This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase using that link, a small commission is made from the sale. There are no additional costs to you. Thank you for your support!Keeper of the Bees by Meg Kassel
Black Birds of the Gallows #2
Other Books: Black Bird of the Gallows
Published by Entangled: Teen on September 4, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance
The author/publisher provided a free copy of the book for review purposes - thank you! Receiving a review copy does not guarantee a positive review and therefore do not affect the opinion or content of the review.
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.
I enjoyed Black Bird of the Gallows, but if I had to choose between the first and the second, I loved the second so much better than the first.
Keeper of the Bees is Meg Kassel’s second novel, the companion novel to Black Bird of the Gallows. We’re brought back to the world of harbringers and beekeepers in a smol town in Missouri (hey, look, my home state!) and their roles in death.
Keeper of the Bees is a bit of a villain story.
Harbringers flock to where death happens and “absorb” the energy emitted. Beekeepers usually cause the death by using their bees to sting someone, resulting in them reaching their destruction (aka death). Keeper of the Bees tells the story of Dresden, a boy cursed for eternity, and Essie, a girl who eats peppercorn to discern real from unreal.
Dresden is a precious onion with layers despite being Evil™.
Most villains are evil and pure evil, but Dresden is a precious little onion who is cursed to be evil. He doesn’t want to be evil and shows that he doesn’t want to be evil. Throughout the novel, he’s struggling to not sting Essie despite the bees inside wanting him to do so.
Aunt Bel is amazing, and I just want to hug her.
Essie is part of the Wickerton family, a family with members who are cursed to lose their sanity and eventually end up at Stanton House. Essie’s curse is not being able to tell what is real and unreal, at least without the help of peppercorns. Both her and Aunt Bel are in a constant battle with her father and psychiatrist when it comes to her mental health and sending her to Stanton House with other members. Aunt Bel is such a strong advocate for Essie and her Grandma Edie, and she refuses to give in to what Essie’s father and psychiatrist want for Essie.
Reece! Angie! References to the first novel!
Do you have to read the first novel? Nawh, you don’t have to since Kassel gives the 411 on her world for those who haven’t read the first, so you’re safe to dive into Keeper of the Bees without worrying about being totally lost, but you should definitely read Black Bird of the Gallows first.
Overall, Keeper of the Bees was a delight to read! I loved seeing from the other side of things where the supposed “villain” is in a constant battle to be a better person.
About Meg Kassel
Meg Kassel is an author of fantasy and speculative books for young adults. A graduate of Parson’s School of Design, she’s been creating stories, whether with visuals or words, since childhood. Meg is a New Jersey native who lives in a log house in the Maine woods with her husband and daughter. As a fan of ’80s cartoons, Netflix series, and ancient mythology, she has always been fascinated and inspired by the fantastic, the creepy, and the futuristic. She is the 2016 RWA Golden Heart® winner in YA and a double 2018 RITA® finalist for her debut novel, Black Bird of the Gallows.