The Butterfly Crest by Eva Vanrell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I had three reactions to The Butterfly Crest by Eva Vanrell, depending on the section I was reading. I found the first third of the book captivating, but when I reached the second third there was too much description and not enough character development for my taste. Yet I kept reading and I'm glad I did. The last section brought back some of the charm of the story as I learned more about Elena, the novel's main character, and in the process came to care about her.
The first part has wonderful descriptions of New Orleans along with the introduction of Elena. She is a successful lawyer working for a firm run by Ms. Callas, a demanding and intimidating boss. She is also a single woman, whose parents died when she was a child. Her best friend, Cataline, was also her mother's best friend. To further complicate Elena's uncomfortable work environment, she begins to sense the presence of a force she doesn't understand. Eventually, she's confronted in a dark parking lot where she becomes so nervous she trips then hears laughter from out of the darkness. At this point I was intrigued and eager to read more.
The story moves to Japan. Elena has received a notification of a previously unknown inheritance stored in a safety deposit box in Kyoto. All she knows about the contents is that her mother had insured it for five million dollars. She is required to pick up this treasure in person, so she and Cataline travel to the other side of the world. Here's where some problems began. Eva Vanrell's descriptions became too thorough. Also, she began to use Japanese terms without English definitions, making those descriptions difficult to understand. Elena's life is threatened. To protect her Eiry, the handsome son of Ms. Callas who apparently followed Elena to Asia, takes her to an underworld land populated by gods. At this point Vanrell's descriptions of various gods and of the architecture of the world where they exist slowed the narrative nearly to a halt.
Then, about two thirds of the way through the novel, the writing changed back again. It was less about describing the book's world and more about the problems facing the main characters. I could feel their emotions again, especially Elena's.
For people who love mythology and enjoy thinking about gods from different cultures existing together in their own environment, this novel could be great fun. Readers looking only for a good story will find the middle slow, but in the end The Butterfly Crest is an interesting story, well worth reading.
Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions
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