5 Things You Need to Know About Solma

Only two and a bit months until The Last Beekeeper is officially launched! I’m so excited to share this book with you all!

While it’s a fantasy story (my favourite genre, obviously!) it’s also about a subject really close to my heart; the protection of our insects and respect for the natural world.

But even if you’re not all that interested in insects and the environment, I hope you’ll still find this story fast-paced, tense and exciting, with a female protagonist I love to bits, a great sibling relationship and a bring-down-the-tyrant trope that I know fantasy and dystopian readers often love.

And I also hope you’ll love my main character as much as I love her.

So: Meet Solma El Gatra. She’s 16 years old when The Last Beekeeper starts. She’s got dark hair and dark eyes, which is unusual for Southtip Province, and she’s taller than almost everyone else she knows.

She’s a kickass soldier, a protective big sister and she loves her Aunt Bell.

Here are five things you need to know about Solma, ready to read The Last Beekeeper!


1. She’s a Sergeant in the Gathering Guard

Solma’s really proud of being a soldier.

She’s Gatra caste, which means she’s a member of the village Gathering Guard.

Gatra wear black uniforms and carry rifles, pistols and hunting knives. They have a pretty diverse job, but it’s all based around protecting the village. Solma has to do patrols every day to keep the village safe, she has to go into the managed woodland south of the village to hunt giant wild boar to make sure the village is fed.

She’s also the village’s first line of defence if there’s an attack or a raid, and the Gatra also act a little like police, so Solma and her squad are responsible for keeping the peace among the villagers.

Solma takes her job very seriously and was promoted to Sergeant just before chapter one of The Last Beekeeper. She’s hoping the extra rations she gets as payment will help take care of her family. She became Gatra caste when she was twelve and started to train as a soldier. She feels like she’s following in her mother’s footsteps because her mother was Gatra-caste, too (more on that later).

But Solma’s life as a soldier isn’t without danger. When she was thirteen, a wild boar hunt when terribly wrong and Solma was attacked.

Her left leg was so badly damaged that it had to be amputated below the knee and Solma now wears a prosthesis. In Alphor, they don’t have the skills to make prosthetics anymore, but there are lots of fallen cities and abandoned facilities where objects from the old world, like prosthetics, can be sourced. This is where Solma got the prosthesis she now uses, so it’s very important to her because it would be almost impossible to replace.

Solma's Staff Sergeant (and the leader of her squad) is Maxen Camber, the son of the village Steward. Solma likes him (possibly a little too much!) and they get on well. But there’s rivalry between Solma and another member of her squad: Olive. Solma’s got no idea what Olive has against her, but Olive’s always grumpy and snappish.

It’s complicated though, because even though Olive is always horrible to Solma, she’s also the one who pulled her out from underneath that huge boar three years ago.

Solma may have lost her leg, but she’d have lost her life if not for Olive. So, that’s complicated.

2. She’s Super Protective of her Younger Brother

Solma’s little brother, Warren, is seven years old. He and their Aunt Bell (their mother’s sister) is the only family Solma has and she feels responsible for him. Warren’s a sweet little soul and he struggles to get on with the other kids, who are often a bit boisterous with him. So, Solma keeps him close.

When we first meet Warren, he’s traipsing round after Solma and her squad on patrol. He probably should be helping in the fields, or in the village, playing with the other Yuen—the children too young to have a worker caste—but Solma doesn’t want to let him out of her sight.

If she had allowed him to work in the fields or play in the village, maybe the events of the story would have turned out very differently!

Solma’s a bit conflicted about keeping her brother close, though, because one thing she doesn’t want for him is to end up joining the Gatra. Solma’s proud of her job and her caste, but she feels that Warren is too gentle for it. Lots of the Gatra become soldiers very young and many of them face a lot of danger and die early. Solma really doesn’t want that for Warren. Her brother is precious to her.

What she doesn’t realise, at the beginning of the story though, is that he’s actually precious to the whole of Alphor and he’s about to discover something both very tiny and monumentally huge!

3. Her Parents Died When She Was Little

This is something Solma really struggles with. Warren was still a baby when they lost their Ma. She was hurt the same way Solma lost her leg, hunting the giant wild boar in the managed forest. But for Solma’s mother, there was no-one there to save her and she was killed. Only a little while later, Solma’s Dja—her father—became mysteriously ill. It happened at around the same time that Olive’s Dja got ill with a similar illness.

The village started to panic that perhaps there was some sort of plague, but no-one else got sick and both Solma’s and Olive’s Djas died pretty quickly.

Solma was only ten was both her parents died. Her Aunt Bell was trying to look after Warren, who was barely a year old, so Solma spent a lot of time on her own. The other village kids were often unkind to her. Parents in Sand’s End are all expected to work in the fields or orchards, so most kids run around, almost feral. The Aldren watch over them, but growing up in Sand’s End is tough and Solma was often lonely.

It made her pretty strong, though, and it’s one of the reasons she’s so protective of Warren. She doesn’t want him to face the same cruelty and meanness that she did when she was his age.

4. She Lives in Sand’s End Village with her Aunt Bell

Solma’s lived in Sand’s End her whole life. Even when her parents were alive, Aunt Bell lived with them. She’s never been married and doesn’t have any children, so when Solma’s parents died, Aunt Bell took over caring for her and Warren. Solma and Warren’s mother, Leile, was Bell’s older sister.

Bell’s a pretty ferocious character. She and Solma often butt heads, though Bell loves Solma and is very protective of her.

She’s an excellent cook and can work delicious miracles with the most meagre of ingredients. She’s also quite terrifying with a rolling pin if anyone threatens her family. But Bell also has secrets. She keeps the cellar under the house locked tight and Solma’s never allowed down there. She also seems to know quite a lot about bees …

If you want to find out what Bell’s secrets are, you’ll have to read the book!

5. She Doesn’t Trust Earth Whisperers

This is something Solma gets from her Steward, Blaiz.

Earth Whisperers are very important in Alphor because they have a particular kind of magic that means they can communicate with plants and help them grow.

With no more wild flowers in Alphor, only grasses and trees (which are wind pollinated) thrive on their own. Lots of villages are on very poor land and they struggle to grow the crops they need. Earth Whisperers often discover their power very young and the rule of Alphor is that Earth Whisperers belong to no village. They live a nomadic life and travel from settlement to settlement to offer their help.

But no one really trusts them.

People don’t understand their power, and no one likes the idea of having their young child taken away by the Whisperers because of a power nobody understands.

Solma lives by the rule of Alphor that says Earth Whisperers aren’t to be harmed. But that doesn’t mean she has to trust them. They turn up when they want and leave when they want. They’re loyal to no one and they’re never here when they’re needed, in her opinion. She knows that villages need the Earth Whisperers to survive and she knows that no sensible villager would ever attack one, but she keeps a close eye on them whenever they pass through the village. They have too many secrets.


So that’s Solma! I love this character and I’m really proud of her story. She learns a lot in book one and her journey is even greater across all three books. She has to learn who to trust, how to relinquish control, how to let others help her sometimes and how to make brave decisions. She’s fierce and loyal and a strong, clever fighter, but she makes mistakes, like we all do. I love her because she wants to get it right and she tries so hard. She never gives up.

I hope Solma’s story inspires you, too. Keep an eye on these blog posts for updates and join my readers’ club if you want to be the first to know when the book comes out!

Peace and Love,


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