KISS OF THE BUTTERFLY
The smell of blood is in the air, I sense it even now. People thirst for it; the entire country is mad with desire for it. And now we are going to war with our brothers because they look like us, and because we can smell our blood coursing through their veins…” A mysterious letter starts a university student on a journey into the war-torn lands of rapidly disintegrating Yugoslavia. Naively trusting his enigmatic professor, the student unwittingly descends into a dystopian crucible of decay, destruction, passion, death, romance, lust, immorality, genocide, and forbidden knowledge promising immortality. As the journey grows ever more perilous, he realizes he must confront an ancient evil that has been once again loosed upon the earth…
Meticulously researched, “Kiss of the Butterfly” weaves together intricate threads from the 15th, 18th and 20th centuries to create a rich phantasmagorical tapestry of allegory and reality. It is about divided loyalties, friendship and betrayal, virtue and innocence lost, obsession and devotion, desire and denial, the thirst for life and hunger for death, rebirth and salvation. “Kiss” blends history and the terrors of the Balkans as it explores dark corners of the soul, from medieval Bosnia to enlightenment-era Vienna, from the bright beaches of modern-day Southern California to the exotically dark cityscapes of Budapest and Belgrade, and horrors of Bosnia.
“Kiss of the Butterfly” is based on true historical events. In the year of his death, 1476, the Prince of Wallachia — Vlad III (Dracula) — committed atrocities under the cloak of medieval Bosnia’s forested mountains, culminating in a bloody massacre in the mining town of Srebrenica. A little over 500 years later, in July 1995, history repeated itself when troops commanded by General Ratko Mladic entered Srebrenica and slaughtered nearly 8,000 people, making it the worst massacre Europe had seen since the Second World War. For most people, the two events seemed unconnected…
Vampires have formed an integral part of Balkan folklore for over a thousand years. “Kiss” represents a radical departure from popular vampire legend, based as it is on genuine Balkan folklore from as far back as the 14th century. “Kiss of the Butterfly” offers up the vampires that existed long before Dracula and places them within a modern spectrum.
James Lyon, an American ex-pat, is an accidental Balkanologist, having spent the better part of 32 years studying and working within the lands of the former Yugoslavia. He has a Ph.D. in Modern Balkan History from UCLA and a B.A. in Russian from BYU and has worked as a historian, editor and political analyst, as well as being involved in international peacekeeping efforts and non-governmental organizations.
He has lived in Germany, Russia, England, Massachusetts, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Utah, and California, and spent the better part of 18 years living in the lands of the former Yugoslavia, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia, and has worked in Macedonia and Kosovo. He has travelled widely, from Africa to Latin America to the Middle East, and all over Europe. He currently works in Sarajevo and bounces back and forth to Belgrade.
In his spare time he likes sailing through the Dalmatian islands and eating Sachertorte in Vienna at the old Habsburg Imperial Court’s Confectionary Bakery, Demel. He lost his cat in the forests of Bosnia and can’t find it. If you see a black and white cat that ignores you when you call the name “Cile II”, a reward is being offered…provided the cat hasn’t turned into a vampire.
James wanted to deal with some of the more difficult issues which accompanied the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, such as ethnic cleansing, fratricide, genocide and the breakdown in society. Although, given his academic background, he has published a great deal in the fields of political science, analysis and history, he has found the articles wanting when getting the reader to engage with some of the greater moral questions on an emotional level, so he turned to telling his story through writing fiction, hoping to use this as a platform to evoke discussion on some of these important issues.
“A little bit of evil goes a long way, and complacency goes even farther”
“Good against Evil, Light against Dark, a quest that could end with you losing your soul and your life, or perhaps saving the souls and lives of others”
“What was in a name? Did what we call someone change who they were, how they behaved and how we perceived them?”
“They prepared the next generation to avenge the family and national honour that earlier generations had long ago tarnished with the blood of innocents”
“Be glad you’re there and not here. Life here is crazy, as though the entire world has been turned upside down and all morals have ceased to exist. Right is wrong and wrong is right. Day is night, black is white, good is bad, virtue has become a vice.”
‘Like unto our Savior, … no man knoweth the hour or day of his coming … he cometh like a thief in the night to steal away the souls of Man.’
If there are just a couple of books I have read this year which are worthy of remembering for some time to come, then this is surely one of them! Whether your interest is in the historical and not so distant discord in The Balkans, together with all its attendant atrocities and worldwide moral condemnations, or if it is simply the desire to read an excellent vampire story, unique, intelligently written and certain to keep you on the edge of your seat, then ‘Kiss Of The Butterfly’ surely won’t disappoint.
The book has been so thoroughly and expertly researched, both for its accuracy in the region’s complicated historical detail, together with its excellent and redefining portrayal of vampires based on factual folklore, that we are left with a cleverly crafted, richly detailed storyline, which has been masterfully written with total authority and maturity by its author, commanding almost unanimous respect and praise from readers and reviewers everywhere.
The seamless blending of fact and fiction, gives this story a unique and original insight into the mythology surrounding the origins and development of vampire folklore, whilst ensuring the reader is kept grounded and focused by the historical connections and influences, which are introduced within the individual chapters as a series of flashbacks and only serve to add to the intrigue, terror and suspense.
The action packed storyline is fast moving, suspenseful, constantly changing and a well balanced mix of character and plot driven events. The many twists and turns in the story left me exhilarated and sometimes trying to think way ahead to the possible outcome of a particular event, only to be brought up sharply when James threw an alternative scenario into the mix, which I wasn’t expecting or anticipating, thus changing the whole emphasis of the story.
The characters are complex, well drawn and defined and above all, totally believable .. even those who are not quite who, or sometimes even what, they appear to be! It takes Steven, the main protagonist in the story, some time to work out, that he is being duped and used by those he comes to think of as friends, when friend and foe become almost as one and indistinguishable, until revealing their true identity is either desirable, or indeed unavoidable!
Corruption and everything not being as it might at first appear, is a theme which runs strongly throughout the plot and indeed throughout the many centuries this storyline spans. From the historical notion that ‘The Dragon Order’ was formed to take on Satan, only to have Satan take upon themselves the name of their adversary, in order to steal its power and turn it against them … To the concept that the serpent is associated with both good and evil, a symbol of both God and The Devil … Right through to the almost unbelieveable concept that in folklore, if a butterfly or moth enters a home in the evening it means that someone will die at the hands of a vampire; whilst conversely and once again in folklore, upon death the human spirit will leave the body in the form of a butterfly…
A historic evil of epic proportions, unleashed into an unsuspecting world, turning friends into enemies, dividing families, challenging beliefs and claiming innocent victims … A military regime inflicting the worst kind of pain and horror, or shapeshifters and lycanthropes coming together in one of the most sinister and terrifying vampire stories written to date.
Apart from making me see the ethereal beauty of a butterfly in a whole new light, New Year’s Eve and Good Friday, will never be quite the same again! I am running the risk that I am going to give away too much of the storyline here, so it’s probably best that I stop now.
There are just so many strong and emotional words and phrases which leapt off the pages of this book, that I could have gone on quoting them forever. It is best that you just grab yourself a copy at the earliest opportunity and immerse yourself in the ‘Kiss Of the Butterfly’!
This is the stuff real nightmares are made of!… and remember:-
Butterflies make almost no noise, even when flying in groups.
I can honestly say that James is another of the most easy to work with authors I have met to date, always ready to take part in any discussion about his books, commenting when he spots a post concerning one of his stories and responding to comments when he feels he can add value to what is being said. James is also willing to chat about anything ‘foodie’ related, at the drop of a hat, which has made him very popular with some of my fellow ‘foodie’ loving bloggers, especially when chocolate was mentioned!
James Lyon, has provided me with a copy of ‘Kiss Of The Butterfly’, in exchange for me reading and sharing my thoughts. The fact that my copy was gifted, has not influenced, nor in any way will influence in the future, any comments I may express about the book, in any posts I may publish. Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a 5 out of 5.