Once Upon Another Time

Once Upon Another Time
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Release Date
April 05, 2022
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Storybook characters collide in this first book in a new trilogy of twisted fairy tales from New York Times bestselling author James Riley, set in the world of his popular Half Upon a Time series—perfect for fans of Fablehaven and Chris Colfer’s A Tale of Magic series!

Five and a half feet might seem pretty tall for a twelve-year-old, but it’s not when your parents are giants. Lena has kept the fact that she’s a tiny giant secret, using magic to grow when out in the giant village. But hiding who she is has always felt wrong, even though she knows the other giants might not accept her. Fortunately, Lena has friends down in the Cursed City who understand that looking different doesn’t make her less of a giant.

Someone who knows not to judge by appearances is Jin, a young genie currently serving one thousand and thirty-eight years of genie training that requires him to fulfill the wish of whoever holds his magical ring. In Jin’s case, it’s the power-hungry Golden King. At least the king only has two wishes left, one of which is for Jin to go to the Cursed City and capture its protector, the Last Knight—one of Lena’s closest friends.

What Lena and Jin don’t know is how close the Golden King’s plans are to coming together, between his dark magic and his horrible Faceless knights. If Jin does find the Last Knight and bring him to the Golden King, why, that could doom the entire fairy-tale world.

…This sounds like it’ll end badly, doesn’t it?

Editor review

1 review
Giants and Genies to the rescue!
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This is the first book of a new trilogy set in the same world as the Half Upon a Time trilogy. Fans of that world will see common nursery rhyme characters, such as Old Mother Hubbard, The Gingerbread Man, and Humpty Dumpty, mixed in with the fairytales characters of Pinocchio and mythological tales of King Midas and others to face a new problem set twelve years after the original series. We meet Lena, who is a short giant facing the hatefulness of the Giant king who tells her because she is different, she is no giant. We also meet Jin, a young genie that must serve a human master until he learns humility or serves over a thousand years to the demands of frail humans. Unfortunately, Jin’s master is the wicked Golden King who turns all his detractors into gold statues and is bent on finding the cursed city and defeating the last rebel, the Last Knight for total world domination.
The tale unfolds in alternating perspectives by Jin and Lena. Lena’s struggle to share her true self and not keep secret what she knows to be true in her heart about herself will resonate with many Middle-Grade readers also asking themselves where they fit in the world. Jin will also appeal to readers with his struggle to care or to see the importance of things that do not involve his own plight.
Having read the companion series, this story felt slower to build and a bit darker at first. With Lena feeling like an outcast and Jin’s servitude from an evil world-ending dictator it takes a while before any levity can be found in the situation.
I enjoyed the cursed city that was not what you would expect from a place with a name like that. Many of the residents have tasted from Mrs. Hubbard’s cauldron of truth to have their true selves come through, which means that characters like Humpty and the Gingerbread Man are finally showing their true selves and prefer to be “cursed”. In fact when a magical battle turns them human again, they have never been so miserable.
Throughout the tale, there is a mystery of who the Last Knight really is and what the Faceless soldiers are. I thought it was clear who it was going to end up being so I was very surprised with the reveal. I went most of the story wondering who from the original trilogy would be a part of this new story and was surprised with the answer. This story could be read without having to first read the Half Upon a Time series, but as these mysteries and the greater history of this world unfold, I think there is greater enjoyment if you have read the other series first.
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