Once is an adult fairy-tale fantasy with bizarre sexual scenarios, a nostalgic touch, and gothic feel. There’s a whole bunch going into this one. The front of the book has stunning artwork for several pages too, and the author clearly had fun breaking up the classic “Once upon a time” line between pages, instead starting chapter one with “death.” This is one of those books where you get the bigger impact reading the beginning in book form rather than electronic.
First page - Once
Second page - Upon
Third Page - A
The length is drawn out considering the storyline, which doesn’t hold enough scenes and action to justify page count. The writing style is beautifully done, complimenting the nostalgic and fantasy feel of the protagonist. I do wish less reflection had taken place, where a shorter length would have minimized the ‘dragging on’, spicing it up a bit.
Character wise, Thom is likeable with realistic dimensional, coming back home after a serious health setback. Hugo interested me because of his dysfunctional weaknesses and the villain turned out satisfyingly monstrous. I do wish more time had been spent about the grandfather. The elves and creatures in the forest were fantastical and intriguing, bringing the fairy tale element to life full force, and I liked the revelations Thom learned about himself and what the future holds for the land.
Sexual scenes are surreal and fit perfectly into the story, especially the erotic scene where he first encounters a main character. It shifts to another disturbing sequence that I won’t spoil here, but let’s just say that one ended up icky. There’s a few more sex scenes, including two characters you wouldn’t suspect, taking up nearly an entire chapter in length.
Overall the premise is good but there’s too much fluff to avoid getting bored sometimes. Characters are worthy of reading about, but you can only care so long in between something happening and characters ‘explaining things.’ The finale, with its flashy battle, worked. Pacing is too slow, but the atmosphere is rich and enshrouded with gothic fantasy. I expected more, perhaps some slimming down would have helped it, but it’s a decent book that stands out as unique.