Review and Giveaway: The Bees by Laline Paull

June 4, 2014 Giveaway, Reviews 15 ★★★★

The Bees by Laline Paull
Published by Ecco on May 6, 2014
Genres: Dystopia
Pages: 340
Format: ARC
The Handmaid's Tale meets The Hunger Games in this brilliantly imagined debut set in an ancient culture where only the queen may breed and deformity means death.

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 an asset. She is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then to become a forager, flying alone and free to collect pollen. She also finds her way into 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 fertility—enemies abound, from the fearsome fertility police who enforce the strict social hierarchy to the high priestesses jealously wedded to power. Her deepest instincts to serve and sacrifice are now overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce maternal love that will bring her into conflict with her conscience, her heart, her society—and lead her to unthinkable deeds.

Thrilling, suspenseful and spectacularly imaginative, The Bees gives us a dazzling young heroine and will change forever the way you look at the world outside your window

Bee society is pretty amazing.  With their tiny brains, they manage to form a complex society, with a strict hierarchy and rules and functions.  Every bee knows its role.  In The Bees, we go one giant leap beyond the real life of these insects to one in which bees talk and socialize with an intelligence comparable to humans.

The bee characters in The Bees are highly anthropomorphized, which I expected.  Their society looks and sounds like medieval England, which I did not expect.  Since bees have such a highly structured and regimented society, and with the presence of a “Queen Bee,” I can believe that this is what a beehive of talking, feeling, thinking bees would look like.

Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, responsible for the daily cleaning of the hive.  Sanitation workers are the lowest of the low, barely worthy of being in the presence of the other bees, including foragers, nursery workers, priestesses, and male drones.  Yes, I mentioned priestesses.  The Bees is an interesting mix of actual hive life and the author’s clever imagination.  Flora quickly distinguishes herself by speaking, a skill which no sanitation worker should possess.  She should have been killed for her failure to toe the line, but instead, she is allowed to put her talents to use in other areas.  Flora’s outlook on life changes when she is allowed to work in the nursery, and she must suppress her craving for motherhood, since only the Queen Bee is allowed to reproduce.  Flora also works as a forager, and she relishes the freedom of life outside the hive.  As she breaks free of the hive structure, she gains both allies and enemies.

Flora is initially tentative as she tests her boundaries, but as she becomes braver and bolder in her challenges, the danger to her increases.  She’s a fascinating character and an admirable heroine.  A nice counterpoint to Flora was the Queen Bee.  Of course, I knew the book would feature a Queen Bee, but before I met her, I expected her to be an evil, wicked character.  But to my pleasant surprise, she turned out to be exceedingly kind.  This Queen rules with love, not fear.

The synopsis compares The Bees to The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale.  I didn’t get any sense of The Hunger Games.  The Handmaid’s Tale?  Perhaps.  I also classified this as dystopia, which probably isn’t even correct, but I was at a loss for what else to call it, since I’ve never read anything quite like this.  I want someone else to experience this book, so I’m giving away an ARC to a U.S. resident.  Enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


15 Responses to “Review and Giveaway: The Bees by Laline Paull”

  1. Erika

    I’m not sure because I haven’t read it yet but it sounds interesting! Thanks!

  2. LeKeisha

    I would love to see lions in a story. They are so strong and territorial. That would be awesome.

    • Stephanie

      I think my early struggles with it were more due to just a general burnout on reading. After I picked it up after setting it aside for a couple of weeks, it became much more enjoyable.

  3. Valerie @ Innocent Smiley's Reviews

    I’m glad you liked it! I remember you tweeted saying that it wasn’t as good as you thought it would be when you first started reading it. What made you change your mind? (Or maybe I just imagined this tweet).

    I definitely would love to explore a dolphin or whale society, but I admit bees is a really good idea. They already have such a structured society in real life.
    Valerie @ Innocent Smiley’s Reviews recently posted…Short Hiatus until SaturdayMy Profile

    • Stephanie

      Nope, you did not imagine it! I really can’t explain it, other than it was more just a general reading rut. I really enjoyed the first 80 pages or so, and then I struggled through the next ten pages over a couple of weeks. I set it aside for a while, and when I picked it back up, I got right into it again.

  4. Tamara

    I would love to see a wolf pack explored in a human like way, but not werewolves. It would be interesting to see the whole pack dynamic done in a human way.

  5. Jodie

    I’m so intrigued by this book! I wouldn’t normally read something from the POV of an animal, but this just sounds so interesting!

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