Keeper of the Bees (Black Bird of the Gallows Series #2)

Keeper of the Bees (Black Bird of the Gallows Series #2)

by Meg Kassel

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"Beauty and the beast like you've never imagined!"New York Times bestselling author Pintip Dunn

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 unraveling Dresden’s solitary life and Essie’s tormented one. Their impossible romance might even be powerful enough to unravel a centuries-old curse.

Each book in the Black Bird of the Gallows series is STANDALONE:
* Cleaner of Bones (Prequel)
* Black Bird of the Gallows
* Keeper of the Bees

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781640634060
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC
Publication date: 09/04/2018
Series: Black Bird of the Gallows Series , #2
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 728,079
File size: 983 KB
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Meg Kassel is an author of paranormal and speculative books for young adults. A New Jersey native, Meg graduated from Parson's School of Design and worked as a graphic designer before becoming a writer. She now lives in Maine with her husband and daughter and is busy at work on her next novel. She is the 2016 RWA Golden Heart© winner in YA. Her debut novel, Black Bird of the Gallows, releases fall of 2017.

Read an Excerpt



the target

I can't tell you how many cities, towns, villages I have passed through. I stopped caring about their names long ago.

I can tell you that this town is flat and dusty and utterly uninteresting. It's somewhere in the Midwest, surrounded by miles of farmland. It's a mystery why people live here, although most of the places I visit are worse. Not that it matters.

This town is marked.

Harbingers of death have chosen to settle here for a time, which means in less than a month a good number of residents will be dead, and I will have moved on.

The park I walk through is thickly wooded, divided by winding footpaths. The trees offer shade from the blazing summer sun, but no one is here. They are all indoors, bodies by their air-conditioner vents, eyes on their televisions, and minds on absolutely nothing at all. I suppose I am fortunate that I don't feel the heat.

Or the cold. Or anything. Yes. So terribly fortunate.

I keep a slow pace, waiting for the sense, the knowing that a dark, unsettled person is nearby. Inside my chest, a hive of bees roils, restless with their long confinement. Soon, I think to them. Very soon. The bees can read my emotions well. They should, considering how long we've been bound together. We've grown ancient, the bees and I — unchanging relics of an era long erased from history.

Finally, I sense it, a prickling on the skin and a sharpening of my senses. A familiar surge of anticipation quickens my breath. There is a person nearby who interests my bees. I can feel my target as a human can feel the rain on their face. I walk faster. The bees hum louder. They pile into my sinuses, clog my throat. I pull in a great, sharp breath, sending them tumbling back into my chest.

Control yourselves! my thoughts snarl, not that the bees understand the exact words. Not that they would care if they could.

I find myself in a well-tended, perfectly square clearing. It's a playground, complete with slides, swings, and a colorful jungle gym. It's deserted except for a teenage girl. Pale hair hangs around her face, unbrushed. She sways idly in a swing, wearing jean shorts and a flimsy top. Her bare feet scratch up the dusty ground. She holds an animated conversation with her kneecaps.

I lean against one of the few trees lining this parched square of earth and watch her. She's different from the people my bees usually prefer, who are full of hatred and savagery and wrath. Their anger hits me like needles, blades. Sharp tacks driven deep.

This girl, however, does not have a dark mind. She looks to be around seventeen. Not much younger than I was, when I was human. Her energy is light, effervescent, and feels like bubbles popping all over my skin. She is as harmless as a broken doll. It's too bad for her that I encountered her now, when I am burning from the inside with the need to release my bees.

I don't have time to find another target.

She is alone. This would matter if I had the sort of face someone might try to describe to authorities, but I'm the closest thing to invisible. A shadow. An impression of a young man that the typical human mind turns away from before features can be registered. "Just a guy" is how I'm usually described. It's one of the brilliant details of the curse I'm saddled with. The curse of the beekeeper ensures that my face is rarely actually seen. It's certainly not a face anyone would want to see.

One determined bee crawls up my throat and into my nose. He sits in my left nostril, waiting to be released. Brazen little bastard. Fine, I'll let that one go, then.

The young woman stops swinging. Her head tilts up, and her gaze locks on me. She spots me, finally.

I pause, bee hanging on my nostril like a buzzing nose ring.

Wait. I inhale sharply, dragging the bee back inside my nose. It buzzes a noisy objection but holds still.

The young woman cocks her head to the side and stares at me. What she sees is anyone's guess. It could be the bland, nondescript countenance caught on photos, or the grotesque, shifting array of features that even I can't endure the sight of. More than likely, she's seeing something entirely of her own imagination.

Her mind works on a unique frequency, after all. I wouldn't have been drawn to her, otherwise.

She points at me. Her light blue eyes are incredulous. Her mouth, a circle of awe.

My chest constricts with the knowledge that she is seeing me. Me. My horrific face. And she's not screaming. She bursts into laughter, and I start with surprise. It's a high, fractured sound. Poor girl. She'll feel the bee sting but won't realize her last shreds of sanity are gone until she's fallen over the edge. And maybe not even then.

She sees me. How unusual. It's a spark of something interesting in my unvarying, monotone life. I push off from the tree and walk toward her.

I'm curious. How close can I get before she screams?

She continues to stare at me, even when I stop right in front of her. Pale eyes gaze up, fearless, fascinated.

I watch her reach into her pocket and pull out a plastic baggie with tiny balls inside. She extracts one and pops it in her mouth. Drugs, I assume. For reasons unknown, I'm pinched with disappointment. But then, she crunches the thing between her teeth, and the air between us bursts with the bright smell of pepper. Another surprise.

Her eyes water. She blinks rapidly, then frowns. "You're still here?"

"Apparently. Why are you chewing peppercorns?"

The girl shrugs. "I see things that aren't there. Pepper makes them go away long enough so I can tell what's real and what's not." She gives me an accusatory look. "Most of the time."

Fascinating or not, I should walk away. Now. "So you don't think I'm real?"

"How can you be?" She spits the chewed-up bits of peppercorn on the ground. "Your face changes like a kaleidoscope. Dr. Roberts would tell me that's not really real." She leans forward conspiratorially. "But you know what? Sometimes I think Dr. Roberts isn't real. Last week at our session, he had a forked tongue and he kept flicking it at me." She demonstrates with her first two fingers. "He wasn't happy when I pointed it out."

Good Lord, maybe stinging this girl will be a kindness. "In this case, your Dr. Roberts would be incorrect."

Her eyes go wide. "You're real?"

"I'm afraid so."

She smiles, shakes her head. "Of course you'd say that. No one wants to be someone else's delusion." She points at my face again. "Does it hurt when it changes like that?"

An odd question. "Yes, but not terribly."

"Can you make it stop?" she asks. "Can't you just pick one face?"

"No and no." For the life of me, I don't understand why I'm still standing here. Am I so desperate for conversation?

She cocks her head. "Which of those faces is yours?"

"None of them," I say with a twinge of ... regret, maybe. An unnameable something, vicious and long repressed, twists my stomach. I angle my face, giving her a full view of my horrible features. Bees roar in my throat. I'm sure she can hear them. I'm taunting her, pushing. Trying to make her recoil in fear like she should. "They're the faces of all the people I've killed."

She raises one eyebrow, seemingly unimpressed. "Are you planning to kill me?"

I am a monster. A beast. Lying about it would be pointless. "Yes."



my pretty delusions

Oh, I like this boy. I do. I like his long bones and ragged voice and how he smells like fresh honey. I like his pretty, pretty face, with all those slowly shifting features. It's like poetry, like a thousand people are crammed inside him, each taking turns pushing through.

I like him despite what he said about him killing me.

Perhaps we can work on that. Or not. It hardly matters, because despite his claims, he's not-not-not real. I'm full of cracks right now, so I see things all over the place that aren't real. I know I'm on my way to an episode when hallucinations talk to me, and most of them want to kill me. They never do, though.

The boy emits a whirring hum, kind of like a blender. The sound comes from his chest. Is he even aware of it? I look up and give him my best smile. The one showing all my teeth. "My name is Essie. Essie Roane."

The eyebrows shift from bushy red to thick brown and draw fiercely together. "Why would you tell me that?"

"You should know the name of a person, if you want to kill them," I say. "But you don't want to hurt me, do you, silly boy?" I laugh, sending lovely pink bubbles floating out of my mouth. His gaze does not drop to the bubbles, and I fiercely remind myself that I'm the only one who sees them. I fish out another peppercorn, crunch it between my teeth. It's godawful, but the bubbles disappear. The boy with the shifting face remains.

A sad smile pulls at his lips. "You really are out of your mind."

"Oh yes." I nod emphatically. "No one ever lets me forget that."

"I'm Dresden," he says with a sigh. "You should know the name of a person, if they intend to kill you."

My heart races. I like his name, too. "Dresden like the German city?"

"No, not at all like the city."

"Oh. 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.

"Of course." Irritation sharpens my voice. "All those lovely faces, coming and going like slow waves of an ocean — not that I've seen the ocean in person." Or ever will. Concordia is my home, and I can't imagine I'll ever journey far from it. St. Louis is an hour by car, and the farthest I've traveled. "I wish you were real. Dr. Roberts tells me every week how the things that don't look like they belong in this world are not real. You definitely do not look like you belong in this world."

His faces darken. "I don't belong in this world."

A bee appears between his lips, just briefly, before he moves a hand over his mouth and takes a step back. He smooths a hand over his throat. When he looks at me again, he looks regretful. "It's the bees." He says it through closed teeth. "They want to hurt you. They're screaming to be released."

I look down, unreasonably flattered. "Thank you for holding them back."

"I won't be able to forever."

I reach for his hand, but he snatches his arm away. I try another smile, not so big this time. "There's no such thing as forever."

"Believe me, there is." He turns toward the path, tugging his baseball cap low over his face. "It was a pleasure, Essie," he says, surprising me with a formal bow. Then he walks quickly away and seems to disappear down the path. Gone. Just like that.

I launch out of the swing to follow but stop when I hear Aunt Bel calling my name. She's jogging up the path toward me, panting like a puppy.

"Es-Essie," she puffs. She stops, leans against a tree, and draws in deep breaths.

I hurry to her side, fan her cherry-red face with my hands. "Why are you running? Are you being chased by an animal?"

"No, of ... course not." Her gaze moves to the path opposite her, the way Dresden left. "Who ... who was that boy?"

I stagger back a pace. "What boy?" There's no way. He's not real.

Impatience flashes in her eyes. "That boy," she repeats. "I saw you talking to him. I didn't get a good look at his face, but he didn't remind me of anyone from town." Her eyes narrow to slits. "Did he try any funny business with you? Or try to sell you drugs?"

"No, he didn't. I thought ..." My voice fades off. My skin goes clammy, despite the day's heat.

"You thought what?" my aunt asks.

"I thought he wasn't real."

"Oh, my sweet lamb." She huffs out a great breath and pulls me against her great, baby-powder-scented bosom. "My poor dear. Of course you'd think that. I saw him, though, so he must be real." A firm arm curls around my waist. She casts a hooded glance backward, then guides me from the playground. "Let's get you home. I shouldn't have left you alone to run my errands when I know you're not feeling right," she chastises herself. "You're a pretty girl, you know. You're going to attract boys who may not know of your condition. Some people are not good people."

My heart races. I can't stop blinking my eyes. Aunt Bel saw Dresden. So either Aunt Bel is seeing things too, or he is real. I don't think she is seeing things, which means he is real.

But he did things real people can't do.

Or maybe Dresden is real, but our conversation wasn't. Maybe he was asking me for something ordinary and innocent, like directions, and I was asking him whether or not he was there to kill me.

Confusion warps my mind like hot plastic. Sweat breaks out on my palms. I look down. The sweat turns black and oozes from the lines in my palm like streaming black ink. No, no, no! My breath hitches as the black stuff flows down the front of me and Aunt Bel. I whimper and tuck my fists under my armpits. We're leaving sloppy black footprints on the path.

Not real, not real, not real. I squeeze my eyes shut, but black stuff still flows down my sides, making my shorts stick to my legs. I can't unclench my fists to reach for my peppercorns. The differences between reality and the products of my inventive mind fall around me like a rain of tinkling glass. My vision narrows down to a distant point, then grays out entirely. I begin to hum a discordant, comforting tune and lean into Aunt Bel's softness.

"It's not him, it's the bees," I whisper urgently into Aunt Bel's ear. She's got to understand. "The bees are the ones who want to hurt me, not him. Nothim."

She shudders and pulls me closer. "It's okay, dear," she replies gently. "We'll get you home. Soon enough you'll be right as rain."

She says that often — that I'll be "right as rain," but I never am. I never will be.




I leave Essie and head to the outskirts of town. I can move very quickly when motivated. I'm currently very motivated.

The bees are roiling in my head and chest with such vigor, it feels like they're burrowing through my innards. I don't blame them for their fury. I should have stung that girl. I don't know why I didn't. I should have, because now I'm sweating — I can't remember the last time my body perspired — and worse, I'm shaking like an addict. My limbs are heavy with fatigue. I'm tired. So miserably tired. I need to sting someone. Soon. The bees will take over if I don't.

They might even go back for the girl, Essie.

I wait until I'm far away in a secluded field to turn into my traveling self. It's a brief, snapping pain, then a feeling like the wind. Like I'm everywhere at once. My body breaks apart, transforms into thousands of tiny honey bees, and joins with the hive in residence under my rib cage. Together, we make one massive swarm. My thoughts are the collective. My intentions are no longer separate from the hive. It's not easy to explain, this merging. The bees and I are one. My consciousness still calls the shots, but I become we.

I can't imagine how terrifying it must look when I do this.

We speed out of the town, flying miles and miles alongside a highway to a small cluster of box stores and strip malls, and knot up near the rear loading area of a Walmart, where I'm likely to find a lot of people concentrated in a relatively small space. More people makes it more likely that I'll find a target for my bees. I find a secluded spot between two trucks and return to my human form. I'm wearing the same ball cap, gray shorts, and T-shirt I had on in the park. I don't get to choose my clothes, which are as generic as you can get. Garments appear on my body like another layer of skin, like camouflage. Their purpose is to make me to blend in. It's another thing the curse does for me. Another thing I stopped caring about.

I stroll into Walmart, head down, trembling hands tucked deep in pockets. I'm as average as average can be, and, as usual, no one looks at me. Not one person. The cameras see a person who doesn't look like anybody, just the shadowed, blurry face of a guy as generic as the clothes on his body. I know this because I've been in those stores with the cameras and monitors right where you walk in. The first time I entered one, I stood there marveling at my image for an inordinate amount of time. It was pleasant, seeing this bland mask the curse invented for the camera. Far more pleasant than my real reflection, which reveals the horrible truth of what I am.

It only takes until the frozen foods section before my senses pick up a target. It's a man, middle aged with a stoop that makes him look older than he is. He must have come here from his job, as the tie around his neck is tugged open. The energy he gives off is dark and saturated with an old, repressed hatred that's seeped into every bit of him. Maybe he was made this way by someone. Maybe he was just born with bad wiring. Either way, he's mine.


Excerpted from "Keeper of the Bees"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Meg Kassel.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Keeper of the Bees (Black Bird of the Gallows Series #2) 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The characters were interesting and their relationship genuine This was a very enjoyable book to read
FrostAtMidnite More than 1 year ago
A fabulous read! It was only after I finished this book that I realised that this was a part of a series. So it is good to be as a standalone. Now for the book itself, it was a delightful read. Dresden lives with a hive of bees in his chest and Essie is cursed with hallucinations and delusions. It may sound a bit weird, but it really does not stop you from reading the book at one go. Even the slow pace of this book is not off-putting at all. It makes is more of a meandering read and that makes it a bit endearing. The characters, the writing, the emotions - all of it are what I love about this book. Definitely recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a companion novel to Black Bird of the Gallows, which I read and reviewed last year. You don’t have to have read the first one to enjoy this one, but I do recommend it. There are Harbingers in this book and to fully understand their role in this world you need the first book which explains it well. I remember when I read the first one that I really wanted to learn more about the Beekeepers, so I was so excited when I saw this story devoted to their mythology. This book is a paranormal romance, but there is a lot more to it. It has to do with falling in love with a person despite their flaws. There is a lot of angst surrounding the two main characters and their feelings for each other. In fact Dresden spends much of the time telling himself that he can’t get involved with Essie because of who he is and how that could harm her. Essie was a perfect romantic partner. I felt very sorry for her, she spent much of her time trying to decide what was real or a hallucination. Loved her relationship with her aunt Bel. Very loving and her aunt was great with her support. So was Essie’s grandmother who was also afflicted with the Wickerton’s family curse. It was a nice family of women who know how to support each other. Nice to see. Essie’s hallucinations are very descriptive and reflect how she feels about what is going on around her. Like her slimy psychiatrist who she always sees with a forked tongue and devil horns. Dresden was my favorite character. His history was fascinating and having to live with your face always changing and bees living inside gives him an interesting take on life. We do learn a little bit about how the harbingers and the beekeepers were made, way back in history when magic and science were somewhat the same thing. His life before becoming a Beekeeper helped to shape who he became and how he relates to Essie. I also enjoyed the fact that he was friends with one of the harbingers, Michael. That was a very interesting facet of Dresden’s life. I continue to really enjoy the writing style of the author. Very descriptive and the world building is suburb. This is definitely a series to pick up especially if you like stories that are slightly macabre and somewhat creepy. Even if bees freak you out a bit, this is such a good story you don’t want to miss it.
VoluptuousBDiva More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading this book and already feel the emptiness inside of me. I tried so hard to read this as slowly as I could, but the saying that all good things come to an end has never rung truer as they do now. Meg Kassel has an extraordinary way of encapsulating her readers with her vivid worldbuilding and beautiful characters. Essie and Dresden's story jumped right out of the pages and captured my attention right from the start. I even attempted to guess at specific outcomes, but the truth was so much better than what I'd imagined. I loved the new characters, and the appearance of characters from Black Bird of the Gallows wraps this into the perfect gift. Beekeepers, harbingers of death, the strawman, evil, and romance exist within the pages of this superbly written book. It surpassed all of my wildest expectations and I look forward to what comes next. -YA/NA Book Divas {I requested an advanced readers copy from the publisher via NetGalley and made no guarantee of a favorable review. The opinions expressed herein are unbiased and my own.}
Danii_045 More than 1 year ago
The Black Birds of the gallows have arrived in your town. You should be scared. Legend has it, if the birds have landed, death will follow. The Beekeeper is attracted to the destruction and the Strawman only turns up if evil plays a hand. Leave town while you still have time! Essie is seventeen years old and anything but ordinary. She struggles with reality. Sometimes she sees more than is really there. She lives with her Aunt and is cursed to follow the path of her ancestors. When she meets Dresden she knows he's special but how can he be real? He goes against everything she is told is normal. Dresden is a Beekeeper. He literally has a hive in his chest. The bees target people who are full of anger or hate. The bee's sting amplifies the negative emotion within its victim. Dresden accepts who he is. He carries the faces of many. The people who have died at the hand of his bees. Nobody sees him as anything more except her. Essie isn't frightened by Dresden and his Bees. She sees the beauty within. She sees someone who suffers just like herself. In a cruel world there could be someone to cherish and maybe a few wrongs can be put right. Keeper of Bees is a complex story and difficult to explain so I have tried my best to give an insight without giving anything away. This is the second book in the Black birds of the Gallows series. It can be read as a standalone, however Black bird of the Gallows is really excellent and gives background information which will help digest this story. This is a dystopian fantasy romance. It's unique, strange and mesmerising. Another great instalment to this series. 5 out of 5. *I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
TheThoughtSpot More than 1 year ago
Much more complex than I anticipated! Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled for the opportunity to read and review Keeper of the Bees by Meg Kassel! I assumed this would be a continuation of Black Bird of the Gallows, but it’s actually a companion novel with separate characters. Essie struggles with hallucinations, like many of her ancestors have. Dresden is the living embodiment of a curse that he received centuries ago. The two meet by chance and stop each other in their tracks. Essie sees Dresden as beautiful and wants to be in his company. Dresden is amazed at her reaction and is intrigued by her. The world building and background history are both fascinating and interesting and this story is so much more complex than I anticipated. A wonderful love story, 4 stars! * I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary review consideration and all opinions and thoughts are my own.
etoile1996 More than 1 year ago
the beekeeper's curse is particularly terrible. the beehive at their core one they coexist with. the horror of what they are, what they do, something they are too conscious of. dresden is a unique beekeeper, however. as tortured as the other's we have met, but he's got something of a soul still. he has a friend, another harbinger of death. one who he's been with since the end of the napoleonic wars. it's not a friendship that makes sense. it's not a friendship he welcomed or intended. but nonetheless, it's a connection. it's a bit of humanity. most of the time dresden feels like a monster. his form generally ignored by others. when he arrives in concordia, in the opening pages of keeper of bees, hungry and needing to sting, he's originally drawn to a girl. but something keeps him from allowing his bees to sting her. she sees him. she sees the shifting faces, the horror that is his presence and she doesn't run. and that intrigues him. essie is kind of out of her mind. a wickerton descendant, her family has been cursed with incurable madness for generations. and essie is the latest lucky recipient. the connection that sparks between dresden and essie is rooted in the past. in magic and curses. but oh the way these two talk to each other, all that feeling and love and emotion that is packed into every interaction. i just loved it. i seriously loved everything about this book. even the little glimpse of angie and reece. it's just so, so good. **keeper of bees will publish on september 4, 2018. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (entangled teen) in exchange for my honest review.
Lisa_Loves_Literature More than 1 year ago
Well, I haven't read the first book in this series, so was a little leery of reading this one, but my worries were all for nothing. This is more of a companion novel I guess, so I wasn't missing any knowledge that would keep me from enjoying this one. For me, the story started out a little weird. I was unsure just how I would feel about the characters, if I would be able to get into the story if they were too way out there. But it didn't take long before I was sucked into the story, needing to figure out just what was going on, who all these paranormal characters were, and just what exactly their role in the story was going to be. Dresden of course sounded pretty creepy at first, as a Beekeeper, having bees that came out of his mouth, as well as the fact that he could change from a human form into a swarm of bees to travel. The Harbingers seemed not quite so creepy, I mean, crows could be a little bit, but nothing like bees would be in my opinion. And then there was the Strawman. Yeah, that would definitely be creepy. While up until now, and most of the time still, for Essie, all of these people didn't seem that far out of the normal compared to things she saw all the time. You see her family suffered from a curse that caused them to all kind of go a little crazy. And as the story goes along, it seems that maybe not only does someone want to kill off the rest of the family members to end the long line of the curse, but at first to even try to blame it on Essie. There were a lot of twists and turns, some things I kind of had an inkling about as I read, and was pleased to see that I had kind of guessed correctly. Other things were total surprises, and I enjoyed being entertained with a new detail I couldn't come up with on my own. I'll have to find time to go back and read the first book, as well as the e-novella that is now available. This is a series that I feel would be good to have available in my school library, and the copy I got to read for this tour is one that I will donate to my school library for sure.
onemused More than 1 year ago
"Keeper of the Bees" is a hauntingly beautiful YA paranormal romance that follows Essie and Dresden in alternating chapters. In the world of "Black Bird of the Gallows," we learned about beekeepers, humans who were long ago cursed to carry a whole hive of bees in their bodies. Unable to die, they live a harsh existence, following the Harbingers to places where disaster will strike and must sting people as part of their curse- or lose their consciousness entirely. The people they sting are targeted by the bees for the darkness inside of them and they go insane acting on the darkness, ultimately killing themselves and/or loved ones. The beekeepers wear the faces of those they have stung/killed in an endless cycle of changing features. However, the curse makes people see them as nondescript and to be ignored. Dresden is a beekeeper and has followed the Harbingers to a town where his bees seem mildly interested in a young woman, Essie. Unlike the usual targets, Essie is full of light and not darkness. Even curiouser, she can see all his faces, and she is not repulsed. Munching on peppercorns, she is startled to find that he may not be one of her hallucinations. Essie is a Wickerton, and their family is cursed with mental illness that shows up in some (but not all) descendants. Essie has the 'honor' of being the youngest afflicted member of the family, and she is cared for by her Aunt Bel, who also cares for her ill grandmother. Aunt Bel has partial custody of Essie with her alcoholic and abusive father, who wants to commit her to Stanton House, which was created especially for institutionalizing the Wickertons. As Essie and Dresden find themselves pulled together, bigger plans are at play, and in a whirlwind of change, it is not clear whether or if they will make it out whole. Racing against the clock of an impending disaster as well as against the will of a serial killer targeting the Wickerton descendents, this fast-paced story flows so beautifully until the end. I am so glad I picked this one up, and I absolutely loved it. That being said, I do think this is intended for older audiences and would be cautious in reading it. There is attempted rape and sexual harassment (by a side character to Essie) plus the brutal murders and harsh treatment of mentally ill individuals. I think this is best suited for older readers. However, I absolutely recommend it, and I think it's a story that will stick with me for a long time. Kassel is going on my must-reads list! Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.
SchizanthusNerd More than 1 year ago
I need all of the stars for this one but it feels more appropriate to say it like this: What attracted me to Black Bird of the Gallows was intense insta cover love and I was quite shocked when I also loved the story. This time around, while another gorgeous cover drew me to it, my memory of being drawn into Angie and Reece’s story (and love) gave me the confidence that Keeper of the Bees was for me. However, I didn’t expect to love this one more! Our main characters, Essie and Dresden, are both damaged, victims of cursed lives. People either don’t even notice them at all or steer clear of them. They’re desperately lonely outcasts. Essie experiences a reality that ‘normal’ people don’t and her hallucinations cause people to fear her. Dresden is a beekeeper, feeding off peoples’ fear and condemned to wear the features of the victims of his curse. Their instalove appears doomed from the get go and although this goes against my very being to say this, I was hoping their love would find a way from their introduction. There’s something about the agony of the person they once were fighting against what their curses have transformed them into that I really connected to. Essie’s struggle to distinguish the boundaries between the reality she sees and the reality others see was heart-wrenching. The struggle of a beekeeper, being bound to an existence where over the course of centuries you’re witnessing the worst humanity has to offer with no hope in sight, no known end to your pain or isolation, broke me. While the curses of the harbingers, beekeepers and their mythology are explored in both books, the focus is different in each book. In Black Bird of the Gallows one of the main characters is a harbinger of death, whereas in this book it’s a beekeeper. I always love learning the mythology in characters’ worlds and adore the mythology of this series. Once again Meg Kassel’s writing is gorgeous and intoxicating. While the world of Black Bird mesmerised me, Keeper of the Bees made me a believer and I need more! While this book could be characterised as a romance it’s so much more and it’s the so much more that had me hooked. There’s the exploration of mental illness, the murder mystery, the growing unease of an impending catastrophe, the impact of our past on our present and the underlying hope of overcoming that which seems impossible. As this is a companion, not a sequel, you could read this book first but I’d highly recommend you read both because they’re just so good! Also, if you read Black Bird of the Gallows first you’ll be rewarded with a ‘where are they now?’ segment, a fleshing out of the mythology and an appreciation of just how remarkable Essie and Dresden’s love is, along with Dresden and Michael’s friendship, in this book. I am going to provide trigger warnings for child abuse and neglect, paedophilia, attempted sexual assault, alcoholism, suicide, family violence and inappropriate treatment of people affected by suspected mental illness. I personally felt these issues were all dealt with well and in context with the overall storyline but don’t want to presume that because I wasn’t affected by any potential triggers that others won’t be. Thank you so much to NetGalley and Entangled Teen, an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC, for the opportunity to read this book.