After a stroke Thom Kindred goes back to his childhood home in the grounds of a mansion, where he lived in bliss with his late mother. On arrival he finds his rich benefactor on his deathbed, his son (Thom's childhood friend) somehow involved with the 'siren' who is nursing the ailing man.
This report prepared by Sue Jeffrey
Tor, Apr 2002, 26.95, 384 pp.
Only twenty-seven, Thom Kindred needs time to recover from the debilitating stroke he recently suffered. He chooses to go back to his favorite place, Castle Bracken where he once lived in a nearby cottage as a little boy. Back in his wonderful salad days, his mother regaled Thom with tales of mythical creatures until she suddenly died. Upon her death, his father sent Thom away to school where his innocence and belief in these fairy tale beings were quickly stripped away.
However, Thom's current return home rouses a malevolent being out of his slumber. As strange happenings occur, Thom wonders if the stroke destroyed his mind more than the crippling of his body. As friend and foe arrive for the final battle, the two sides try to woo Thom to join them for deep in the recesses of his brain resides the knowledge that could save or destroy the secret world of the fairies and elves.
ONCE... is an exciting adult fairy tale that is at its best as Thom discovers his blood relationship to fairies even as he questions his sanity. Fans will either adulate or abhor the tale when James Herbert goes into incredible depth to describe the mythological society and includes several erotic excesses because the action goes dormant. Thom is a fine hero internally struggling between good and evil and his own sanity. Readers of adult fantasy with an emphasis on the thoughts of the cast will want to read James Herbert's tale, but the author's fans need to understand the action is more deliberate than in his previous novels.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner