The Colonel And The Bee is a fantasy adventure. It is set during an unnamed historical era of discovery and has some similarities to steampunk.
It opens in Switzerland, with Beatrix who is a thirteen-year-old circus acrobat. One evening she grabs a chance to run away with a mysterious man, whom she saw earlier in the audience.
Colonel Bacchus is an eccentric collector and adventurer, who travels in a hot air balloon known as an Oxford Starladder. It consists of a four storey, wicker-framed home which is suspended from an enveloped-shaped balloon. The Colonel allows Beatrix to accompany him as he searches for a mystery ginger haired man. They fly to Belgium where they discover a dead man. He has a riddle in his pocket; the clues from it send them on a hunt for a precious jewel. As they follow further signs, the trail mixes with criminals who also want the jewel. The companions criss-cross Europe, and then fly over Africa as the try to solve the riddle.
There were elements of magical realism which surrounded the hot air balloon and its basket home. I was delighted by all the detail and contents of the wicker house, in particular the nesting Manx birds, and the botanical gardens where the Colonel grew his many flowers. The story was full of many unique characters; some to love, others to loath. I thought the first half of the book was very good, but the second half dragged and I found the ending a little disappointing.
Overall, the hot air balloon was the highlight of this book, giving it a steampunk and magical fantasy feel. This became overpowered by the mystery adventure element that led to the final denouement.
View all my reviews on Goodreads
A peculiar explorer and downtrodden acrobat span the globe on a building-sized hot air balloon, in search of a precious artifact and the murderous treasure hunter who seeks it.
Beatrix, a spirited but abused acrobat in a traveling circus, seeks more than her prison-like employment offers. More than anything, she wants to know her place in the world of the halcyon 19th century, a time when the last dark corners of the map were being sketched out and travel still possessed a kind of magic.
One night in Switzerland, the mysterious Colonel James Bacchus attends Beatrix’s show. This larger-than-life English gentleman, reputed to have a voracious appetite for female conquests, is most notable for traveling the world in a four-story hot air balloon called The Ox.
Beatrix flees that night to join the Colonel, and the two of them make a narrow escape—Beatrix from her abusive ringleader, the Colonel from a freshly-made cuckold. Beatrix, feeling the Colonel may have the answers to her problems, pledges to help him catch the criminal he seeks in exchange for passage on his magnificent balloon.
The criminal seeks a precious figurine, The Blue Star Sphinx, but he’s not alone. The Sphinx’s immense value has also drawn the attention of the world’s most deadly treasure hunters. A murder in Antwerp begins a path of mystery that leads all the way to the most isolated island on Earth.
What dangers await the Colonel and the acrobat?