Excerpt

The frantic flutter of insect wings broke the boy’s meditation. The cat stopped and stared up at the shaded corner between the pendulum clock and the wall where a butterfly was struggling to free itself from a spider’s web. Marcel was particularly pleased with the spider’s upkeep; its web had already proved an excellent mosquito trap.

He pulled quickly against the table with his toe to set the chair squarely back on its four legs. Then swiftly he went for his butterfly net. It was propped against the wall under the post office calendar that portrayed a pastoral scene and listed the months of the year 1911.

He was barely halfway back across the room when the butterfly, which turned out to be a moth, broke its tethers and fell back through the air before instantly regaining flight. It darted over the outstretched net straight for the mantelpiece. It took refuge behind a yellowing photograph of a man with an arm around a boy of nine, which had pride of place beside a funeral urn.

Slipping his fingers scissor-fashion behind the photo, Marcel brought out the moth, dangling from a clump of dusty spider web thread. He snatched up a matchbox from a collection conveniently piled in stacks on the sideboard and popped in his prize.

‘What d’ya think of that then, Dad? I bet it’s a humming bird sphinx,’ said the boy, smiling triumphantly at the urn. ‘Wait ’til ole De Forge sees this!’ On turning his thoughts to De Forge and his offer of an apprenticeship at Villeneuve, Marcel said to himself, ‘Hmm, and he’ll be wanting an answer today, I bet. Can’t keep putting him off.’

While Marcel’s father has passed away, he still exerts a great deal of influence over his son’s life. The apprenticeship, in fact, would be following in his late father’s footsteps. But it would also be the path of least resistance, for Marcel has also won a scholarship at a renowned technical college in Paris. This second choice would take a leap of faith, as there are no guarantees for success and no familial lineage to lean upon. He would, in essence, be on his own.

His friend Julia, a city girl to the marrow who was forced to move to the environs of the country by the death of her own father, is a huge proponent of Marcel taking a chance and moving to Paris. Of course, Julia has her own personal reasons as well, worried that Marcel would accept the apprenticeship solely to be near her cousin Henriette. Before he can make his decision, however, a legendary oak tree is about to give him some of the most unusual—and extraordinary—help Marcel could ever imagine.

Under the grand oak’s influence, Marcel becomes increasingly insect-like on his quest across the meadow to feast on the royal jelly in order to return to his human form. Forced to carve his own path and follow his heart, he sets off and quickly finds himself teaming up with a wonderful group of insects, each of which has their own agenda. And with time running out and his existence in peril, Marcel must fight to the finish—or die a bug.

“A wildly imaginative quest about shedding fears and spreading wings, P. C. R. Monk’s debut novel is a highly entertaining meditation on the rites of passage and a fantasy of astonishing depth and resonance. Inspired by his love for all things insect, his use of Marcel’s metamorphosis as metaphor exposes the weird and wonderful world that exists right under our feet. Sans wizards, witches, or dragons, Strange Metamorphosis instead features dragonflies, a legendary tree, and a gallfly in one of the most extraordinary adventures you will ever embark on.”

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