I used to think I knew what bees were about. Little buzzy insects whose life purpose is to gather pollen, make honey, and protect their queen who keeps pumping out replacement bees. While all of this is true, I had no idea the socio-implications that brew under the surface of every bee hive. The Bees by Laline Paull does a fantastic job of bringing you into the world of bees and for the first time you see just what the world is actually like for them.
In the book we follow the bee named Flora 717. She is the Flora class and as such is born to be a sanitation worker. However, the story gets dark hella quick as a deformed bee is murdered on the spot for being different. Thus kicks off Flora 717’s life in a brutal way, because she is also different. She is larger than her fellow bee companions and can speak. Though a Sage Priestess thwarts her own execution. This bee Sage Priestess feels she would be useful in the bee nursery. So instead of working in sanitation, the lowest rank of the hive, she is raised to higher status as a nursery attendant.
When Flora 717 is no longer useful in the nursery she is moved back to sanitation. This doesn’t last long because Flora 717 is so strong that she can be a forager bee. Which means collecting pollen from flowers for her fellow bees back in the hive. Throughout the book Flora 717 bounces around all the areas of the hive to give you the reader the layout. Paull does this brilliantly to show all the bee jobs in the hive.
The only other real character of significance is Sir Linden. He is there to provide the male bee perspective versus Flora 717. There is also a semi-love story between them as the story progresses, but is insignificant to the other things occurring. From the food shortage to the fact that Flora 717 can lay eggs.
Yes, the crux of the story lies in the fact that Flora 717 is an abnormal bee. The Queen lays eggs, no on else. To be caught essentially being a breeder is a mark for certain death in the bee hive. And Flora 717 doesn’t just lay one egg, she lays three. I would say this is where the plot tension is. Otherwise it would be a book following a bee around as she does bee tasks.
The suspense of Flora 717 trying to protect her egg long enough for it to hatch and grow gets pretty nerve racking. Especially since the book wants you to empathize with her. One of the three eggs survives to become a bee. Not just a bee, but a princess. This inevitably leads to a bee thunder dome where the winner gets to be the new Queen of the hive.
The book basically ends there and there are other things that happen before then I haven’t mentioned. No more spoilers as there are some pretty great scenes. I would recommend this book just for the bee facts alone. Recommend this book also because it is a fun, easy read. I appreciate the research Paull put into it and the way she managed to arrange it in a way that is relatable for humans.
4.5* out of 5 Stars
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