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‘Kiss Of The Butterfly’ by James Lyon

THE SYNOPSIS

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.

You might be wondering why the synopsis for this book is sporting two such diverse and different cover images … I’ll pass you over to the author to explain …

I wanted to let you know that a print version is now available. In conjunction with this, I made several changes:

1) After getting reader feedback, I decided to change the cover to the red and white butterfly design.

2) Because I am old-fashioned in some respects, I placed illustrations (all my own) at the head of each chapter to enhance the mood.

3) I added maps.

4) I updated the e-version to include the maps and illustrations.

THE AUTHOR

A picture of author James LyonJames 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.

You can check in with James at his ‘Facebook’ page here.

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!

WORDS FROM THE BOOK

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 honor 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.

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THE BOOK

‘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 mastefully 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 believeable .. 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 stroyline 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.

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.

 

Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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15 comments
    • Hi Tracy,

      Sorry the review has taken so long, apart from ‘real life’ getting in the way of my reading and blogging, it was really difficult to find the right words to describe this book, in the way that I wanted.

      ‘Proper’ vampires just about sums it up fantastically well, together with the excellent historical information which brought the story together so nicely.

      The telling of this story in no way demeans the terrible atrocities which were committed in The Balkans during the 1990’s, which were amongst some of the worst humanitarian disasters and massacres in history. In fact it makes the whole period in time, accessible and more relevant to a much broader audience, than those who would read about the region in history books.

      I really do hope that you decide to read it, I would love to be able to share thoughts about it with you.

      Have a great weekend.

    • Dear Petty,

      I hope it is a “proper” vampire novel. I promise there is nothing sparkly in this one, nor is it based on Hollywood imaginings. Rather, imagine, if you would, a touch of Bram Stoker, with a bit more historical/folkloric accuracy thrown in.

      I hope you get around to reading it. Being a bit old-fashioned myself, I made certain that each chapter in the kindle and paper editions had illustrations at the front, as well as maps of the areas. I designed them myself, and they give the book an added flavor.

      Best

      James

  • Dear Yvonne,

    My ego is still swollen from the wonderful review you wrote, and I’m certain my wife will find me insufferable for the next little while. If you don’t mind, I’ll blame it on you. 🙂 Actually, I’m usually insufferable to begin with, but this time I have an excuse.

    I really liked the review, because it was obvious that you engaged with the book on so many levels. That is what I had hoped when I wrote it. I wanted to write a book that an average reader could enjoy for fun, yet at the same time put in layers of meaning that the more discerning reader could pick out and recognize should they be inclined to do so.

    Once again, thank you very much for the lovely words.

    Best

    James

  • Thanks for addressing my question on the Bogomil sect in a previous thread 🙂

    This is going on my to-read list, as it combines narrative elements I like, plus I enjoyed the excerpts you supplied (especially the first one on complacency going farther than evil… so true – on a daily basis, it’s relatively few people who perpetrate evil acts, but there are many more who enable them either by supporting their actions or by behaving indifferently or complacently).

    • Dear HKatz,

      Yes, it is indeed the banality of evil that is so disturbing. Rarely does one find evil wearing a cloak with blood dripping from its fangs. Rather, the evil comes in the day to day actions people take when they ignore the well-being of their fellow-man, or pursue their own selfish interests at the expense of their selfish man, or attempt to cover-up their own misdeeds. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in politics bureaucracies, and diplomacy. And the overload of media stories about Kim Kardashion. 🙂

      I hope you like the book.

      Best

      James

      • Hi James,

        Best not to get me started on politics and politicians, where morals are left outside when you walk through the office door!

        I think that the pace of life, the challenges which face us all and, dare I say it, the ever growing dependence on technological advances, have made all of us ever more selfish, greedy and lacking in respect and caring for others.

        The media have to take the lion’s share of the blame for much of the morality demise, with its incessant need to over dramatise events and concentrate on featuring so-called ‘celebrities’ at every available opportunity.

        Rant over, thanks for the contributions to the discussion, much appreciated and have a great week.

        • Aaaaaahh, politicians, diplomats and bureaucrats, the bane of my existence. 🙂 And what passes for news reporting today is disgraceful. Please don’t get me started on the entire concept of reality shows.

    • Hi HKatz,

      I also found the third quote I featured very thought provoking .. the one which starts with the words .. ‘What was in a name…’ It only serves to highlight the trouble and emotional turmoil which ensues when labels are attached to individuals and groups of people, not only in the Balkan region, but in so many other conflict areas around the world.

      James just hits the nail on the head when he says, that not only does attaching a name to people change the way we perceive them, but it also changes the way in which the people see themselves and influences the way in which they feel they should behave, both towards others in their own group, or to people in alternative groups with different labels.

      There were simply so many great words and phrases throughout the book, that selecting just a few for inclusion, was a challenge in itself.

      It would be great if you decided to read the book ,as I am sure that you would get so much from it, as well as it being a fantastic vampire story of the most realistic kind.

      I hope that you had a great weekend and thanks for stopping by.

    • Hi Nikki,

      I have got to the stage where I am having to cull my physical TBR pile, without ever opening the pages of the books, as I have so many author and publisher review requests on my desk, that I know I am just never going to get to read them.

      It causes a physical ache when I have to pack them up and donate them to the charity shop where I volunteer and from where many of them came in the first place. Friends and family are just about stacked out with my donated books and just can’t take any more!! It is a shame that we didn’t live a little closer, or that postage wasn’t quite so highly priced, as there are many thrillers in my stack, that I am sure you would have enjoyed!!

      ‘Kiss Of the Butterfly’ is one such book that I am sure you would enjoy, so it would be great if you ever got the opportunity to read it.

      Have a great week and enjoy the sunshine!!

    • Dear Nikki-Ann,

      If you ever reduce your TBR pile to a manageable size, please do have a go at “Kiss of the Butterfly”. I think you will find it challenging, as well as a bit old-fashioned. I have illustrations at the beginning of each chapter (I made them myself) to help set the tone, as well as maps. In addition to having put in tremendous effort on the historical accuracy of the period and the folklore behind vampires in the Balkans, there are also a couple of love triangles in the works, as well as an enigmatic professor who is a cross between James Bond and Indiana Jones.

      I hope you get a chance to read it.

      Best

      James

  • I’ll be buying this within the next couple of months. I think it would make a perfect read for the autumn R.I.P. challenge that I do every year. Brilliant review, Yvonne.

    • Hi Cath,

      I never thought about your RIP challenge, but yes, it would make for great reading and reviewing material in the genre. With ‘proper’ vampires and all the attendant historical detail surrounding the atrocities perpetrated through the ages, I am sure this book will be right up your street and I can almost guarantee, will be so unlike any other vampire story you have read before.

      Also, as a slight aside and knowing how you enjoy reading about other cultures and communities, I think you might also enjoy the book I just finished reading ‘Gifts Of The Peramangk’ by Australian author Dean Mayes. The review won’t be out just yet, but this link will give you a taster of the story …. It almost had me reduced to tears a couple of times!

      https://www.fiction-books.biz/new-titles/gifts-of-the-peramangk-by-dean-mayes/

      Thanks for the lovely comments, I really do appreciate them.

    • Dear Kath,

      An R.I.P. challenge? That sounds a bit spooky, especially if it takes place around Halloween.

      I hope you do get a chance to read “Kiss of the Butterfly”.

      Best

      James

Written by Yvonne

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