BY SEAN CLARK
Author: D.W. Golden
Eloquent Books, 2008
Best ebook deal: Not Available
I love reading small-run books. I always have the feeling I’m in on a secret when I read a book most readers have never heard of. This feeling is tinged with sadness though, as there are so many good books that just don’t get the attention they deserve. Though they sometimes lack the precise polish of books put through big editing factories, independently published and small-run books are often more creative and original than mainstream fare. There’s also something charming about reading a labor of love that feels more like the author’s uncompromised vision than an attempt at character branding or serialization (as often seems the case with middling YA).
Purple Butterflies is just this kind of book: it is both creative and charming. And you’ve probably never heard of it.
This novel is geared toward a young female reader, though any fan of young adult literature will find this to be an enjoyable read. It is well paced and structurally satisfying, though it is in many ways a conventional work, sticking to the young-outcast-empowered-through-magic mold. Obese fourteen-year-old Darby (cruelly referred to as “Fatty” by many, including her vicious and abusive uncle) learns her uncanny ability to communicate with animals is due to fairy blood in her veins. And while this grants her power, it also burdens her with the heavy task of protecting the planet.
Most impressive about this book is the creativity of the mythos. Golden cleverly blends fairy tale mythology (fairies, ogres, warlocks) and Greco-Roman mythology (Titans) with biblical lore (fallen angels) and evolution (including an archaeopteryx). The blend is deftly executed and makes for a compelling, almost political backstory: good and evil battle for the planet amid a much more domestic environmental battle over real estate development. It never gets too preachy, which is commendable when dealing with such material, and the action carrying the themes is engaging and fun. Solid characterization (especially of Darby’s friend Lucy and aunt Sharon) rounds things out nicely.
My only complaint is that Darby’s transformation makes her effortlessly beautiful, undermining her character development. This is a slight gripe though, and I can forgive the planet’s savior a bit of exercise ethic. All in all Purple Butterflies is a fun and creative book, and will make an excellent choice for any young female reader hungry for new reading material.