Rating: 4.75 stars
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Terrance Altham has been arrested on his way to meet Vin Vanbly for his king weekend. He has been corresponding with Vin for a while and learned all about the Lost and Found kings and this is his opportunity to become a found king himself. Instead, he is arrested and he has no idea why, nor will anyone tell him. Worse, he has a crazy man in his holding cell who calls himself Ghost and convinces Terrance to escape the jail with him before Terrance gets processed.
Terrance’s arrest is all part of Vin’s plan. He is playing the role of Ghost this king weekend, and escaping the jail is just the first step of many in Terrance’s journey. The men explore New York City, traipsing through sewers, fending off rats, sneaking through the New York Public Library after hours, and indulging in a suite at the Waldorf Astoria. All throughout the experience, Ghost relates stories to Terrance of the Lost and Found kings. He convinces Terrance that it is all a scam, that “Vin” has created these stories based on a British TV show. But in reality, Vin as Ghost is taking Terrance on his journey to becoming the Butterfly King.
Unfortunately, Vin is still learning his way around kinging. He knows this is his calling and he has successfully kinged other men. But he hasn’t quite perfected the process and things definitely aren’t going well. His attempt to shock Terrance into facing his fears backfires and Terrance almost loses it completely. Plans go awry and things don’t work as expected and Vin is facing the possibility that he may fail in kinging Terrance, a fate worse than if he had never even tried. Vin loves Terrance, as he loves all his would-be kings, and he is determined to help this beautiful man cross over to fulfill his destiny as the Butterfly King.
The Butterfly King is the third story in Edmond Manning’s fabulous Lost and Found series and once again he has given us an amazing story. Each book in this series is just fascinating with plots that are made of intricate details and complex puzzles that truly blow me away. I am astounded at the way Manning puts these stories together with twists and turns and all the little pieces that fall into place, seemingly innocuous moments that turn out to be incredibly important.
If you have been following along with the series, you will see that this book takes place prior to the other two (King Perry is in 1999 and King Mai in 1996). In The Butterfly King, we are in 1993, which means the events of the first two books haven’t happened yet and Vin is much less experienced at this whole kinging thing. What I love is that here we see Vin almost fail. The man who somehow manages to orchestrate these fabulous weekends in the other two books with such polish doesn’t quite have it all together at this point. We see him have doubts and we see things not work how they should and we even see things totally fall apart. I kind of love that we see Vin’s vulnerability here. It doesn’t lessen the magic, but it makes him more real and shows us how much he has learned and grown as this process goes on. So a really fascinating take on the kinging stories and a great way to shake things up a bit as we hit the third book in the series.
The other thing I love here is how each of these books has a slightly different take on the relationship between the story and the reader, as well as between Vin and his would-be king. In King Perry, as readers we have no idea what to expect, or that all the little pieces and events over the weekend are going to astonishingly come together at the end. Perry is also coming into his king weekend knowing nothing about it. So in King Perry, both the reader and Perry are seeing everything for the first time. In King Mai, we know Vin and we know what the kinging is all about and so does Mai. So part of the fun of King Mai is watching Mai play along as he goes through his weekend, trying to figure out what Vin is up to and to take an active role in his own kinging. And here in the third book we get a different angle yet again. Terrance knows about the Lost and Found kings from his correspondence with Vin, and he even agrees to a king weekend. But while it is happening, he has no idea that is what is going on. He thinks the plans have gone awry and this is just the worst weekend of his life, until it turns magical. So I am again so impressed with Manning and the way he is able to take these subtleties and keep each of these stories so fresh and exciting.
Terrance is just a fascinating character and so worthy of being a Found King. As a boy, Terrance’s older brother was shot attempting to protect Terrance from gang violence. This one incident shaped Terrance’s whole life, as his brother was severely injured and the entire family’s time and finances had to go to care for him. Terrance has never been able to live his dream because of his responsibility to his family, who faces major debt for the medical bills. And Terrance is sort of on the outs of his community for being an out gay man. Terrance’s challenge is facing the fear that rules his life, and his anger at Matthew for taking that action to protect Terrance, but that ended up ruining both their lives. At the same time, Terrance is strong. In fact, he is so close to being a king already, making it even harder to move him those final steps. I found him such an interesting guy and I loved the way this book gives us such insight into his character. The Butterfly King is also a love letter to New York City. For all the dirt and violence and mass of indifferent humanity, we also see why it is such a strong, powerful, and magical city.
I really can not say enough good things about this series. Each book I read I am amazed at Manning’s talent. The way he is able to build these complex stories with the puzzles and the secrets and the twists is so impressive. And when you add in how these elements work not only within each book, but across the books in the series (both those released and those yet to come), it is all the more amazing. If you haven’t started this series, officially you can begin anywhere, but personally I would start with King Perry. I have said before the book was life changing, and I am not kidding. So I want EVERYONE to read it and I think the subsequent books are all the richer having started there. Also, Manning stopped by the blog earlier this week to talk about secrets from the series (don’t worry, no spoilers), so be sure to check that out as well.
Ok, so read this book, read the entire series, and enjoy the magic.