Joanne M. Harris


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

December 26, 2021

hen I saw that Joanne M. Harris had written a book in collaboration with Charles Vess, I assumed that it was a graphic novel. Charles Vess? I definitely want to see that! I ordered Honeycomb from the library catalog and discovered that although it is lushly illustrated, it is not told in picture format. However, Honeycomb does not have a standard format of a novel, instead of a series of chapters relating one plot, Honeycomb is instead a series of 100 brief stories in a book that is 417 pages long (in the hardcover edition); no story is longer than five pages long. In the afterward, Harris informs the reader that that she originally released these stories on Twitter, which explains their length and seemingly random subject matter. Some of the stories are completely stand alone tales, but most of them tell of the adventures of the Lacewing King, who is the powerful ruler of the faeries (the faeries appear as insects to mortals such as us, unless the faerie chooses to assume a human aspect and walk amongst us).

There is a story the bees tell, Which makes it so hard to disbelieve...

So begins the tales of the Faerie world and the Lacewing King. The Lacewing King begins as a young, arrogant, selfish ruler; born into his monarchy, secure in his power and careless of whom he hurts. In his initial adventures, the king creates a number of enemies: the Spider Queen (from whom he steals the magic cloak of a thousand eyes, which allows him to observe anything that is happening in the world), the Moon Queen, the Cockroach Queen, the Barefoot Princess, and his own offspring, the Wasp Prince. As the Lacewing King matures, he begins to appreciate loyalty and love, but by then he is far from home and has lost many of his magical artifacts. The dangerous Harlequin is the Lacewing King's nemesis - how can he defeat the Harlequin when he has nothing left but his wits and courage?

There are other tales that have nothing to do with the Faerie World. There are several stories about animals on a farm - foolish pigs and arrogant chickens, and the bad endings that befall these selfish barnyard denizens.

The theme of clever craftsmen who can construct marvelous automatons is repeated in several tales - the Clockwork Princess and the Clockwork Tiger start as independent stories, but their characters eventually wander across the Lacewing King in his adventures.

More stories are totally independent - the Master chef; the arrogant baker. The girl who would never smile for fear that a laugh line would mar her unearthly beauty. The proud captain who strutted about in his blue sash, thinking he was superior to his fellows. The rich man who had everything except time, who encounters a man lolling in the warm sunshine and cannot understand how such a vagrant can afford to spend time in idle luxury, whilst the rich man must continue to manage his vast holdings.

The book contains many examples of marvelous art from Charles Vess. Much of it is beautiful black and white line drawings, but there are also an abundance of full page color paintings in Vess's signature style. I think it is great to have artists interpret books, especially when the artist is as talented as Vess. It makes the book that much nicer to read.

I will have to look up more of Harris's fantasy works. I see that she has a novel called The Gospel of Loki, perhaps I will read that one next.