Reviews

The Ardent Swarm, by Yamen Manai

liloreadsstories's review

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emotional informative slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character

4.0

frankee's review

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challenging reflective sad fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.25

kirstieellen's review

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4.0

First thoughts
This was an excellent and clever read! I was really curious to pick this up as the blurb described it as "a stirring allegory", and I couldn't put it better myself.

What's it about?
The Ardent Swarm is written by Tunisian-born author Yamen Manai (who lives in France now), and it looks at the turbulent, recent history of a North African village called Nawa.

The main character is a beekeeper and his trials and tribulations of enabling his apiary to thrive and overcome natural and man-made challenges is an excellent metaphor and reflection of the extremist religious challenges his country faces.

Why you should read it
This is one of the most perfectly clever books I've read for a while. It's short and sweet, but it's so easy to draw the parallels that Manai clearly wants us to make.

The story is beautiful in its simplicity and Sidi is a fantastic, introverted character whose heart is as big as the steppes he must navigate for his water.

This is a great story to read if you want to expand your mind to an approachable way of understanding the difficult social issues often associated with North African and Middle Eastern countries.

Final thoughts
I would highly recommend this book to anyone (age appropriate, of course, 14+). Just shy of 200 pages, this is a great story even if you're not there for the deeper meanings buzzing between the bees' wings.

Happy reading!

kcarp's review

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challenging emotional hopeful medium-paced

4.25

ab_reads's review against another edition

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hopeful reflective medium-paced
Review copy gifted by the publisher in exchange for a review!

The Ardent Swarm by Tunisian author Yamen Manai, translated from the French by Lara Vergnaud, is an interesting, allegorical little fable-like read. I read it super quickly, the short chapters and quite lighthearted tone (despite the serious subject matter) mean it moves along at quite the trot. In the author section, it mentions Manai was trying to honour Tunisian oral storytelling culture, and I think that definitely shines through.

Although not explicitly named or dated, the novel is likely centred on Tunisia after the Arab Spring, as the country was moving towards democracy. But as the book highlights, just because a democracy is seemingly in place, that doesn’t eliminate corruption and fundamentalism remains a threat. As the country undergoes political changes, our main character Sidi is experiencing similar turmoil in his beehives, which are threatened by murder hornets. It did feel very fable like, a little on the nose, but overall I enjoyed the double stories playing out here, mirroring one another.

I really liked how Manai highlighted the dissonance between the merciful, loving God of the people and the God corrupt, greedy politicians and fundamentalists proclaim to be working for - often cruel, hateful and divisive. But because the government is what the wider world sees of a country or it’s what gains the most attention in international news, this twisted perception of Islam slips into the mainstream. There are quite a few astute observations like this throughout this slim novel.

An interesting little read for sure! 

josefinef's review against another edition

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4.0

I picked this book from the January 2021 Amazon's First Reader program and I liked it much more than I thought I would. This is the type of book I rarely read, but I was intrigued by the description.

The main story is about Sidi, who, one morning, finds one of his bee stocks destroyed and all the bees murdered. What happened? Who did it? And how can he help his bees?

This is a wholesome story with fascinating information about bees, written in an engaging and beautiful language. It also provides a glimpse into life in Tunisia and the challenges they were facing when moving towards a democratic country. While it is a shorter book, I was not able to read it in one sitting. I wanted to slowly go through it, so I get some of the metaphors. I wanted to enjoy every bit of it and make it last.

The only thing that I didn't like as much was the prologue. I didn’t think it added to the story (rather made it awkward), but the rest of the book was AMAZING!

planreadrepeat's review

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inspiring mysterious reflective tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0

bryonyporter's review

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adventurous emotional informative reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

5.0

mfmurray11's review

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adventurous emotional medium-paced

4.0

bearofsand's review

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emotional hopeful inspiring reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.5

Really nice condense storytelling with a plot heavy with metaphor that oftentimes falls on the side of simplistic. Still, a nice quick read with some beautiful descriptive passages.