It’s Mad Martha with you for a slightly unusual choice for a haiku review: The Contrary Tale of the Butterfly Girl, being the second offering in the The Peculiar Adventures of John Loveheart, Esq. by Ishbelle Bee. I am going against our general rule of not reviewing subsequent books in a series here, but since we so thoroughly enjoyed the first book, The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath, we couldn’t resist requesting this one too. To that end, we received a copy of this one from Angry Robot Books via Netgalley.
Let us proceed then. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
Two orphans, Pedrock and Boo Boo, are sent to live in the sinister village of Darkwound. There they meet and befriend the magical and dangerous Mr Loveheart and his neighbour, Professor Hummingbird, a recluse who collects rare butterflies. Little do they know that Professor Hummingbird has attracted the wrath of a demon named Mr Angelcakes.
One night, Mr Angelcakes visits Boo Boo and carves a butterfly onto her back. Boo Boo starts to metamorphose into a butterfly/human hybrid, and is kidnapped by Professor Hummingbird. When Mr Loveheart attempts to rescue her with the aid of Detective White and Constable Walnut, they too are turned into butterflies.
Caught between Professor Hummingbird and the demon Angelcakes, Loveheart finds himself entangled in a web much wider and darker than he could have imagined, and a plot that leads him right to the Prime Minister and even Queen Victoria herself.
A contrary tale
Not so much butterfly as
thrashing Death’s Head moth
With such an eyeball-burstingly original first offering, it was always going to be interesting to see how Ishbelle Bee would approach the second book in this dazzling new series. While the wild, avant garde approach and chillingly childlike games of John Loveheart (now promoted to Lord of the Underworld) are still present, I did think that the second half of the book suffered from a certain amount of unwieldiness.
In this offering we are introduced to Pedrock and his younger sister Boo Boo as they move to live with an uncle in the village of Darkwound. Pedrock quickly falls by the wayside as narrator and Boo Boo comes to the fore after being groomed as the seventh wife of a decidedly perverse Professor with a penchant for lepidoptery (and wife slaughter). This was a bit of a disappointment to me because I found Boo Boo to be a bit of a nothing character. In fact, most of the new characters are introduced and then quickly dispatched, which didn’t leave an awful lot of room for character development. Pity.
On the positive side, the delightful duo of Detectives White and Walnut make an appearance again and are joined by Inspector Waxford (who could really do with early retirement), and of course there is plenty of mayhem instigated by Loveheart himself, as well as a little romance for our favourite waistcoat-wearing weirdy.
I’ll admit to having more trouble getting into this book than I did with the first. It seemed to me that there wasn’t as much plot to go around in this second outing and the numerous decapitation and dismemberment sprees (particularly in the second-half of the book) began to feel a bit like padding. I am still very much enamoured of ol’ Loveheart – for a homicidal lunatic demi-god, he is charming as a mismatched, vintage waistcoat button. White and Walnut have also made a fond impression on me and while they don’t have as much to do in this novel (due to being magically imprisoned for a decade), my eyes pricked up, in as much as it is possible to prick up one’s eyes, whenever they appeared.
I’m not sure whether or not I’ll go back for a third helping of this series if and when it becomes available (although the charms of Mr Loveheart might yet prove too alluring to ignore!), but I will be watching out for other offerings from Bee that possibly don’t involve quite so much graphically violent death. I would certainly recommend reading the first book in the series before you read this one – not because you need prior knowledge of the characters, particularly, but because I think it’s the better book of the two. And if you haven’t come across this series yet, you’ll be doing yourself a favour to seek it out – I can guarantee you won’t have read anything quite like it!
Cheerio my dears,