The Contrary Tale Of The Butterfly Girl (The Peculiar Adventures Of John Loveheart, Esq. Vol. II) by Ishbelle Bee (book review).

John Loveheart is crazy and he knows it. In fact, as the newly crowned Lord of the Underworld, he positively revels in it. Yet in the village of Darkwound, he comes across as practically normal. This village’s inhabitants include Professor Hummingbird, a sinister butterfly-obsessed academic; Rufus Hazard, who carries his beloved machete everywhere he goes and Boo Boo, a little girl who grows up to be a killing machine. As Loveheart and his old friends from the police force try to save Boo Boo from the mad Professor, they uncover a web of demonic plans and mysterious disappearances that goes right to the top of the British establishment. Sometimes, the Lord of the Underworld might just be the good guy…


What I love about Ishbelle Bee is the way that her imagination runs freely across the page. There’s no holding back, no constraints, just pure unfettered worlds of wonder in every chapter. This comes across not only in the content but also the formatting, with text appearing in different sizes and shapes depending on just how unhinged a character is at that time. It’s also beautifully captured in John Coulthart’s excellent cover design. I do wish the yellow design had been gold foil, I think it would have been stunning with this design (special edition, anyone?) but, even without that touch, it is one of the most eye-catching covers around just now.

In ‘The Contrary Tale Of The Butterfly Girl’, the second instalment of ‘The Peculiar Adventures Of John Loveheart Esq.’, we see a few familiar characters return, notably Constable Walnut and Detective Sergeant White, and are introduced to a whole range of new and utterly mad folk, too. They’re all wonderfully named and each has their own peculiar little quirks that make them stand out.

The plot took me a while to get into because it’s pretty jumpy at the start of the book. Although the freeform nature of the story is what I love about this book, I can see how it might put some people off. I’d certainly recommend setting aside some time to read a big chunk in one go. I found it a little bit tricky to follow what was happening at first because I was trying to read small sections in snatched moments. However, as soon as I got stuck into it, I found it quite compelling! Although in many series it’s difficult to jump in at book two, I think you’d be fine reading this as a stand-alone book. It has a self-contained plot and the little references to book one, ‘The Singular And Extraordinary Tale Of Mirror And Goliath’, wouldn’t spoil your enjoyment of this one.

‘The Contrary Tale Of The Butterfly Girl’ is perhaps best described as a dark fairytale, the kind of story where little girls aren’t as innocent as they seem and where the good guys go in for the odd decapitation now and then. It’s gruesome and gory, magical and mysterious, completely bonkers and yet, at the same time, somehow manages to make sense. It’s probably not going to be for everyone, but I’m glad that Angry Robot took the risk on this series and let Ishbelle Bee’s unique imagination loose on bookshelves around the world. I can’t wait to see where she takes us next!

Vinca Russell

September 2015

(pub: Angry Robot. 334 page paperback. Price: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-85766-444-0)

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