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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A child born at the wrong time in the wrong body, June 2, 2011
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This review is from: The Butterfly and the Flame (Kindle Edition)
Above all, this is a novel that speaks to the indomitability of the human spirit. At oft-times, a depressing tale about a world gone wrong and about a child born in the wrong body, who would rather die than live with the "mistake" of nature that has brought misery and pain to her family.

The calamity from space that befell the earth of the 21st Century has caused the US, as we know it, to be gone. Now, in the 25th century, what remains are small groups of people living in a paternalistic, feudal and agrarian society, where discrimination in the form of gender stereotyping, classism, sexism, transphobia and homophobia abound and domestic violence is the norm.

The religious right is in power, with their particular brand of fundamentalism gone wild. In this future time of human suffering and economic depression, people live in a society where the teachings of Christ are often bastardized and a religious-based government, to achieve its own aims, places a diminished value on the sanctity of human life. It is a world where zealots interpret the bible quite literally in the name of power and the promotion of fundamentalism. In this terrible time, torture and violence are the watchword, justified in the name of a righteousness that smacks of the Crusades. Hypocrisy and excesses by the church and the ruling classes abound.

The author tells this complex MacBeth-like tale of family, power, greed and deceit, where good people have a dark side and don't necessarily come to a happy end. And some come to regret making their deal with the devil. And souls are often sold for 30 pieces of silver. You know, I'm not so sure we are that far away from this world right now. So, if you want a little sci-fi, a little violence and a little gender stuff set to an ingenious story, I heartily recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic story that works on all levels, May 26, 2011
The Butterfly and the Flame is a book that's equal parts dystopian fantasy, social commentary, and transgender drama. It's the kind of novel that both enlightens and entertains. Our window into this world is Emily, a fifteen year-old girl who just happens to have been born a boy. Emily's story is an emotional one, a tragic tale that contains just enough hope to make the heartache and the sorrow palatable. She's a wonderfully well-rounded character, but one who is plagued by the dual angst of being a teenager and being transgender.

Dana pulls no punches in exposing us to the depths of human depravity, but doesn't neglect the heights of human goodness either. Love comes from the most barren of places, while it struggles to take root in what should be the most nurturing of environments. There are definitely some surprises along the way, but I daresay the pleasant ones carry a far greater impact, even if they are outnumbered by the unpleasant ones.

As the story shifts from Period drama to something more akin to Wild West action in the final act, we get to experience just enough of the wider world to provide context to the Emily's struggles. The further we get from Emily's Puritanical homestead, the more we realise the world may change, but human nature stays the same. Delicately balancing heroism and tragedy, hope and despair, Dana takes the novel to a satisfying - if somewhat sombre - conclusion that ultimately provides the hope for a better tomorrow.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing Story- Couldn't put it down!, May 9, 2011
The story of Emily draws you into a world so far away, yet so familiar. The author does an amazing job of weaving a tale of longing and hope, sibling love and rivalry and the bonds that bind us.
It was beautiful to read- I couldn't put it down!

Can't wait for her next book!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly engrossing (and horrifying) dystopian world with a transgender narrative, January 28, 2014
By 
Andrew Sass (San Francisco, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Butterfly and the Flame (Kindle Edition)
Unless I'm mistaken, this book is self-published through an online publisher. I've been reading a lot of self-published works lately, and more have been bad than good, I'm afraid.

I'm really happy to report that The Butterfly and the Flame by Dana De Young falls into the latter category.

The story follows Emily, a nearly 16 year old girl who has had an arranged marriage with her family's landlord's only son in the books since she was about 7 years old, and her quest for acceptance in a society that's willing to offer pretty much anything but. The setting is 2404, hundreds of years after America as we know it fell into the hands of religious fundamentalists. Technology is all but gone, and North America is by and large run by Christian fundamentalists who adhere to its laws in often arbitrary ways to suit the higher-up's needs (sound familiar? It happens in our society even today in some instances).

Emily and her family are hiding a secret though, one that will end up being revealed to potentially disastrous results if her marriage to Jonathan Marsh goes through. Emily was born biologically male, and is consequently a transwoman, something punishable by death in her society.

This is the first book that I've read in a long while that jumped to multiple points of view, seemingly without rhyme or reason. I thought that would be disconcerting or lessen the impact each point of view made on my overall impression of the book itself. That didn't seem to be the case though, and I found myself really enjoying getting a glimpse into a variety of different characters' minds.

The same went for the alternating time periods from chapter to chapter (particularly in the first half of the book). Usually, when authors skip between time periods, I find myself quickly losing interest and wanting to get back to present time to know what's going to happen with the current plot. Again though, I felt these time jumps really supplemented the storyline. Pretty much everything this author did that you're traditionally told you shouldn't do while writing a story seemed to work. I'm impressed.

The book isn't without its issues, of course. There were a handful of missing words throughout the work, a "than" where there should've been a "then," and even one instance where the last letter of one word ended up as the first letter of the next word. None of these errors really took away from the overall quality of the story, or my enjoyment of it either though.

In fact, I think Ms. De Young has really made Emily relatable. I'm transgender myself, so maybe I related more than others might. But Emily's voice is touching to me, and Ms. De Young crafts her story masterfully. Her voice is as feminine as her gender identity, making it clear this really was an individual trapped in the wrong body all along. Trans experiences differ, I realise, but Emily's story is one I'm happy to add to my growing list of trans literature experiences.

In addition, I didn't at all get the sense that anything was forced, or that conflicts were resolved in an unconvincing manner. Emily's father's reaction to her transition was realistic, if painful to endure. Her older brother's reactions too are difficult to read, but understandable. None of the antagonists felt as if they were merely black hats. On the contrary, each had realistic (if sometimes despicable) motives behind their actions.

I truly enjoyed this book, both for its dystopian themes and reference to transgender experiences. I think it was well written and a very impressive first effort. I do hope Ms. De Young continues to write more full-length novels. I'll be certain to purchase them if she does.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A variety of introspections, June 15, 2011
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This review is from: The Butterfly and the Flame (Kindle Edition)
Aside from the background of oppression through religion in a society rebuilding after a major worldwide cataclysm this book told the story through the perceptions of different characters.

More then just seeing the world through the different characters eyes we see it through their concepts of sacrifice, selfishness and love. The story is mostly told from Emily's point of view but we get lots of insight through the eyes of her parents and brother.

A VERY excellent read. I look very forward to the next one by this author.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Makes a strong impression, June 10, 2011
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Dana De Young has pulled off something that I don't think has been done before. Yes, there have been post-apocalyptic stories, even ones where a theocracy has taken over. And yes, there've been people caught in untenable situations. But I don't think any have been quite so untenable as that faced by Emily in The Butterfly and the Flame. And yet, Emily's story is ultimately an uplifting tale of courage, when it could so easily have been nothing but a tragedy.

The backdrop before which we see Emily's life and fortune play out is almost irrelevant, since countless Emilys exist today, and find themselves in sadly similar circumstances. This book is an eye opener. If you don't feel Emily's pains and triumphs while reading this book, you may lack empathy.

I look forward to a sequel.
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The Butterfly and the Flame
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