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5 Things You Need to Know About my new YA Dystopian Fantasy Book, ‘The Last Beekeeper’

Updated: Dec 5, 2021

It’s happening! The Last Beekeeper, book one of the Silent Skies trilogy, my new YA dystopian fantasy series, is on the home stretch to release! It’s going to be available on all major online retailers from 20th April, 2022 and to get ready for it, here are 5 things you need to know about the world of The Last Beekeeper. I hope this whets your appetite for the book!


If you want to find out more, or get extra content on these books, as well as deals and discounts for future releases, please sign up to my readers’ club. (You get a free ebook if you do!)

In the meantime, let me introduce you to the world of Silent Skies and The Last Beekeeper.

 

1. The Continent


Everything in the Silent Skies trilogy happens on the continent of Alphor. It’s a pretty weird place, including deserts, mountains, savannahs and jungles. It’s massive. Think of a continent that wraps around an entire planet. That’s Alphor.


Once upon a time, there were great big cities in Alphor, just like there are in our world. But the Alphorian cities disappeared a hundred years ago. Why?

One very simple reason. All the flying insects died out.

This is where the dystopian element of the story comes in. With nothing to pollinate the crop, food supplies plummeted and the cities collapsed. Now, the human population of Alphor is scattered all across the continent in little villages. Big cities can’t exist and the villages are often very poor places. But there’s magic here, too. There’s magic in the Earth that only a very special kind of person can tap into, and it’s those people that Alphorians rely on to keep their crop going and make sure people in Alphor don’t die. (More on that later.)



All the events in The Last Beekeeper happen in one province in Alphor; Southtip Province, and in one Southern village; Sand’s End.

This is where the tiniest but most precious secret Alphor has had in a hundred years first crawls out of the dirt and is discovered by a soldier and her younger brother.

Alphor’s a pretty harsh place with a history of terrible wars, so you can imagine the kind of conflict this sparks for our two heroes!


If you want to find out more about Alphor, or see a map of the continent, check back in for January’s post, which will be a traveller’s guide to Alphor.


2. The People


The people of Alphor are a strange lot. They rarely leave the villages they were born in, and there’s also a pretty strict caste system. (More on this in a future post). The caste system is organised by the jobs people do or their role in society, so it’s possible to switch castes, but once you’ve got a work-caste, most people stay in their lane. A person’s caste will make up their last name. They also have a single-syllable between their first name and caste name to show the family they come from. So our hero is called Solma El Gatra. El is her family name and Gatra is her caste name.


This is how the caste system works:

When you’re born, you’re a Yuen (which means youngster or child).

Yuen are the future of the village. They might help work in the fields, orchards and glasshouses when they’re old enough, but they’re the responsibility of the whole village until this point. Anyone able-bodied is needed to work the land, hunt the wildlife for food supplies or defend the village, so people don’t really have time to be parents.

Parenting is done by the Aldren (or the Elders).

These are people who’ve lived long enough not to be able bodied anymore. They might be sick or have suffered injuries or ill health which stop them being able to do the manual labour of the fields. But their role is to look after the Yuen. They stick to the village and the children are in their care while parents go and work the land. Because of this, they’re still a very important part of Alphorian society.

Then you have the Fei (field workers) and Oritch (orchard workers).

These two castes will have in depth knowledge about the land they work and the plants they care for. The Fei are also responsible for managing the glasshouses (like greenhouses) that grow some of the crop. Fei and Oritch make up most of the adult, able-bodied villagers.

The village is defended by the Gatra (or Gathering Guard).

These are the village’s trained soldiers. Their job is to patrol the territory, hunt wildlife for food, make sure large predators don’t come into the village and keep an eye on disputes. They report directly to the village Steward. The Gatra are drafted into the Guard young. Our hero, Solma, became a Gatra when she was twelve.

The final caste is the Steward Caste.

They’re the only people who don’t have a caste name. Instead, they have a full surname or ‘sire’s name’. Being a Steward is a big responsibility and it’s passed down from a parent to a child. There’s no time for voting in Alphor. In the other castes, you can pretty much set up a home with whoever you want as long as you produce children and do your job. The child of a Steward, though, is expected to marry the child of another Steward from a different village. This is entirely transactional, and builds tenuous trade alliances between villages.


If you want to know more about the caste system of Alphor’s people, there’ll be extra information in a future post so watch this space!



3. The Dangers


All good YA Dystopian Fantasy has an element of danger! Our hero, Solma, faces plenty of this during the book. From raging, giant wild boar to violent raiders, there’s a lot for Solma to fight.

She’s a pretty kickass soldier, a mean shot with a rifle and fiercely protective of her younger brother, but there are also some more insidious dangers Solma finds it harder to fight.

In her village, it’s illegal to keep secrets about the land from the Steward and breaking the law is punishable by exile from the village. Out in the wilderness, there’s not a lot of food. There’s very little to forage because there aren’t any flying insects, so no wild fruits or berries. There are also huge predators, like redbears and wildwolves, that will hunt and kill people. Exile from any village means certain death.


Other villages are often suspicious of wanderers, both because the village itself often doesn’t have enough food to go round but also because wanderers are usually exiled criminals and villages don’t want to welcome in criminals.

Exile is something to be avoided at all costs. But, of course, along with other dangers, it’s one of the things Solma may have to face in the story.

Desperate to protect her younger brother, she’ll fight tooth and nail to avoid this, though!


4. The Magic


Yes, there is magic in Alphor! It is a Dystopian Fantasy, after all. The magic is Alphor is quite strange and no-one really understands it.

Occasionally, a child might be born in any village with a rare and precious power: the power to talk with the plants and coax them to grow. Alphor is such an unhealthy continent that, without this power, even the scattered human settlements wouldn’t be possible.

Children born with this power are called Earth Whisperers and the law of Alphor says that they belong to no village. Earth Whisperers form wandering troupes of between five and fifteen individuals and they travel across Alphor, from village to village, offering to use their power to help the crops grow. In return, villages are expected to share food and supplies with them to help them survive.


Even though they’re needed, lots of villages are distrustful of the Earth Whisperers. They’ve got this creepy habit of always turning up wherever a child has discovered their power. They can sense it. And that child is very quickly whisked away from their village and their parents to become an Earth Whisperer. Understandably, people don’t like their children being spirited away, so there’s tension around the Earth Whisperers and they’re tolerated rather than respected.


But as the story of The Last Beekeeper goes on, other kinds of magic are discovered, too. Warren, Solma’s younger brother, finds he has an even rarer and more precious gift than that of Earth Whispering.

And there are some other characters who bring a dark and dangerous magic to Sand’s End. One that strikes fear into the hearts of the village.

If you want to find out more about this, check in for future blog posts, sign up to my reader’s club and keep an eye out for the book’s release!


5. The Story


Phew! That’s a lot of stuff. We’ve got a continent ravaged by famine, people oppressed by hardship and a strict caste system, dangers from every corner and Whisperers with mysterious magic. Everything you could want from a YA dystopian fantasy story!


Great, I hear you say, but what exactly is this story about?


Good question.

This is Solma El Gatra’s story. It’s the story of how she learns that undying loyalty comes at a price, that her elders don’t always know better and not every leader deserves her respect.

But more than that, it’s a story of hope. In a world ravaged by famine and extinction, Solma and Warren find the first bee seen in a century. Of course, this is the most precious thing they’ve ever discovered and they’re desperate to keep it safe. But one thing leads to another and, suddenly, they’re keeping a secret in a village that punishes secrecy.

As Solma and Warren find themselves drawn deeper and deeper into this deceit, news of the miracle bee spreads across Alphor and suddenly, their little village is full of desperate, angry people, demanding the little insect and her nest for their own.

Some want to control it, others want to destroy it. Either way, the bee and her nest are in danger and Solma and Warren realise their fate is tied up with this tiny creature that crawled out of the ground and sparked the beginning of a world war.


The book is set for release on 20th April, 2022, but I’ll be posting plenty of content about the book between now and then, including character interviews, world maps and location profiles.

If you want more in depth content and early release details, along with discounts and the chance to be an advanced reader (and get a free ebook copy to read and review!) then please sign up to my mailing list.


See you soon! Peace and Love,


 

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