A review of Laurie R. King’s ‘The Beekeeper’s Apprentice’ chapter two


The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

One came hither, to the school of bees, to be taught the preoccupations of all powerful nature… and the lesson of ardent and disinterested work; and another lesson too… to enjoy the almost unspeakable delights of those immaculate days that revolved on themselves in the fields of space, forming merely a transparent globe, as void of memory as happiness without alloy.

Oh, Iggy Pop, you will get me through this chapter. Thank you kind sir.

Mary and Holmes form a close relationship; he becomes ‘my foremost friend, tutor, substitute father, and eventually confidant’. This sends off alarm bells in my head. Mary’s author note was signed ‘M.R.H’. Now, either he adopted her or she ended up marrying him. Seeing as this is bad fanfiction, I’m guessing the latter which makes that sentence really creepy, like he was training her up since the age of fifteen to marry him. Ick. King, you’ve just ruined how I’ll see the character of Sherlock Holmes forever. Now I can only see him as an old pervert molesting teenage girls. I didn’t need to think that.

Mary admits that she is closer to Holmes than she ever was to her own parents (Sue bingo point!), that she is a perfect equal match for him, and they ever end up finishing each other’s sentences. Excuse me while I vomit from how twee it is. She even spares time for Mrs Hudson, for whom she becomes a perfect loving daughter.

What type of Sue is Mary, exactly? It’s hard to pin down, seeing as she shows so many characteristics from so many different types. Hopefully this frustrating chapter will give us further clues to what she is and how we can stop her. For a start, she has the very basic of Sue tropes – extreme clumsiness that makes a sane person wonder if she doesn’t have some kind of problem with her inner ears. Luckily, Holmes fixes this by instructing her in martial arts. We then get more about how close Mary and Mrs Hudson are.

It was she, rather than my aunt, who taught me the workings of the female body.

Well, that leans to Purity Sue. She’s so innocent she doesn’t even know at the age of fifteen why she bleeds every month! Like her, like her!

Which brings me to Watson.

Periods bring you to Watson? I don’t think he specialised in gynaecology, and I don’t have any good puns based on his reputation as a ladies man and the medical science of gynaecology.

A sweet bumbly man whom I came to call, to his immense pleasure, Uncle John. I was quite prepared to detest him. How could anyone work so long with Holmes and learn so little? I thought. How could an apparently intelligent man consistently fail to grasp the point? How could he be so stupid? my teenaged mind railed at him. Worst of all, he made it appear that Holmes, my Holmes, kept him near for one of two purposes: to carry a revolver (though Holmes himself was a crack shot) or to act dense and make the detective appear even more brilliant by contrast. What did Holmes see in this, this buffoon? Oh, yes, I was ready to hate him, to destroy him with my scathing tongue.

it was painful to read that. ‘Teenaged’ was certainly not a word in use at the time, and HOW DARE YOU INSULT JOHN WATSON LIKE THAT? Ready to destroy him with your scathing tongue? You’ve done that every single page of this damn awful book so far! And to dare then have your character call him ‘Uncle John’ and patronise him in this offensive manner…. what the fucking hell? What did John Watson ever do to you? Did he sleep with your mother or something?

The narrative then moves to the first meeting of Watson and Mary, where he profusely thanks her for curing Holmes. You see, Holmes was soooo depressed Watson didn’t think he’d live another year. He could have helped his friend, but eh, he’s an ‘idiot’ and couldn’t do it without the help of a fifteen year old girl. Mary’s influence has even made Holmes spontaneously give up cocaine and now he dances around in rainbows and reads to sick orphans.

This defintiely makes Mary a fixer Sue. Even though there was nothing in the original stories that merited fixing. The three of them have a lovely afternoon tea, and when Watson leaves, Mary tells Holmes to his face that she thinks Watson is stupid. Does Holmes defend his one friend in the world? Oh, God no. That would ruin King’s image of the man.

The narrative then skips about a lot, because wasting time on showing us how Mary and Holmes come to be so close would be a sign of a well developing narrative. King’s gotta age Mary up to where she’s not jailbait any more! The reader is told that Mary is trained by Holmes in all the extra special stuff she needs to be a super-duper consulting detective like him. It also gives King a chance to talk about the HORRORS of World War One for the teenage girls left behind in the Sussex countryside. I’m sorry, are the millions of men dying in horrendous conditions inconveniencing you Mary? I’ll try to get them to die in smaller numbers.

Holmes and Mary spend a few happy years in each other’s company, and he begins setting her challenges to test her skills. They are incredibly boring and pointless, other than ways for King to show the world how her little Sue is an equal match for Sherlock Holmes. I mean, life is so difficult for Mary! Because of the war, she can’t enter university at sixteen 😦

Yeah, well, let’s look at the problems with that. You can’t enter university at sixteen except under extreme circumstances, and kid, you ain’t that smart. Women also did not take degrees at this point in time; they were allowed to sit in on lectures as quests, but not take degrees formally, except at institutions specially designed for women. Mary is trying for Oxford, so no. Also HAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAAHno.

While I grew and flexed the muscles of my mind, the bodies of strong young men were being poured ruthlessly into the 500-mile gutter that was the Western Front, an entire generation of men subjected to the grinding, body-rotting, mind-shattering impossibility of battled in thigh-deep mud and drifts of searing gas, under machine-gun fire and through tangles of wire.

Hey, would you mind not being quite so patronising about the deaths of 16 million people?

Anyway, this is all an excuse to talk about how everybody loves Mary, because she goes about doing so much war work, and solving all these local problems, all while studying for university and having a personal crisis about whether she should even take a degree when her fellow countrymen are bleeding into French soil.

You can’t take a degree at Oxford. Problem solved.

I chose two main areas of study to read at Oxford: Chemistry and Theology, the workings of the physical universe and the deepest stuff of the human mind.

She passes with ‘flying colours’, although there was no doubt in my mind that she was going to be super awesome at everything she tries to do. She gets into Oxford, and OH MY GOD, everyone thinks she’s sooooo smart and soooo brilliant. Mary is just about perfect at everything she does, and it’s incredibly frustrating. I mean, just by talking to a girl on the dramatic society she immediately gets a major part and becomes a superb actress over night. And everyone finds it hiiiiillllarious when she dresses up in blackface and pretends to be an Indian prince. I know, I know, it’s appropriate for the time but it still feels a bit wrong and makes me feel like a dirty racist.

When Mary turns eighteen, she has a super party with Holmes where everyone tells her how wonderful she is, how willing they are to completely loose all previous characterisation for the sake of her happiness, and Holmes gives her a priceless family artefact as a birthday present. It’s insulting how bad this is. I like fanfiction, and I know so many Holmes fanworks that are excellent, especially compared with this inane drivel. The character of Mary is not interesting in the slightest and her pretensions to intelligence frustrate the reader.

My main passions were becoming theoretical mathematics and the complexities of Rabbinic Judaism, two topics that are dissimilar only on the surface.

When the revolution comes, I shall personally destroy all copies of this book in existence.

The chapter ends with Mary coming home, talking to her farm manager who was totes in love with her mother and so is devoted to her cause, ignoring the convenient disapearance of her aunt from the narrative, and then helping Holmes on their first proper case together because they are totes best friends.

Oh god. I have seventeen more chapters of this. Send me Loki related things to help me through this, I beg of you!

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