The Contrary Tale of the Butterfly Girl
(The Peculiar Adventures of John Loveheart, Esq. Volume Two)
By Ishbelle Bee
(Pub: Angry Robot Books, 2015)
Welcome back to the bizarre world of John Loveheart Esq. in The Contrary Tale of the Butterfly Girl by Ishbelle Bee – the sequel to The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath. This is Victorian England as you’ve never seen it – unless of course you’ve read Bee’s first novel. Although this second book in the series offers a few new very interesting twists to her world.
Early on in this book we are introduced to a character who is described as a “demonic multi-tasker.” (I laughed out loud when I read this scene; you’ll love it). We meet him as he is blissfully perusing dungeon equipment and lauding the fact that people invented it, not demons and he says “you make me smile.” Here is our hero’s nemesis in all his deranged, pure evil, glory.
Our hero? Well, Mr Loveheart is back! He is still a wonderfully psychotic hero with a penchant for drama and an obsessive sweet tooth for pastries, sponges and custard tarts. Our dear deranged Mr Loveheart is lonely – he “seeks a queen” with a “good sense of humour. Fond of cakes. Mad as a kilt.” When he finds his dream girl, he must not only win her, but save her. He parades through the novel displaying his outrageous fashion sense and wielding a sword trying to defeat our mega multi-tasking demon. He is aided in his mission by the return of Detective White and Constable Walnut of Scotland Yard. These two are essentially the “straight men” to Loveheart and they really do help make this a fun book.
Structurally, I found The Contrary Tale of the Butterfly Girl more fragmented than the The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath. I found the multiple story threads were not quite as seamlessly integrated – although there was no problem with keeping track of the different POVs. It was merely that occasionally my reading experience was jarred by the transitions. There was a battle in a church seemed a little too contrived – almost like Bee waved her wand to get out of a literary “corner”. Although in a world so heavily laced with magic and with these characters perhaps they took control in their own inimitable fashion. These tiny issues were something I didn’t notice with the first book. However despite this The Contrary Tale of the Butterfly Girl is an action packed, hilariously horrific, engrossing story that I could not put down – I loved it!
Bee’s brilliance in lies in, not only her bizarre world vision, but in the wonderfully deranged stream of consciousness that she writes for her hero and his nemesis. Her style in these passages, complete with varying font sizes and placement, make for hilarious reading that I found myself reading aloud with delight – again. Keep watch for the incident with the cursed sapphire and Wales – another laugh out loud moment. (Oh who am I kidding? There were lots of laugh out loud moments!)
The ending resolves the main plot arcs here nicely, but leaves things open nicely for a new adventure – I can’t wait!