Friday, May 22, 2009

"Of Bees and Mist" by Erick Setiawan

I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Of Bees and Mist through Barnes and Noble’s First Look program. I received the book yesterday (May 21st) and, quite frankly, devoured it. I finished it in less than twenty-four hours. From the first chapter I was totally drawn in, and I struggled to put it down.

In order to truly appreciate what Erick Setiawan has done, you simply have to give yourself over to the fantasy world he has created. Assume that all manners of wonder and enchantment are not only possible but likely, and allow yourself to be swept away. Once you have allowed yourself to become part of this new reality, you will find yourself drawn into the domestic drama surrounding a brave and lovely young girl, Meridia.

Of Bees and Mist chronicles Meridia’s trials and tribulations, beginning in her bizarre and neglected childhood years, and following her through her troubled adult life. Pronounced dead at birth, she is given a new lease on life as a result of her mother’s determination alone. However, following a vaguely remembered incident in the first year of Meridia’s life, her mother withdraws from reality. That, coupled with her father’s inexplicable disdain, leaves her to be raised primarily by a nurse in a cold, haunted, bizarre home that is surrounded by an ever-present mist.

During her sixteenth year, Meridia meets Daniel, the love of her life. After persuading her parents for their blessing, the two wed and move into Daniel’s family’s home. Meridia believes that her marriage will begin a new and wonderful life, removed from the strife and loneliness she has grown accustomed to. Unfortunately, her new mother-in-law, Eva, is a cold, jealous, manipulative shrew, bent on controlling the lives of all around her. At first, she sees her new daughter-in-law little more than a new servant for her household. Soon enough, however, she realizes that she has miscalculated Meridia’s strength of will, and it becomes all out war.

And what a war. In a world where magic abounds, both women have arsenals beyond anything I would ever have imagined. While Eva’s biggest strength comes in the form of her bees (grievances come to life, buzzing and swarming around her adversaries), Meridia finds that her strength comes from the family she sought to leave behind.

I was so pleasantly surprised by Of Bees and Mist that I really can’t say enough good things about it. It was everything I look for in a novel. Fantasy, richly developed characters, and old-fashioned drama. I couldn’t help but get emotionally involved from the beginning. I can give it nothing less than five enthusiastic stars.

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