The Contrary Tale of the Butterfly Girl, Ishbelle Bee – Review

*Puts down book*


I have never read anything quite like this before. I’m not at all sure that was a compliment. All I can say is that the entire time I was reading this I was completely aware of what was going on and at the same time entirely baffled.

I think my main problem with this was the lack of world building. Perhaps if I had read the first title in the series ‘The Singular and Extraordinary tale of Mirror and Goliath’ I would have a better understanding of the world in which these madcap characters live. I feel like a simple question of ‘is this a world where it is expected that some people have magic or no?’ is one that ought to be answered as soon as one encounters a magic user.

There is very little I can say that won’t completely reveal any of the plot, but if you aren’t a fan of violence, and I mean real, full on violence you probably want to give this a miss. Conversely, if you’re a fan of the idea of cannibalism and violent murder in a Victorian Britain setting then this may be the best book you’ve ever read. It probably won’t be.

I did enjoy parts of this, don’t get me wrong. I did want to find out what on earth happened to these characters so the story must have been compelling enough. But there were quite a few moments where I wanted to walk away and never look back. But I’m a stubborn mule at the best of times and not one to shy away from a challenge. Though it may have driven me mad along the way, this wasn’t what I would call a ‘bad’ book. It’s simply not my cup of absinthe.

To it’s credit. I think all of the things that I’m not such a big fan of in this book are probably quite deliberate on the part of the author. The back cover refers to it as a ‘penny dreadful fairy tale’ which is certainly an accurate summation. If you treat it as a penny dreadful the darkness of the plot begins to make a bit more sense. Similarly, I think the confusing prose and structure may have been a reflection of the madness of so many of the characters, I’m not convinced any of them were meant to be sane.

As I say, perhaps if I had read the first of the series this would have made more sense, but I don’t think I’m likely to be reaching for it any time soon. After a couple of days tumbling across the maelstrom of Ishbelle Bee’s imagination, I just need something a bit more solid for a while.



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