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Honeycomb

Review

Honeycomb

written by Joanne M. Harris, illustrated by Charles Vess

Initially I was drawn to this magnificent book thanks to Charles Vess’ illustrations. However, the stories by Joanne M. Harris are what made me overstay my visit and take up permanent residence.

I was unfamiliar with Harris’ work before cracking the binding on HONEYCOMB. Thus I dropped quickly into the world of her imagination without any warning or desire to extricate myself. I have no idea if her extensive backlist is as thoroughly mesmerizing as the interconnected dark fairy tales, fables and cautionary stories that comprise the book. I suspect it is and plan to satisfy my curiosity soon enough.

"Read the stories and linger over the art, or vice versa, but do not miss HONEYCOMB, even if you dislike the fantasy genre. It will restore the magic of reading and storytelling for you."

HONEYCOMB is a collection of 100 short tales, divided into two sections of 50 stories each. There is a primary story arc that runs through most of the pieces with occasional interludes in which one or more of the characters from the main tale may tiptoe or trespass into other stories. The central character in the book is the Lacewing King, the son of the Honeycomb Queen. He is the first of the Silken Folk, who are also known as the Faerie or the Keepers of Stories.

You and I are in the book as well, as is all of Humankind, though we are known to the Silken Folk as the Sightless Folk since we cannot see the true essence of the Faerie unless they choose to manifest themselves. The Lacewing King does this in his formative years but with a sinister twist. To be sure, he is not a good guy in these stories, and as a result crosses swords with some of the other inhabitants of his kingdom, which include the Spider Queen and the Harlequin, among others.

This is certainly dark material, and if the thought of thousands of spiders weaving a large ship for transport to a faraway land is not your idea of cruise ship personnel, you will want to read the book in the middle of the day and not pick it up for night reading as I did. These stories aren’t just twisted at times and grimly humorous in others. They are all beautifully and wonderfully told, as the Lacewing King seeks a queen to give him an heir and runs into a number of roadblocks along the way, eventually learning that someone is looking for him as well.

As good as this primary story is, don’t skip over the occasional tale that is unrelated to the main narrative. I’m thinking of “The Old Woman and the Rocking-Horse,” which concerns an unappreciated grandmother, and “The Gardener,” in which people mistake the title character for a civil servant, among many others. 

These stories fly by. Not many authors can do short fiction well --- Richard Christian Matheson is one --- but you can add Harris to that list. You will read this book again and again, and will be tempted to give copies to your friends who then will do the same. I plan to obtain it in all formats just to fully enjoy reading and listening to it. Yes, it’s that good. I could go on for another paragraph or two discussing Vess’ illustrations, which are complex and simply wonderful to behold, but I won’t.

Read the stories and linger over the art, or vice versa, but do not miss HONEYCOMB, even if you dislike the fantasy genre. It will restore the magic of reading and storytelling for you.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 4, 2021

Honeycomb
written by Joanne M. Harris, illustrated by Charles Vess

  • Publication Date: May 25, 2021
  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Short Stories
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press
  • ISBN-10: 1534433058
  • ISBN-13: 9781534433052