Thursday, 25 September 2014


THE BUTTERFLY KING by Edmond Manning
Pages: 350
Date: 23/09/2014
Grade: 6
Details: no. 3 The Lost and Founds

The blurb:

“Terrance Altham doesn’t know why he’s been arrested. He’s committed no crime and the cops aren’t talking. Sadly, the man sharing his holding cell talks too much. Known only as Ghost, he is a young grifter, apparently familiar enough with this police station to convince Terrance a break out is possible, and pushy enough to leave Terrance no choice but to follow Ghost into the underbelly of New York City.

Terrified by the unjust imprisonment and the possibility of a life behind bars, Terrance searches for proof of his innocence while Ghost seeks the elusive Butterfly King. But neither man seems in control of the weekend’s direction and the consequences of missteps are life-changing. As Ghost’s manipulations come to an explosive head, each man must decide amid danger and street violence what kind of man will triumph, lost or found?

Narrator Vin Vanbly (a.k.a Ghost) returns in the most revealing King Weekend yet, where he faces the dark side of his dangerous manipulations, and learns mistakes can be deadly. Vin must confront sinister dealings from his past—and a future promising disaster—as he waltzes Terrance across Manhattan in spring, searching for the elusive and charismatic, Butterfly King.”

My thoughts:

“It’s a heavy burden, trying to love a world that doesn’t seem to love you back.”

Before I say anything else I would like to point out this is the third title in an ongoing series. I can’t recommend reading these books in the right order enough.. While each book tells a wonderful tale of its own, the magnificence of this story only shines through in all its glory if you read the story as the author intended. And that includes reading the chapters of book six, King Daniel, as they are posted on Edmond Mannings website.

The King Daniel chapters are not random filler material. They remind us of what’s gone before and give us (probably crucial) hints of what’s still to come.

Chapters four to seven bring Daniel to New York where he hopes to find The Butterfly King. Given Daniel’s difficulty walking, New York is a bit of a nightmare for him. But as difficult as it is to get around and no matter how hopeless his quest appears at times, he cannot bring himself to give up. His need to find the Found Kings and discover if he too could be found, is far bigger than his anger against the world and his fear when he’s moving around.

Reading about Daniel’s need to look down all the time to make sure he’s on firm ground and his sudden desire to start looking up, reminded me of one of my favourite Dutch songs. I took a chance and searched YouTube for an English version of the song and found this really beautiful one: ‘Sammy’.


Do you ever get pre-read anxiety? I was desperate to read The Butterfly King. But then, when I had the book as well as the time to read it, I found myself procrastinating. You can only read a book for the first time once. And I know there’s going to be a wait for book number four. If I didn’t start The Butterfly King now, that wait would be shorter. But I had the book and needed to know the next part of the story. But... You get my drift. In the end curiosity won out and I lost myself in another of Edmond Manning’s Lost and Founds tales.

The story of Vin’s seventh ‘kinging’ throws you straight into the action. A man called Ghost is waiting in a New York prison cell for his cellmate. Terrence, The Butterfly King, is about to start his King Weekend in prison.

I’m not going to say anything else about the story as such. It should be read, experienced even, without preconceptions and expectations. Edmond Manning has created characters and a world to lose yourself in. The dialogue and Vin’s thoughts draw you into the story. It is impossible not to feel Vin’s pain, his fear and the love he has for the man he’s spending a weekend with. I read whole sections of this story with tears in my eyes. Vin’s conviction that he’s unworthy of love and that those who think they love him would stop feeling that way the moment they found out what he has done in the past, was heartbreaking. Vin has such a huge capacity to love inside him and yet can’t believe that others, not even his Kings, might be as capable of unconditional love towards him.

I’ve slowly (far more slowly than I should have) come to the realisation this is a philosophical series of books as much as it is a work of fiction. These stories and Vin’s theories force you to think about things like curiosity, or, in this book, fear.

 “But if a man spends his life fighting fear, keeping it at bay with logic and rationalizations, he doesn’t notice fear exacting its toll, draining him, preventing his ability to access true power. That’s the dark wizard’s greatest curse, not draining you enough to notice and fight back, but embedding fear so deeply, you forget to consider achieving your greatness.”

Reading the Lost and Founds books forces you to examine how you approach the world yourself. Are you living your life in the best way possible, are you allowing all your potential to emerge or is fear holding you back?

“Fear never collects enough love, enough money, enough power.”

Terrence, he who is destined to become the Butterfly King, has to come to terms with everything that happened to him in the past and to forgive those he’s blaming for the way his life got derailed, before he can live without fear holding him back.

“(...) Lost Kings have to let something die to become Found Kings again. They have to shed a comfortable burden to become a better version of themselves. Give up living on the sidelines. Give up feeling sorry for themselves. Stop blaming others. The price of power is a new burden. The gateway is often grief.”

The moment he decides to embrace life, despite all the obstacles, was glorious.

“I’m going to live Ghost. (...) No matter if my world crumbles around me. I’m going to live in these moments.”

We meet a different Vin Vanbly in this book. Since the story is set earlier than the two previous titles, he’s obviously younger. But it is more than that. This Vin isn’t nearly as sure of himself as he is in King Perry or KingMai. He’s making mistakes, doesn’t know the man he’s going to King as well as he should, and feels out of his depth at times. Vin is pushing Terence harder than he’s ever pushed anyone and wonders, on several occasions, if he’s gone too far.

As we get further into this series, the stories are less about the men Vin ‘kings’ and more about Vin himself. We get to know Vin through the men he picks. Perry, Mai and Terrence are like mirrors, showing Vin what he needs to learn, what is lacking in his life and what is possible. There are moments when Vin gets that message loud and clear but his dislike and distrust of himself are too big to allow him to take the message on board.

“I’m just like him. I also use fear to masquerade what I truly want, and in moments of clarity, I can admit the thing I want is always the same: to be loved.”

Those moments of clarity shatter my heart and make me want to dive into the book, find Vin, and wrap my arms around him while whispering that he’s more than good enough, that all he needs is the strength to forgive himself for what happened when he didn’t know any better. But Vin isn’t there yet. While he catches glimpses of the way forward, he is not yet able to walk down that path.

“(...) I missed an opportunity to practice being a Found One, to be open to feedback and truly listen without my shit getting in the way.” – Vin

And yet, every man Vin ‘kings’ brings him closer to the moment when he too will be able to embrace his greatness.

“Something old and broken is less broken.”

I have no idea exactly what it means and have got a feeling it may be a while before I find out, but I can’t help feeling the following quote will prove to be pivotal:

“Watch for the king whose initials are D.C. He will unmake you. He’s coming to destroy you. You could stop him, but if you do, the Great Remembering never happens.”

And my heart broke when Vin drew his, almost certainly wrong, conclusion from that prediction.

Now that I’ve finished The Butterfly King and its darker story, part of me wants to read the rest of it immediately. Another part of me isn’t sure it could endure Vin’s story before the events in this book. I’ve been shown glimpses of it from the start and know it will be brutal and heart-shattering and probably man-breaking. And I suspect it has to happen. Before you can King a man you have to break him after all.

Something rather amazing happened while I was reading this book. A rather loud flapping noise tore me out of the story. When I looked up I saw a beautiful butterfly desperately trying to flee my house through a closed door. I was so engrossed in the story there wasn’t a lot I would have put the book down for, but I did just that for the butterfly. It took me a few minutes and quite a lot of gentle coaxing, but eventually the butterfly managed to find its way through the door I had opened, and back to freedom.

I’ll end my ramblings with a quote that made my heart sing.

“A feeling, a foreign one, flits through me, a fiery red cardinal dashing from twig to twig in my brambled heart. Hope.”

No comments:

Post a Comment