Beetle Queen

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Beetle Boy. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Beetle Queen (also published under the title Revenge of the Beetle Queen) was written by M.G. Leonard and first published in 2017. It forms the second part of The Battle of the Beetles Trilogy, following Beetle Boy (2016) and preceding Battle of the Beetles (2018). The story picks up a couple of months after the events of the first book and follows the continuing adventures of Darkus Cuttle and his hyper-intelligent rhinoceros beetle, Baxter. Because of this, I would strongly recommend reading the books in sequences to fully appreciate them.

Darkus managed to rescue his father from the clutches of the evil Lucretia Cutter, but he knows that the monstrous fashionista is planning something big. The paper reports that she is designing dresses that will be worn by every actress who has been nominated at the Film Awards in LA. Darkus does not know what Cutter will do when all of those cameras are turned on her, but it can’t possibly be good.

However, his snooping is hampered by his father. Bartholomew Cuttle knows how dangerous Cutter can be. She very nearly killed Darkus the last time they met and he doesn’t want to risk losing him. Bartholomew is keen to whisk his son away to live in the countryside but Darkus can’t allow that. He could never run away and leave his new human and beetle friends in danger.

When a close friend is badly injured by Lucretia Cutter and his father vanishes once again, Darkus knows that he has to act. With the help of Uncle Max, Virginia, Bertolt and their best beetle friends, they set off on an epic adventure that takes them from frozen Greenland to the bright lights of Hollywood. They know that they need to act fast. Lucrecia Cutter needs to be stopped before she can move her evil plan into its next stage…

As you may be able to tell, I like insects. One of my own BBFs was even obliging enough to pose for the picture above. I was also really taken by Beetle Boy when I discovered it earlier this year. Because I loved the first book so much, I was a little apprehensive about reading the sequel. However, I am pleased to say that it is equally as good.

As with its prequel, Beetle Queen is a surprisingly educational novel. While large insects can be intimating, its goal is to teach young readers how wonderful and fascinating beetles can be. While the beetles that appear in this story are hybrids, the story still focuses on the things that make every species unique and interesting. However, Beetle Queen also goes a step further than this as it broaches subjects such as entomophagy, insect farming, historical cases of clothing made from beetles and the dangers of introducing non-native species to an eco-system. Despite the fact that some of these themes are quite complex, the novel presents them in a way that is really easy to digest and even includes a helpful glossary to further explain the technical terms.

The plot of Beetle Queen is fast-paced and really hits the ground running, alternating between scenes that focus on Darkus’s investigation and Novak’s observations of her Mater. The story still very much has the feel of a Roald Dahl novel and is wonderfully original. It does a great job of making Darkus’s world feel lively and colourful, balancing exciting scenes with light (and occasionally gross) humour.

While the story can be a little scary at times – especially in the scenes that focus on Cutter – and also contains a particularly sad scene of beetle endangerment, it still always feels appropriate. The novel takes its middle grade audience very seriously which means that it is the good kind of creepy that young readers love. While some of the terminology can be a little challenging, Leonard always ensures that everything is fully explained and so her readers will never feel lost or overwhelmed.

Despite being the second novel of a trilogy, Beetle Queen was well structured and formed a strong story in its own right. The final battle at the Film Awards is incredibly dramatic but does leave a lot of questions unanswered, clearly indicating where Darkus’s mission will take him in the final instalment. Best of all, it made me want to find out more. I am now completely invested in this series and desperately want to know how the protagonists will defeat Lucrecia Cutter once and for all.

In terms of characterisation, the novel is still incredibly strong. Darkus, Bertolt and Virginia are all unique and likeable characters. While they sometimes make mistakes and get on each other’s nerves, they make a great team and their strengths really complement each other. The book especially gives Bertolt a time to shine as he is forced to defend Beetle Mountain by himself. It also provides some fantastic character growth for Novak, gradually revealing her shocking history as she uncovers her Mater’s plan.

The villains also get a bit more development in this novel, allowing the reader to finally learn the horror of Lucretia Cutter’s evil plan, as well as showing how monstrous she has truly become. Yet, while they are not as central to plot this time around, Humphry and Pickering are the ones that really steal the show. Their antics are the source of much of the humour in the novel, and I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen to them both when they are reunited with Cutter in the next book.

I feel that I should possibly also note that the good adults also get some great moments in this novel. Despite the fact that he is only a child, Darkus successfully manages to recruit a small group of sympathetic adults to his cause – including an archaeologist, an elderly entomologist and a pilot. This felt rather refreshing, as adults are frequently portrayed negatively in middle grade novels. I loved the fact that a majority of them in this story were both eager to listen to Darkus and help him in whatever way they could.

Anyhow, I think that’s about all that I have to say. Beetle Queen was a strong and exciting sequel that was every bit as enjoyable as Beetle Boy. It’s fast-paced, funny and takes its young readers incredibly seriously. I really can’t wait to see how everything finally concludes in Battle of the Beetles.

Beetle Queen can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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