Review: Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan

23 Jun

rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is another book I had a hard time rating. There were things about this book that I loved, and things that I really disliked. I did enjoy reading it, but I find the things I didn’t like continuing to bug me now that I’m finished. In the end, I think it is a high 3 star rating for me.

Synopsis from the Barnes and Noble Website:

Of Bees and Mist is the tale of Meridia — raised in a sepulchral house where ghosts dwell in mirrors, she spends her childhood feeling neglected and invisible. Every evening her father vanishes inside a blue mist without so much as an explanation, and her mother spends her days venomously beheading cauliflowers in the kitchen. At sixteen, desperate to escape, Meridia marries a tenderhearted young man and moves into his seemingly warm and charming family home. Little does she suspect that his parents are harboring secrets of their own. There is a grave hidden in the garden. There are two sisters groomed from birth to despise each other. And there is Eva, the formidable matriarch whose grievances swarm the air like an army of bees. In this haunting story, Setiawan takes Meridia on a tumultuous ride of hope and heartbreak as she struggles to keep her young family together and discovers long-kept secrets about her own past as well as the shocking truths about her husband’s family.

I really liked:

  • The first few chapters.  I was truly charmed as the book got started, and we met the characters, and were introduced to the mystery surrounding them.
  • The setup of the magical world.  The magic here is mostly in things that people make happen indirectly, rather than by casting spells.   People’s feelings and personality end up manifesting in interesting ways.  It was a unique magical system, and I enjoyed exploring it.
  • The bees, the mists, and the fireflies, as part of that magical world.  They helped us see what would otherwise have been hidden.
  • The main character, Meridia. She was smart and resiliant, and took action to deal with all of the things that happened to her over the course of the book.
  • Hannah. Such a helpful friend.
  • Eva. Such an evil antagonist.
  • The writing itself was beautiful when I noticed it.  I usually don’t notice.
  • The book was unusual.  I really enjoyed that about it.  I’ve never read anything else like it.

I didn’t like:

  • All of the negativity around marriage and childbirth, and around personal relationships in general. Yes, they are hard, but not THAT hard. People do survive them.
  • How we saw so much more of the bad than the good in so many characters.  Flaws make characters interesting, but in moderation.
  • Most of the secondary characters. They were either flat or changed in ways that were not believable to me.

If you are looking for a magical book, that isn’t quite like anything else you’ve read, consider picking up this book.  Otherwise, look at my comments, and see what you think.

I read this book through the Barnes and Noble First Look Book Club.  I want to give them a big Thank You for my copy of the book and for the opportunity to participate in the on-line discussion.


Posted by on June 23, 2009 in books, reviews


Tags: , , ,

6 responses to “Review: Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan

  1. J.W. Nicklaus

    June 23, 2009 at 9:03 am

    I really liked this review. It was honest without being brutal; ‘genuine’ is the word I was looling for. I found it interesting that you commented “The writing itself was beautiful when I noticed it. I usually don’t notice.” That says a lot for how the author was able to draw you out as the reader. That’s a huge compliment from my perspective.

  2. pumpupyourbookpromotion

    June 23, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    I’m agreeing with J.W. I wish more reviewers would take hints from you!

  3. BookwormMari

    June 24, 2009 at 10:06 am

    I am going to confirm what the others are saying… I think I’m going to have to include a ‘what I liked/didn’t like’ for some reviews.

    There are very few books that I just down right do not like – I usually indicate if I would pass the book along to super busy friends (as my criteria) – which doesn’t mean the book is terrible.

    Thanks for your review!

  4. thekoolaidmom

    January 10, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    I finally finished this, after putting it down and forgetting it for so long. I’m not sure if I linked the B&N First Look in my review, so I’ll have to go and check that.

    I agree it was not like anything I’ve ever read. I think that’s some fo what made it so captivating, because I just didn’t know where the story would go.

    I like your review, I think it’s better than mine 🙂 It’s much better organized, which is hard to do with this book, I think.


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