KEEPER OF THE BEES is a tale of two teens who are both beautiful and beastly, and whose pasts are entangled in surprising and heartbreaking ways.
Dresden is cursed. His chest houses a hive of bees that he can’t stop from stinging people with psychosis-inducing venom. His face is a shifting montage of all the people who have died because of those stings. And he has been this way for centuries—since he was eighteen and magic flowed through his homeland, corrupting its people.
He follows harbingers of death, so at least his curse only affects those about to die anyway. But when he arrives in a Midwest town marked for death, he encounters Essie, a seventeen-year-old girl who suffers from debilitating delusions and hallucinations. His bees want to sting her on sight. But Essie doesn’t see a monster when she looks at Dresden.
Essie is fascinated and delighted by his changing features. Risking his own life, he holds back his bees and spares her. What starts out as a simple act of mercy ends up unravelling Dresden’s solitary life and Essie’s tormented one. Their impossible romance might even be powerful enough to unravel a centuries-old curse.– Synopsis taken from Goodreads.
That’s it. I’m saying it.
I will literally buy anything Meg Kassel writes. I don’t care what genre it is, I’ll take it thanks.
I read and LOVED Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel last year, and needless to say I was on the hunt for more. And when I discovered there was another book set in this universe… let me tell you – it was a frightening sound. Neither squeal nor scream but some terrifying hybrid.
Which is also the sound I made when I finished this book, except it was laced with sorrow and sadness. Because it’s finished.
And I can’t devour anything more about my favourite world and characters.
Keeper of the Bees takes place after the events of Black Bird of the Gallows and follows two new characters! Although excitedly, later on in the book there is a brief cameo by Reece and Angie from the first book which was LOVELY! I may have squealed a little. Seeing characters you love being happy together is the ultimate form of joy.
Set in a world much like ours on the surface, but the characters we follow give us a peek (or more, hour long glances as they show us around) into the supernatural world which is hidden from plain sight of all those pesky humans.
Cursed to live immortal lives and survive by harvesting the energy from fear and death, the harbingers and beekeepers live side by side.
Beekeepers cannot die at all, and if the harbingers die they are reincarnated. Starting from early childhood again, while still remembering everything from their previous life cycles. The only way a harbinger is different from the beekeepers and the other immortal creatures living a cursed existence, is that they can request the mortouri. In which a harbinger is pecked to death by their best friends and found family. Killed by a murder of crows, if you will.
If the title didn’t give it away already, unlike the first book where the story is mainly focused on the harbingers – this book has a beekeeper at its heart.
Although there are plenty of harbingers flying about too. And we also get to encounter a Strawman – a feared entity in the supernatural world. Makes even the most unfeeling remember what it is like to be scared.
But unlike the first book where Angie’s Point of View is all we have to go on, in this one we have a dual POV which works very well. Extremely well actually. I loved seeing what soft boi Dresden was thinking in his head whenever Essie did something that left him a little flustered – which was often.
I don’t know if I can put it into eligible words, how much I loved that in the first book, the beekeepers were something to be feared. They were The Bad GuysTM and reading this book – learning more about their curse, learning about Dresden in particular was a delight.
I really loved that there was more of the history in this book compared to the first. We got to learn about Dresden’s history, before he became a beekeeper, but also more about the curses in general.
Hearing about a time “long forgotten” (Dresden’s words not mine) when there were sorcerers and magic, and Kings and Queens who took what they wanted, with no care for what other people wanted, if only it meant they had more power, pushed my imagination into overdrive.
I can really see a few more books coming after this one, where the curses unravel and these poor souls who had no choice in becoming cursed finally get to rest – to relax. These people could use a nice holiday where they aren’t thinking about harvesting energy from the dying or the dead.
The Bee Man.
All the beekeepers know each other. They were all turned into beekeepers around the same time by sorcerers. But they don’t all hang out together. Which is sad, they all need some friends that can cheer them up.
BUT BACK TO DRESDEN!
He has been roaming around the world endlessly for centuries, following a group of harbingers to places were there is an imminent disaster so that he can feed off the fear. The harbinger, Micheal, decided that he and Dresden are friends – and Dresden begrudgingly allows his companionship, and though he doesn’t say it aloud, considers Micheal his only friend. I mean, when Micheal turns into a crow his clothes get left behind so Dresden, the stone cold “we’re not friends” guy DELIVERS his clothes to where he’s staying. True friendship right there. Beautiful.
It’s when they arrive at the next location for a disaster that he meets Essie. They meet in a park, where Essie is swinging idly on a swing. and his bees are on edge and want to sting her, even though they usually only sting those who are tainted by evil already.
Essie isn’t afraid of him and his shifting faces, and Dresden holds his bees back, letting them bonk against the backs of his teeth instead.
Let’s point out the fact that Dresden is a grumpy, salty, immortal who even though his face shifts to other peoples faces constantly, is stuck with a natural deadpan expression. He is very precious. He believes so whole heartedly that he is a monster and that Essie is too good for him, but regardless spends his days making sure she’s safe and “oh gosh, maybe I should say hi?? No. I can’t. I must stay away. Must maintain my grumpy persona!” *Dresden in bee form bonks into Essie’s window, like a sad puppy that wants to be let in* “OH HAI ESSIE! HA! FANCY FINDING YOU HERE… IN… YOUR ROOM. HA!” *Essie smiles at him and he gets heart pain – of the good sort but he and his bees think they’re gonna die*
And also, she said his changing features were pretty and Dresden, the centuries old monstrous creature with a hive of bees living in his chest, and the faces of the people he’s stung (they later died as a result of the sting) shifting across his face, turns into a big flustered mess.
“Okay anyway. You’re terribly pretty, Dresden. I could stare at you all day long.”
He blinks rapidly, then lets out a sound that is either choking or a laugh. I can’t tell which.
“You think I’m… pretty?” he asks.– Essie’s PoV, Chapter 2, Page 7. Keeper of the Bees by Meg Kassel.
Essie suffers from a “curse” of her own.The Wickerton Curse. A select few descendants of Opal Wickerton (Essie’s great – great grandmother) inherited this “curse”. The ones affected suffer from debilitating delusions and hallucinations. The doctors all assume that it’s some variation of paranoid schizophrenia but they can’t pin point what exactly it is (what it is, is revealed later in the book and my gosh it all ties together so smoothly).
When Essie meets Dresden she immediately likes him and feels at ease in that she’s not afraid of his reaction to her reacting to her delusions.
Essie is the softest character… ever. Everyone wants to keep her safe. DRESDEN HASN’T FELT EMOTION SINCE THE DARK AGES AND HERE HE IS! SHE. IS. PRECIOUS!
I love Essie. So much. She’s just so sweet and innocent and she liked Dresden from the get go, even though he was all “Yeah, I might murder you, it’s all I do in this cursed existence.” And Essie was instantly like “New best friend? Yes. I think so.”
It was so adorable to go from Dresden’s PoV, where he talks about how monstrous he is, and how Essie must find him horrible. But then we cut to Essie’s PoV and she’s talking about how wonderful he is almost all the time. She finds his changing facial features and the buzzing emitting from his chest and the constant smell of honey to be comforting not terrifying and I just… so soft. I’m soft. They’re soft. EVERYTHING IS JUST SOFT!
(if you ignore the constant panic we suffer through)
You can’t help but feel for Essie, reading about her delusions and how upset they make her because she just wants to be “normal.” She wants to go to art school, but her mental health means that she can’t.
Also, I’d like to point out that I love how the arts are presented in these books?? Book One was music, Angie was a DJ and made her own music. Essie is an artist and she draws her delusions to great detail, aparently, according to her Aunt Bel (who is an all round great character by the way, we love her and how she stood up for Essie around every corner and was just there for her no matter what, she was also nice to Dresden even though he thought everyone would hate him if they saw his true face, bless) Essie also drew a picture of Dresden and his faces to a T.
Similar to how Dresden thinks his being a beekeeper makes him a monster that isn’t worthy of love, Essie thinks her delusions and inability to tell what is and isn’t real make her unlovable.
Both she and Dresden are so lovable, I loved them after the first 4 chapters tbh.
Essie’s delusions painted some scenes that are just plain adorable. Like, when she laughs pink bubbles fly out of her mouth.
So many things were going on at once in this book and I loved that. It wasn’t like a jumbled mess of a million problems, it was more like every time you round a corner a new problem arises that is connected to the first problem. Like, we had:
- The angst of a somewhat forbidden romance, which tugged at the heart strings because they are both so worthy of love and they both could use a hug every 10 pages of this book.
- But then there was also the impending disaster looming over the town, which is the whole reason Dresden was in Concordia in the first place – the harbingers can tell when a place is marked for disaster, so they all gather to harvest the death energy.
- And then we had a murder – mystery thing going on, where it was pretty difficult to tell who was doing the murders, there were some deplorable people that were easy to suspect but they were dismissed pretty quickly.
- There was the Strawman being all ominous with his riddles.
- Then there was Essie’s mental health deteriorating as things get more intense.
- There was Dresden starting to have feelings again, and got his first bruise in centuries, bless.
There were a little more but they might be a little spoilery… so you’re going to have to read to find out more!
Just know that all those problems the characters go up against, tie together at the end in such a satisfying and seamless way, it was amazing to read.
I loved reading Essie and Dresden’s story, and especially how they found comfort and joy in each other when their worlds, though vastly different, made them feel outcasted. I love that their love wasn’t about “fixing” the other, they were in love with each other because of who they were – it wasn’t going to be stopped by a buzzing bee hive in his chest and his changing faces, nor the things she things she could see that no one else could. They were in love and it’s so soft and precious.
Best romance of the century, hands down.
Out of 5 stars, I give Keeper of the Bees:
ALL THE STARS!!!!!!!!! I highly recommend this book to everyone, but to you especially if you love: Paranormal and Supernatural, Romance, a murder mystery vibe, soft characters who are soft to each other.
Have you read any of Meg Kassel’s books yet?? Do you plan to?? Are they buried in your TBR pile somewhere?? DIG! YOU MUST DIG FOR THESE PRECIOUS GEMS OF BOOKS! What was the last book that left you with a soft feeling heart??