A Focus On Nature

Books and Reviews

Book Review: Beetle Queen by M. G. Leonard

I’m sure if you are reading this review then you’ll have already read the brilliant first instalment from M.G. Leonard, Beetle Boy. If not, what are you waiting for, grab a copy from your nearest bookshop and stop reading this to avoid any spoilers.

Despite being housed in the Children’s section, these books are definitely to be enjoyed by adults too. If you are from an entomological background, as I am, then you may even appreciate these books that little bit more. So many times during reading them I found myself grinning at the familiarity of some of the characters, along with the inclusion of such accurate details. You don’t need to have an inordinate fondness for beetles to adore this book, but it is quite likely that you will develop one.

We re-join our unlikely trio of friends Darkus, Virginia and Bertolt, along with their beetle companions, for a fast-paced sequel jam-packed with adventure. Book one told of the brave and daring rescue of Bartholomew Cuttle, Darkus’s dad, from the evil grips of villainous fashionista Lucretia Cutter. The mad scientist turned designer has been developing transgenic beetles to carry out all manner of horrors, and was not even deterred by the loss of her prisoner. In Beetle Queen our trio must become detectives in order to ascertain Lucretia’s master plan. Through this we meet several new characters and Darkus learns more about his parents’ past. Bartholomew Cuttle is acting very strange, and tension forms between father and son as Bartholomew forbids Darkus from investigating any further. But why? Does he not want to stop Lucretia too? What is he afraid of?

Throughout this heartfelt story there are some very touching moments, particularly those featuring Darkus and Uncle Max. If you aren’t shedding a tear or two by page 176 then you are tougher than Baxter’s elytra! We see our main characters suffer a devastating loss, but from this they develop a new strength and fierce determination to stop the evil plans of Lucretia.

Their quest takes them very far from home, all the way to the Film Awards in Los Angeles. Where everything gets a bit Hollywood, much to the delight of the trio’s unlikely chaperone. Dresses, drama and disguises galore! Trusty beetle companions, Baxter, Marvin & Newton, once again fly into starring roles, with Novak waiting in the wings for her big moment. Can the two and six legged friends join forces to defeat Lucretia? Or will she rule the world as the Beetle Queen?!

Throughout the book the author, Maya, is really flying the flag for entomology. She subtly educates the reader on a range of entomological disciplines; from taxonomy and beetle diversity, to very current and important issues like food security and climate change. There is even a whole chapter dedicated to entomophagy! These elements are thoroughly researched and crafted with care and accuracy. I particularly enjoyed her description of the Cyphochilus beetle. These factual components fit so well with the adventure and charm of the story, no doubt making some of the impossible scenarios seem believable to the younger readers. It really is wonderful story telling. These books look set to be enjoyed by many and I’m sure it will leave countless young minds with a curiosity for beetles and inspire a new generation of Coleopterists! For this, I salute you Maya – thank you!

What more can I say other than… “When will book 3 be released??”! I can’t wait to find out what happens to our beetle heroes next!

Ashleigh Whiffin is Assistant Curator of Entomology at National Museums Scotland, where she is responsible for looking after approximately 2.2 million insect specimens! Her favourite group are beetles, particularly carrion beetles. In her spare time she is Co-Organiser for the Silphidae Recording Scheme ().