Battle of the Beetles

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments in this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

Beetle Boy | Beetle Queen

Battle of the Beetles was written by M.G. Leonard and first published in 2018. It forms the final part of the Battle of the Beetles Trilogy, following Beetle Boy (2016) and Beetle Queen (2017). As the novel carries on directly where previous instalments left off, I would strongly recommend reading them in sequence to have any idea of what is going on.

Hidden in the depths of the Amazon rain forest, Lucretia Cutter has begun her bid for world domination. Her army of beetles is beginning to target crops around the world and slowly the governments are beginning to bow to her wishes. They have no choice – no one knows exactly where she is or how they can possibly stop such a wide-scale and devastating attack. To make worse, Barty Cuttle is known to have gone with her and has become a global scapegoat. Everyone believes him to be the mastermind, making him public enemy number one.

Darkus knows that his father is not a villain and is determined to prove it. Along with his allies – Virginia, Bertolt, Motty and Uncle Max – he begins to plan a way to find Cutter’s hidden biome and stop her before she can unleash any more monsters, or realise her plan to turn the captive Novak into a beetle-human hybrid.

Of course, Darkus will also be helped by his best beetle friends. Baxter and the other survivors of Beetle Mountain want nothing more than to free Cutter’s captive specimens. However, Darkus must be careful. Lucretia Cutter has made the world afraid of beetles, and this means that people may assume that he is in league with her if they learn the existence of his smallest allies…

Before I begin, a word of warning. The Battle of the Beetles series does a great job of showing how fascinating beetles are. They are greatly educational novels, designed to demonstrate that beetles are gentle giants and showcase all of the diversity that their species represents. However, exotic beetles do not make great pets, especially for children. They don’t really like being handled, have short adult life-spans and require very specific care if you want to raise them from their larval stages. If Battle of the Beetles has inspired you to keep a rhinoceros beetle like Baxter (or a stag beetle like my Ringo), please be sure to do your research first.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the novel. While Battle of the Beetles did not resonate with me in quite the same way that previous instalments did, it was still a great conclusion to the trilogy. The story picks up shortly after Beetle Queen left off and really does hit the ground running. As early chapters reveal, Darkus and his friends are already being victimised due to his father’s actions, while Lucretia has already reached the biome and begun her devastating plan to give the world back to the beetles.

The story’s third-person narrative is fast-paced and frequently switches between all of the major characters – Darkus and his friends, Barty and Lucretia, Novak, and Humphrey and Pickering. While I’m not a huge fan of novels that use more than two narrative focal points, it did actually work well in this instance. It was an effective way to show what each group was doing individually as it moved them all into position for the climax.

Battle of the Beetles still takes is young audience very seriously. It always uses the correct terminology and even the Latin names for many of the beetle species that appear. As with the previous instalments, the novel also comes with a handy glossary in case you forget the difference between a beetle’s elytra and its palps. Yet, while I did like this aspect of Leonard’s writing, I also felt that the story was perhaps a little heavy-handed in places. While it did explore the impact that beetles (or lack thereof) have on the environment, this was exposited at length several times over the course of the story.

I also feel that I should note that Battle of the Beetles is perhaps a little darker than previous instalments. While it was still appropriate for younger readers, the introduction a carnivorous hybrid and the final battle with Lucretia Cutter were both a little more violent than anything we have seen before, and could be scary for sensitive readers.

Still, this did not detract from the excitement of the tale, as the characters fight to break into the biome and discover the true secret behind Cutter’s genetic experiments. Battle of the Beetles is certainly the most action-packed instalment of the series and the final third of the story builds to a gripping climax. It is here that the plot truly shows both the power of friendship and the incredible power and beauty of beetles. While the final chapters do leave couple of loose ends (including a villain that manages to escape unpunished), they do nicely wrap up the trilogy and end Darkus’s adventures on a really positive note.

In terms of character, the series is as strong as ever. While Humphrey and Pickering’s antics still provide most of the story’s humour, the true power of Battle of the Beetles lies with Darkus. Following the events of Beetle Queen, Darkus has become depressed and withdrawn. He starts the story as a much darker character, debating even if he could kill Cutter to save his father. However, he soon finds himself again through his bond with both his human and beetle friends.

Beyond Darkus, the story still features a magnificently strong and well-developed secondary cast, featuring a diverse selection of boys, girls, adults and beetles who all rally to help Darkus to save the world. Darkus’s team possesses a number of different abilities – ranging from Novak’s beetle powers, to Bertolt’s intelligence, to Virginia’s energy – which are often the qualities that Darkus lacks and are therefore essential to help him save the day.

Lucretia Cutter has also truly metamorphosed into a terrifying villain in this book, growing more ruthless and vicious than ever before. While her motives can be understood to a degree, there is no justifying her callous disregard for human life. She forms a frightening and memorable nemesis for Darkus and his best beetle friends, and this makes his stand against her all the more satisfying.

I think that about covers everything. Although it was my least favourite of the three books, Battle of the Beetles was a really strong ending to what has been a fantastic middle grade series. It’s fast paced and exciting, but best of all is that fact that it is surprisingly educational and nurtures a deep appreciating for beetles. It is definitely a must read for all young readers.

Battle of the Beetles can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2019. 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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