Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan - Book Review

Assigning a genre to Of Bees and Mist is difficult. Part fable, part magical realism set in an imaginary world, Of Bees and Mist believes in fortune tellers, ghosts and mysterious occurrences while simply telling the chronicle of a family. And though basically a tale of family and marriage, Of Bees and Mist resides pleasingly close to the realm of the fantastical.

Merida grows up in a house devoid of love. Her father is distant and often cruel. His evening wanderings stir the pot of anger within Merida’s mother. Merida knows the anger originates in a fleeting memory of screams and flashing light, but no one will tell her the secrets her parents keep. A cold and angry mist surrounds Merida’s home and she soon finds warmth in the arms of the dashing, young Daniel.

But Meridia’s marriage begins with a rocky start as she quickly learns that things in Daniel’s home are little better. Meridia’s mother-in-law, Eva, rules her family with iron will and Meridia will soon have to choose between Daniel and his dysfunctional family.

While Of Bees and Mist seems a simple family saga, debut author Erick Setiawan dazzles the page with so much more. Borrowing elements of various cultures and set in a fictional land, Of Bees and Mist is filled to the brim with ambiance and imagery. There’s always something brewing just below the surface, compelling the reader forward, and hinting at a hidden purpose, a moral waiting to be mined.

Of Bees and Mist does contain a few missteps that, though not completely distracting from the telling, must be noted. Several characters are never fully developed or dropped from the tale too easily. While the story is ultimately Meridia’s, these characters were fleshed out enough to deserve a bit more closure. And though noting the tongue-lashing that might follow: the novel also thinly veils some stereotypes. There’s a wicked, money-driven gypsy named Ahab and the women seem to use spell-like behaviors to manipulate the weak men. This could be explained by the fact that Of Bees and Mist is ultimately the story of three very strong-willed women.

Certainly though, these few qualms shouldn’t distract from this debut author’s first-rate effort. Of Bees and Mist is overflowing with storybook metaphors and magic. It will delight readers who enjoy magical realism and/or modern fables. Be sure to check out the well-designed cover after finishing the tale. You’ll find all sorts of symbolic elements there. Highly recommended by this lover of speculative fiction.

Preorder Of Bees and Mist Here. It will be released on August 4, 2009.

Check out the Book's Website Here

Watch author Erick Setiawan discuss the book on Simon & Schuster HERE

Thank you to Barnes & Noble for my advanced copy.

© 2007-2009

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