Review of The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com Sept 1)
This story centers around a caravan, and all the various beings associated with it. The setting has an African feel, with desert, oasis, plain, city and forest features at various points of the journey. It is sort of a strange travelogue focused on Demane and his boyfriend Isa, who is the Captain of the caravan workers. Some beings in the setting are of partially alien ancestry and so have skills and abilities outside the human norm. Isa and Demane both fall into this category. Isa has augmented physical skills and Demane has magical skills. He is called Sorcerer by the members of the caravan. Isa’s “hair” gathers energy from the sun, but looks very much outside normal hair range so he keeps it wrapped unless he is alone with Demane. Through flashbacks the tale of how Demane met Isa and they fell in love is interspersed with the ongoing caravan travel to the Wildeeps, and it turns out Demane left a good job in order to travel with the love of his life. The two men have an interesting relationship while traveling with the caravan because Isa is technically Demane’s boss and the boss can’t be seen obviously playing favorites. The astute members of course realize the truth. The ending is rather tragic and not at all what a reader would expect.
The world and characters in this novella are very rich, detailed and diverse (both racially and culturally). Characters who look similar but hail from different geographical locations show a wide variation in habits, knowledge and customs. The world feels real and the reader can’t help but feel the pain of these two lovers struggling to stay together while working their way across the world. Kai Ashante Wilson has only published short fiction previously so this is his debut longer work and what a wonderful debut. We will be looking for more of his work in the future. What a wonderful start to Tor.com’s novellas program!
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