I wanted to like The Butterfly Crest by Eva Vanrell. The publisher describes a modern woman, Elena, who is caught in the endless war between pantheons. It sounded so good and indeed the beginning was good, an auspicious sign.
Elena learns of an inheritance from her mother, who died 19 years ago, that awaits her in Japan, and travels there to retrieve whatever it may be. She and her former guardian stay in an authentic Old Japan inn in Kyoto where they enjoy several days sightseeing with a fellow guest. She retrieves her inheritance, a striking necklace but decides to leave it with the strange bank that her mother used.
Suddenly everything changes. The fellow guest in one breath turns from kind friend to killer, attacking and trying to rape Elena. She is saved by mystery man Eiry, learns she is somehow instrumental in a millennia-long civil war among pantheons and must leave everything she knows.
The Good Parts
Author Vanrell obviously knows and loves ancient Kyoto and shares her love of Japanese culture and ritual with us readers. This got a little tedious after a while – we are reading a novel, not a travelogue – but she loves it so much that we have to share. She did her homework on the various pantheons too, introducing all sorts of minor gods and goddesses.
The writing quality is good, albeit too much of it. The author would have a better and more readable story with good editing and removed about 40% of the words.
The cover is beautiful, like a classic Japan scroll.
The Bad Parts
Elena didn’t seem real to me. She is meant to be a strong female lead but she just seemed like a character, not a real person. I didn’t like her.
The plot was contrived. I couldn’t care less about the pantheons’ war nor about Elena’s place in the war, nor about the obvious romance.
I just didn’t like the book, couldn’t care about any of the people or their conflicts, didn’t care about the pantheons or Elena. When the best part of a fantasy novel is the travelogue description you know it is not a book for you.
The publisher furnished a free copy via NetGalley in exchange for a review. I always try to finish every NetGalley book, since it is a trust, but this one was a real challenge and a chore. I skimmed the last half. I noticed most reviewers on Amazon raved about the story and the characters (and agreed about editing the endless travelogue) so maybe it was just me.
2 Stars (The writing quality and descriptions were too good to give it any less.)