You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

My Photo
Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Once Upon a Summer Day

In Once Upon a Summer Day, author Dennis L. McKiernan has created an expanded version of a familiar fairy tale. It takes place in a fairy land of many different worlds separated by curtains of darkness between them. Four of these worlds are the the worlds of Summer, Winter, Spring and Autumn.

Prince Borel of Winterwood is sleeping at his brother's manor in Summerwood when he dreams of a fair maiden in distress. When he awakes he believes that the woman is real and decides to go find her. He travels to his home in Winterwood and rests for a day in his manor, then travels to find a seer to help him. On the way he stops by the house of the witch Hradian. He finds an incriminating letter there, but before he can get away the witch arrives and casts a spell, knocking him out.

He awakes in a dungeon without his weapons. He manages to escape from there and evade the goblins and trolls, with the help of a field sprite named Flic and his bee friend Buzzer. The three of them travel together, Buzzer leading them by taking them to where flowers are that Borel remembers. As Borel sleeps, he visits the damsel again and gets to know her. He discovers that her name is Chelle and she has been imprisoned by a witch. Borel realizes he knows her and her family, so he asks Flic and Buzzer to take him to her home.

On the way, they help a gnome escape from a difficult situation, and the gnome gives them aid in return. They discover that Chelle's home had completely disappeared along with her family and their servants, over eleven years before. Borel gets more help from one of the Fates, tames a Pooka (a wild changeling who is luring people to their deaths), helps a band of horsemen under a fairy curse, plays chess against a fairy king, gets help from more fates, and rides the king's horse to the Endless Sands. All the time he is fighting the Moon, for he knows Chelle's fate will be sealed at the next full moon.

Finally he reaches the manor of Chelle's family, fights his way through deadly thorns, makes his way up the tower while resisting the effects of the sleep spell, and rescues Chelle. The two of them manage to escape from the Endless Sands with the help of Flic and the the horsemen (now uncursed). He and Chelle, whom he has almost bedded in their dream visits but barely managed to stay chaste, go back to his manor, killing the witch Hradian, then go back to Summerwood to see his brother's wedding. After the wedding, they discover that with the witch's death all the people in Chelle's home are released from the spell and the manor is returned to is proper place after twelve years.

I found this book to be very entertaining. It was a little slow at first but really began to pick up when Borel is in the dungeon, and then it is full of action after that. It is an interesting plot device to have Borel and Chelle get to know each other in their dreams, especially since Chelle doesn't seem to realize what is going on. Borel fights his urges, not wanting to take advantage of Chelle in the situation. He gets help on his quest from his companions Flic and Buzzer and many others on the way.

One of the best things about the story is the language that McKiernan uses. He employs great fantasy words, including many French words that give the story a romantic feel. The effect works wonderfully. The characters and the narration give a great sense of a different world. It is truly the best thing about the novel. The characters are somewhat interesting but not very deep. Borel is motivated to rescue Chelle because of his intense connection with her through her dreaming, and the plot follows from there. There are typical twists in the plot, and each one is challenging and intriguing. The setting of the many different worlds of fairy feel like they have a lot of potential, even though they seem pretty sparsely populated. One of the best parts of the story is the banter between Borel and his helper sprite Flic. Flic turns out to be helpful and intelligent, and he almost could carry a story on his own. Overall, it was a pleasant read, and I think I'll be reading more of the series. B+


Post a Comment

<< Home