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review 2015-01-03 16:07
YA Whine with honey - The Prophecy of Bees by RS Pateman
The Prophecy of Bees - R.S. Pateman

I must begin this review by extending my congratulations to this book's PR person who rejected my request for it some months ago on NetGalley. You, dear person, are brilliant at your job. I began cackling wilding on the second page when the narrator characterised the pupils of Cheltenam Ladies College and other public schools as make-up free bluestockings. A few pages later, when we encounter the quaint rural types with their quaint rural ceremonies and bee gossip obsessions, I went to check if the author was American (he isn't). To suggest this book wasn't exactly my sort of thing would be the wildest of wild understatements.

 

The Prophecy of Bees is narrated by Izzy, the rebellious daughter of a late business-business man who was enobled by the Blair government for his various good works. Izzy's mother, an American who really enjoys being Lady Griffin-Clark, moves herself and her daughter to Stagcote Manor in darkest Cotswoldscestershire so Izzy can have a fresh crack at her A Levels without any of the behavioural problems which marred her first attempt. But Stagcote Manor may or may not have a Dark And Terrible Secret - the yokels call it Heartbreak Hall, all who live there are cursed, and Izzy finds rural life is governed by bizarre superstitions designed to keep people safe from something nobody will fully explain. 

 

Dun dun duuuuuuuuun.

 

Although this book is marketed as adult fiction, it's not really. The first 2/3rds are a mixture of light ghost story and what I call YAngst Lit: YA books in which the MC has legitimate problems presented in a desirable way (self-harm is a typical example), and which are dealt with maximum of drama and minimum of personal responsibility. YAngst Lit always has a parent figure who makes the decisions, often giving the pseudo-adult-aged MC something else to feel aggrieved about. It's the kind of thing I loved as a 12/13-year-old and a genre I mined in many a piece of exceptionally bad X Files fan fiction. 

 

So, when she's not trying to uncover details of the supposed curse, Izzy mourns the loss of her wannabe rock-star boyfriend Cosmo and the baby her mother 'forced' her to abort, but she does so with all the emotional engagement of somebody who's missed out on the latest iphone. The abortion in particular only matters as a way to punish her mother, or when Izzy wants to feel hard done by. Izzy should be 17 (I don't think it's specified) which means she can legally leave school, get a job, and acquire a place to store as many sprogs as she cares to pop out, but she's too busy Gothing up in an attempt to embarrass her mother to consider any of these things.

                

The other trouble is that the voice is not that of a 17-year-old girl, especially not one as immature as Izzy, so the whine never felt deliberate. I'm all for an unlikeable, even bratty, narrators, especially ones whose personal problems have given their sense of entitlement a good inflate (see Gillian Flynn's first two novels, Dark Places and Sharp Objects), but Izzy just felt thin. She was all about telling rather than showing, about how she had done X, Y, or Z, but it was never the voice of somebody who had done that. Nor did I get the sense we were supposed to doubt her validity as a narrator. It's a pacey book which sits largely on the surface: Izzy mentally makes accusations she retracts in the next paragraph so there's no time to digest it or suggestion you should question what she's doing or how accurately she's narrating it. 

 

As far as the actual story goes ... well, that wasn't going to be my thing either. One of the reasons I dislike YA is the element of wish fulfilment you often find in it - the MC is always the most important person in the world in some crucial way - and The Prophecy of Bees suffers this bigtime. Izzy is at the centre of everything: she is the only one who can hear the scratching in the walls; she is the one who engages with the superstitions; she is the one who becomes determined to discover the truth about Stagcote. Again, it doesn't feel like a deliberate narcissism, more that the other characters aren't engaged with anything when they're off-screen. The convenience of Izzy's progress is well disguised by the excellent pacing, but I was never on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen.

 

It doesn't help that I grew up in the kind of small town this book is set in, complete with a t'big house and a t'Lord and t'Lady of t'Manor who hosted t'village events. A book demands a reader suspend their disbelief but for me the idea that there exists a village full of forelock tugging yokels whose every move is governed by superstitions and traditions which have existed for, oh gosh, ages, is hilarious. I understand why The Wicker Man is considered a cult classic, but that film (the original version) makes me cackle even harder than the second page of this book did. At least Summerisle was remote and Scottish and their gene pool was small. Cheltenham has a Waitrose.

 

I get it, really I do. In my childhood town we frequently used our free time to try and summon the devil (the internet hadn't been invented yet). I've lived a lot of places and know more local traditions than you can shake a mare's skull at, but you're either going to have the temperament to sit through 350 pages of wide-eyed women insisting the MC must drink apple juice through her nose to prevent badgers eating her feet in the night, or you're me and regard it as somewhere between derivative and entertainingly stupid. I didn't get why Izzy should believe any of it - there are lots of reasons she could have but none came through in the book.

 

I also had my pedantry sensors tripped more than once, particularly when Izzy arranges a funeral for a skeleton she has found. I had to research funerals last year so I can tell you with some confidence that what she organises would have been over three thousand pounds without the extra cost of her chosen coffin, payable up front. It's not mentioned how she pays for it and it matters not only because I am a pedant who makes petty complaints, but because it shows the author isn't applying real-world logic to their characters. If they aren't thinking about who their characters are and what they are able to do, even on a day-to-day basis, how am I going to take them seriously? It's not just this either, every mention of 'Lady Lindy' was a minor irritation (because she isn't and it matters, dammit).

 

If you have a tolerance for immature YA heroines with controlling mothers and can sit straight-faced through stuff like The Blair Witch Project, you may well enjoy this. There's huge potential for a film version which I'm confident I wouldn't like either, but I, despite the efforts of the marketing team, am really not the audience for this. It was entertaining enough and I'm not put off giving something else by this author a whirl, but due to the deeply stupid ending this one gets 1.5 stars.

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review 2014-12-13 00:00
The Prophecy of Bees
The Prophecy of Bees - R.S. Pateman Featured on my 2014 favourites list!

‘What do we do?’
‘Just tell them your name and who you are,’ Howard said.
‘You’re joking me,’ I said.
‘Just say it. Come on. For Cedric’s sake.’
‘I’m Isabella,’ I said in a poor copy of Cedric’s singsong voice. ‘But you…’ I pointed at the hives with a single finger, ‘you can call me Izzy.’
Howard glared at me.
‘My name’s Izzy,’ I said, enunciating clearly. ‘And I live at Stagcote Manor.’
The thrum of the hive intensified.



The Prophecy of Bees harks back to something that was all the rage ten to fifteen years ago; small town superstitions and weirdness.

Inevitably, in these stories, the main characters will be new to a town and they will see that something is off, but their friends and families won’t listen to them.

There will be little hints, things that don’t add up, strange superstitions about how sharpening your knives after sunset is inviting thieves to the house. And then you’ll hear the scratching. Then the stories of unfortunate endings begin to come to light. And still, no one will listen, because you’ve been “crying wolf” all along.

The rest of this review can be found here!
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review 2014-11-02 13:05
The Prophecy of Bees - Review.
The Prophecy of Bees - R.S. Pateman

Publication Date: 20th November 2014 from Orion.

 

Source: Publisher Advance Review Copy.

 

When Lindy, a recently widowed American expat, buys a large manor house in the Cotswolds, she thinks it’s the fresh start she and her wayward daughter Izzy need. Stagcote Manor is a large, rambling house with a rich history and Lindy is thrilled at the prospect of their new life there.  When Izzy begins to investigate the history of the house, her unease soon darkens to fear as the manor’s dark past finally comes to light.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this story – a haunting and clever read, intriguing characterisation and a flowing engaging tale following Lindy and Izzy as they move into a new home and discover the myths and legends surrounding it.

 

Izzy is annoyed and upset at having to move to the country, having had some problems her Mother decides a new start is in order. Stagcote Manor may not be the best choice however, as a dark curse apparently haunts those who live there…

 

The theme of Superstition and belief is very well done here – how much our own beliefs influence us, how sometimes seemingly small things can change our perspective – I found it fascinating stuff as Izzy, starting off with a sceptical point of view, is slowly but surely drawn down the rabbit hole and becomes more and more convinced that she and Lindy are in grave danger. The author weaves a web around her, allowing different interpretations of events and grounding the tale in reality whilst leaving open endless possibiities.

 

I have to say that I did not always like Izzy – she often came across as an entitled brat but she also has a sympathetic side – a troubled teen who takes her frustrations out on her long suffering Mother, the relationship between this pair is one of the best things about the story. Even taking away the more mystical aspects, as a snapshot view it is also a coming of age tale. Izzy is forced by a series of seemingly odd happenings to grow up and develop a better appreciation of Lindy and the sacrifices she has made.

 

Added to that there is the village and its occupants – the author manages to create a tense and off kilter atmosphere to the community as a whole, again allowing Izzy to tell the tale but the reader to interpret for themselves – they are a strange and eclectic bunch with old and far reaching traditions that pull Izzy and her family ever further into the mire. The tension racks up in a very addictive and creepy way, the sense of place is simply terrific, I was left with a distinctly uneasy feeling every time I put this down to do something else. Also in my opinion, the ending was absolutely perfect, I shook my head as I finally put this aside then picked it up and read the end again…always a good sign.

 

For me this was a bit like  a homage to “The Wicker Man” ( the movie based on Ritual by David Piner)  – that was what it put me in mind of while I was reading, even though the two tales are VERY different,  atmospherically speaking the pervading sense of menace it induced in me as a reader was very much the same as I experienced years ago watching the fantastic Edward Woodward trying to untangle the minutae of Summerisle – so in a way this was a nostalgic read, old school storytelling at its best.

 

Overall then an excellent reading experience that could be marketed as Young Adult or Adult and would definitely be enjoyed by both – Recommended for fans of mystery with a magical edge.

 

Find out more here: http://rspateman.com/

 

Follow the author on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/rspateman

 

Pre – Order information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Prophecy-Bees-R-S-Pateman/dp/140912861X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414933284&sr=1-1&keywords=the+prophecy+of+bees

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text 2013-10-20 10:18
Books I have Just Purchased.
The Beauty of Murder - A.K. Benedict
The Lifeboat - Charlotte Rogan
The Second Life of Amy Archer - R.S. Pateman
How To Fall - Jane Casey
Beauty - Sarah Pinborough
The Awakening & The Struggle (The Vampire Diaries, #1-2) - L.J. Smith

Oh Which shall I read first?

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