Friday, November 13, 2015

Book Review: The Bees by Laline Paull

Flora 717 was born into the lowest caste of bees, who normally are the custodians of the hive. But Flora 717 is special. She is bigger and furrier than the other flora bees, and she can talk, which normally flora can't. Because of that, she is taken out by one of the Sage Priestesses to work in the nursery. There's been a drought, so there's not much food and that also means that they are short-handed and must do things they don't normally do. Hence, Flora 717 working in the nursery. To the shock of the Teasley who runs the nursery, Flora 717 is capable of making Royal Jelly for feeding the bee babies. But after working in the nursery for a while, Flora is brought out to work in another area.

The first half of the book felt a little manipulative, as Flora moved from one department to another, working a variety of jobs such as waiting on the queen, and being a forager, as well as sometimes going back to working with the other flora in the mortuary. There is plot going on, regarding the continuing bad weather (it's changed to just solidly raining which bees can't fly in), but it's very much in the background. Flora, like all the low-level bees, isn't supposed to even be capable of thinking long-term, which would kill the plot completely, but Flora is special, after all. She's also got the ability to seal her antennae against the Sage priestesses who otherwise would be able to read her thoughts, and she's able to handle reading the six panels about the past that leave other bees reeling, even the priestesses. Her abilities do come to the fore when things take a turn and the plot comes roaring to the forefront.

The beginning was interesting but didn't compel me along with plot, more with learning new things about bees. But when I got to that halfway point and the plot came alive, I just couldn't put it down. It was so inventive and fun and fascinating. What really made the discussion hum at book club was that one member had done some research, and another member actually keeps bees. We were able to ask a lot of questions of the "does this really happen?" variety. Suffice it to say, the odder the question, the more likely it was true. One member of our book club also made this adorable beehive cake! No, to answer your question, it was not a honey cake, it was a pound cake. The cake was yum and the book was delightful!

I checked this book out of the library.

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