The Last Beekeeper
Rebecca L. Fearnley
Publication date: April 20th 2022
Genres: Adult, Dystopian, Fantasy, Young Adult
Solma is a fighter. Trained by her village Steward to protect their community from the predators of their harsh world, she is fierce and loyal. But how can she protect her friends and family from crop failure and starvation? With flying insects extinct for over a century, nowhere on the forsaken continent of Alphor is safe and Solma is terrified her little brother, Warren, will be one of the next to die. The villagers cling to life, waiting for the Earth Whisperers—mysterious nomads with a strange magic that helps plants grow—to arrive.
But then Warren finds something. Something impossible. When the first bee in a hundred years crawls out of the earth, Warren forms a strange bond with the creature and Solma fears he might have a new power. One that leaders of Alphor would kill for. As she and Warren fight to keep the bee secret and safe, word of this miracle sweeps the continent. Allies and enemies alike descend on the village. Some demand the bees for themselves, others want to destroy the colony to level the odds. When words become threats and then violence, Solma and Warren are caught in the conflict, and now it isn’t just the bees in danger.
When whoever controls the bees controls the world, how will Solma and Warren know who to trust?
The insect—for it can only be an insect—wanders groggily over the mound, seems to contemplate her fingertips for a moment and then clambers aboard.
Its feet are so light, she can barely feel them. She holds the creature up to her face, frowning as it waggles its antennae. Its gold-and-black striped body gleams in the sun, fuzzy to the point of ridiculous, with delicate gossamer wings and antennae that twitch curiously. Solma stares.
“What is it, d’you think?”
It isn’t a beetle. Solma knows that much. Warren’s pulling at her fingertips, straining to see. Solma suppresses a smile and holds the creature out so he can get a better look. Warren’s eyes widen.
“That’s a bee!” he whispers. Solma scoffs.
“No it isn’t,” she laughs, ruffling his hair. “It can’t be, can it? There ain’t no more bees.”
No one has seen one in over a century. This can’t possibly be a bee.
Still. What’s the harm in letting her brother hope?
She watches it wriggling on her finger. She can feel it now if she concentrates. The lightest brush of life against her skin. It buzzes its wings half-heartedly and Warren grins with delight. Solma can’t help grinning, too. It’s been such a long time since she’s seen him smile.
“Why don’t it fly away?” Warren asks. “You think it’s sick?”
Solma gently cups her other hand over the insect and draws it close to her chest. Could it be sick? The thought makes her sick, too. The summer skies have been empty of flying things for such a long time that suddenly she can’t bear the thought of this one falling ill. It buzzes against her again, shuffling down her finger and into her palm, as if accepting the safety she’s offering. Its little body thrums, begging protection.
“Maybe it is sick,” Solma concedes, then balks at the stricken look on Warren’s face. “We’ll save it,” she says without thinking.
It’s a daft thought. She doubts they can save it. If it really is a bee, it’s the only one she’s ever seen. Where can it possibly have come from?
Rebecca has been obsessed with two things since she learned to walk and talk: stories and animals. Luckily, the two seem to be very compatible. Rebecca writes stories set in strange worlds filled with bizarre creatures, strong female characters and magical powers. She started her writing career as a poet, performing all over the country and publishing her first collection, Octopus Medicine, with Two Rivers Press in 2017.
In addition to writing, Rebecca is also a teacher and, in 2018, decided that she wanted to write quality books for the young people she works with. Her books tend towards themes of respect for the environment, protecting the planet and the new generations challenging the old to face up to their mistakes.
She lives in Reading, UK, with her unusual family, which includes herself and her partner, a friendly little mini-lop rabbit (called Cleo) and a gregarious and feisty quaker parrot (called Maya).