by Laline Paull
I was cautiously optimistic about this book, because I’d heard good things about it, but really? Bees? An entire book from the viewpoint of a worker bee? Even fictionalized, how much material is there really to work with?
My fears were completely ungrounded because this book is AMAZING. Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, tasked with taking dead bodies out of the hive, cleaning up wax cells after new bees have hatched, and other duties to keep the hive clean. Somewhat extraordinarily, it is discovered that she can produce the liquid needed to feed bee larva, and is taken to serve in the nursery for a bit, where she starts to develop a mind of her own.
As Flora develops new abilities and works her way through the ranks of the hive, we start to learn that something in the governing of the hive is not quite what it should be. Something is wrong. But the strictly enforced castes and other outside factors, like weather and predators, delay Flora’s quest to ferret it out.
Between lying wasps, conniving spiders, and a conspiracy within the ranks of her own hive, Flora bounces from danger to danger trying to protect what she loves in an engrossing story of bravery and sacrifice.
I absolutely loved this book. I especially liked that anywhere possible, actual bee behavior was described and used to further the plot. This is definitely one of my favorite reads this year!
From the cover of The Bees:
Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, a member of the lowest caste in her orchard hive, where work and sacrifice are the highest virtues and worship of the beloved Queen the only religion. But Flora is not like other bees. With circumstances threatening the hive’s survival, her curiosity is regarded as a dangerous flaw, but her courage and strength are assets. She is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then to become a forager, flying alone and free to collect nectar and pollen. A feat of bravery grants her access to the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers mysteries about the hive that are both profound and ominous.
But when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all – daring to challenge the Queen’s preeminence – enemies abound, from the fearsome fertility police who enforce the hive’s strict social hierarchy to the high priestesses jealously wedded to power. Her deepest instincts to serve and sacrifice are now overshadowed by a greater power: a fierce maternal love that will bring her into conflict with her conscience, her heart, and her society – and lead her to perform unthinkable deeds.
Thrilling, suspenseful, and spectacularly imaginative, The Bees and its dazzling young heroine will forever change the way you look at the world outside your window.