Science Fiction Book Review


Once... (2001) James Herbert, Pan, 6.99, pbk, 470pp, ISBN 0-330-37613-6


This is, supposedly, an erotic faerytale for adults... Which basically means there are more sex scenes than you might otherwise have been expecting. Whatever. Thom Kindred, convalescing after a road accident, returns to his childhood home and starts to see faeries. At first convinced they are a result of his brain injury he discounts them, but soon he finds out just how real they are when a witch tries to control and then kill him. Will the water faery, Jennet, and the elf , Rigwit, be enough to save him from the witch, Nell Quick? And what of Thom's past and, indeed, his future? Could he be the long-awaited go-between for the human race and the faeries...?

This is Herbert's 20th novel (not counting the graphic novel The City) and I've enjoyed most of them. But not this one. It's not that there's anything wrong with the writing - it's as crisp and readable as ever - but the plot seems a bit hackneyed. To some extent that can't be helped; this really is a faery tale in that it follows the structure quite rigidly, so it's no surprise, for instance, when Thom turns out to be the son of a mating between human and faery. But what that means is, you have to like faery tales (and their simplistic structure) to really enjoy this book. And I don't. Sorry. If you do, or if you're just a die hard Herbert fan, then please dive into this book and have fun. But if, on the other hand, you're prepared to admit that every now and again Herbert produces the odd novel that's not quite your cup of tea, then I suspect that this is one such, and you'd best avoid it. Go and re-read Others or something 'til the next one comes out...

Tony Chester

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