Pitts's writing is a bit clunky and probably won't win many rewards, but it's serviceable and I think improving. If you enjoyed the first book, it's worth looking for this one as well.

Followed by Forged in Fire.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2014-01-08

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21