"Strawmen are pure mystery, weighed down by secrets. Some say they are wraiths- the blighted shells of ancient sorcerers, and the very ones responsible for turning us into monsters in the first place."Ok, yes this can be a standalone book but no, it should not be read as a standalone! Yes I am aware that that is a conflicting statement but I highly recommend reading Black Bird of the Gallows first to get a feel for this world. And then read Keeper of the Bees to get everything you thought you knew thrown on it's head! The main characters and plot of this book do not need the companion book to be read, but I really enjoyed the twist in perspectives that Meg used here- the terrible, evil, no good villain is now just a tortured soul seeking redemption and doing what he must to survive under terrible circumstances. When I read this was kinda sorta a Beauty and the Beast thing, I was sold- ok I was sold anyway since I love Meg's writing style, people and plots. But still, Beauty and the Beast-ish! It doesn't hurt that I am in love with the cover too.