A Bloodthirsty Haiku Review: The Contrary Tale of the Butterfly Girl…

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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.

butterfly girl

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,

Mad Martha

Time for a (dragon) Chaser, anyone?: The Demonic Incident in Chinatown…and GIVEAWAY!

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Welcome to the Read-It-If Review from Hell! But not in the way you think. Today I have an enticing giveaway, and an equally enticing review of a remarkably enticing sequel. I speak of course, of the second book by Andy Mulberry; the MG comic fantasy adventure The Demonic Incident in Chinatown.

This book is a follow on from the rib-tickling oddity that is Skycastle, The Demon and Me, in which young Jack finds a newspaper ad under the fridge and accidentally orders his very own demon.  You can read my review of that adventure here.

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But in this second adventure, the mayhem ramps up as Jack and Brink jump into a frenzied hunt for gold.

When we left Jack and Brink, they were trapped inside Skycastle as the  building flew through the air. Safe, for the moment, from the Collector, boy and demon begin a frantic hunt for gold to buy Brink’s freedom.  The search leads them deep into trouble – dragon-based trouble – and if that weren’t bad enough, Chinatown is about to become a lot more of  a tourist attraction thanks to Jack and Brink.  Can our two heroes get the gold for Brink’s life and liberty or will all their good intentions lead them down the path to hell – and the Collector?

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Read it if:

* you’ve always got a family member who’s good for a loan when you’re in a tight spot

* you like your theatre performances to end with an unexpected twist, preferably involving the hasty exit of all involved

* you adamantly believe that, when things go pear-shaped, one should never lose one’s head

The Demonic Incident in Chinatown begins exactly where the initial book leaves off and since it’s been a little while since I read the first book in the series, it took me a few moments to reorient myself to what was going on in the story.  I was soon back into the action again however, and was quite happy to be accompanying the lads on their adventure.  The tone of this book is a little different to the first – the witty banter is still there, but Brink and Jack seem to be more comfortable in their friendship this time around and are more focused on evading capture and finding a quick bit of gold, than spending time chatting.

The plot moves quickly through the action scenes and then hits a peak right at the end, when some dragon-and-headless-ghost craziness kicks off in rather public view.  This series is shaping up to be super-appealing to young readers, with humour, wild action and fun fantasy elements – who wouldn’t want a castle that can zip you out of imminent danger and plop you down somewhere cool?!

So if you know of a young reader who likes humour, wild action and fun fantasy elements (or that describes you!) and you live in the US or Canada, you should probably enter the giveaway! Author of the series Andy Mulberry is offering one winner the chance to win PRINT copies of BOTH the books in the series.  To enter, just click on the rafflecopter link below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And in case you are one of those happy people that will just rush out and buy the book, don’t forget it’s also available in e-form, and in AUDIO book, for your listening pleasure!

Good luck!

Until next time,

Bruce