The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson. ★★★
I will freely admit that the primary motive for my reading is entertainment. And whatever sort of literary merit The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps has, I don’t think it works on an entertainment level, or at least for me anyway.
Demane’s demigod, descended from the people who came down from the stars. But now he’s traveling with a merchant caravan as a guard and in love with the Captain, another man with divine ancestry. Yet, the caravan must pass through the wilderness of the Wildeeps, where a terrifying evil lurks.
Something you should know going in (SPOILER warning)- this is a tragic queer story. Our bisexual protagonist is basically the only queer character to make it out alive. Seriously, even the background gay couple dies! The 75% death rate going on here is definitely a factor in why The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps doesn’t work for me.
Another thing – there are practically no women in the book. The only named female character with dialog is Auntie, and she only appears during flashback scenes where she’s training Demane. I get that this book was exploring masculinity (I think specifically in African American culture?), but masculinity doesn’t exist in isolation.
However my main problem with the book is the writing style. It’s non-linear and all the scenes seem to float together. It felt a bit like reading a really weird dream. And it also felt like nothing happened until they got to the Wildeeps – which they take over half the novel to reach.
The only reason this book manages to get three stars from me is that there were some interesting things going on with the world. For one, I think it was a fantasy equivalent of ancient Africa. For another, it had all these enticing bleed overs with science fiction. A lot of the “magic” of the book is presented as highly advanced science, and I got the impression that the protagonist is descended from genetically engineered people. And are the gods really gods? Or are they some far more advanced civilization from elsewhere that decided to walk among humans for a time?
I can’t shake the feeling that I’m missing something about this novella given all the rave reviews it has elsewhere. Still, I wouldn’t really recommend it based on my own reading.