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 creatures who populate Joanne Harris's first collection of fairy tales.
Honeycomb drips with whimsy, mischief, and violent delight. Over the course of this dark, adult fantasy novel/collection (it’s truly a hybrid of the two), Harris offers us an astoundingly wide array of parables and tales that cover themes of power, love, empathy, self-sacrifice, and truth ... Harris imbues new meaning into various fairy tales without abandoning their sinister origins. From the cruel exploits of the selfish Lacewing King to the realpolitik of stubborn barnyard animals, she magicks a collection of dark fairy tales steeped in European tradition. Her strongest tales are those that remain within this cultural frame of reference, while those outside of it are weakened by exoticized descriptions of isolated religious desert societies. Charles Vess’s distinctive illustrations appear throughout the novel, enhancing the ancient, folklore-like feeling Harris evokes in each story.
Harris constructs a magical universe, called the Nine Worlds and ruled by the insect-like Fae Silken Folk, as intricate as the beehives internal lives and delicate hexagonal walls ... Honeycomb is comprised of mostly two-to-three page stories that begin as if wholly separate beings and as the book continues on, we see a cast of complicated, beautiful, and terrible recurring characters, all centering around the Lacewing King as we follow him on his adventures and his own complicated emotional maturity throughout his life of near immortality. Amplifying the book’s magic even more are the illustrations of Charles Vess, who never ceases to delight fantasy lovers with his whimsical, flowing art ... a book to savor slowly at first, as the individual story chapters may be short but they are many and contain miniature worlds within themselves ... Harris creates her own mythology with the humans, who though the Silken Folk do not interfere with their daily lives, still make impetuous and ill-thought out actions that lead to their own, or another’s, undoing. In that, they are the cautionary folk tales and stories that warn humans of the worst excesses of their own natures if left unchecked. She also often embeds the tales involving the human folk and animals with a humor that keeps some of the darker aspects of Harris’s Nine Worlds and its inhabitants’ darkest aspects, such as constant war, theft, and torture.
Floating somewhere between story collection and novel, this extraordinary work from Harris transports readers to the enchanting, dreamlike Nine Worlds ... The effect is magical, poignant, and wholly transporting. Supplemented by evocative line drawings, this strange, wondrous mosaic is sure to delight any lover of fairy tales.