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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent fairytale with that added extra for adults
I have never been a great fan of James Herbert, only liking a few of his books, but this is a great read. It offers that quaint English charm that often appears in JH's books making you wish you could visit these places of which he writes and also helps you to relive the stories of your childhood. It is not as scary as I would have liked it to be, but I am glad I read...
Published on 6 Nov. 2001

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Snow White meets The elves and the shoemaker
I expected a 'SCARY' version of a fairy-tale but what I actually found was an 'ADULT' version of a fairy-tale. Adult being sexual content rather than the thrills and chills of a good horror read. 'Once' had all the usual fairy tale content, the good witch (actually a mermaid type girl), the evil witch, who, to Herbert's credit, was in fact deliciously evil and the good...
Published on 15 May 2002 by I Weltch


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Snow White meets The elves and the shoemaker, 15 May 2002
By 
I Weltch (Portsmouth, Hants United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Once (Paperback)
I expected a 'SCARY' version of a fairy-tale but what I actually found was an 'ADULT' version of a fairy-tale. Adult being sexual content rather than the thrills and chills of a good horror read. 'Once' had all the usual fairy tale content, the good witch (actually a mermaid type girl), the evil witch, who, to Herbert's credit, was in fact deliciously evil and the good elf who helps our hero. I was expecting more from an author of such brilliant novels as 'Creed' and 'The Dark' but I was disappointed by the fact that the sexual content seemed to overpower the storyline.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars FAERIES AND MAGICK, 16 May 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Once (Paperback)
I don't think James Herbert is a good writer. His prose is unwieldy and his characters lifeless. However, he is often a good storyteller, and he has a talent for creating macabre horror set-pieces, for example the man pecked to death by his racing pigeons in "The Fog".
Every so often though the James Herbert Fiction Machine throws a wobbly and we get something like "Once". The premise, that fairies really do exist at the bottom of the garden, is interesting enough, but the story gets lost among endless descriptions of the countryside and the inclusion of laughable attempts at erotic scenes does nothing to help.
My advice is, give it a miss.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Why A Fairy Story and Not A Horror One?, 28 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Once (Paperback)
As big a fan of James Herbert as I am, I have to say that I was immensely disappointed with Once. I mean, for me, this book was a BIG leap down from the high peaks of the traditional explicit blood and gore with which he first sprang to fame, and as a result, the book suffered very badly. And why oh why was this more of a fairy story than a horror one? At times I just felt like I was reading something from out of a Brothers Grim or Hans Christian Andersen story. This book could have been so much better, if only he had omitted the fairies and replaced them some real, nasty, more adult-orientated demons or monsters.

Horror Stories
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent fairytale with that added extra for adults, 6 Nov. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Once (Hardcover)
I have never been a great fan of James Herbert, only liking a few of his books, but this is a great read. It offers that quaint English charm that often appears in JH's books making you wish you could visit these places of which he writes and also helps you to relive the stories of your childhood. It is not as scary as I would have liked it to be, but I am glad I read it as it has reminded me what a joy it is for a child to believe in these things and I will make sure that my son gets his fair share of fairy stories when he is old enough to understand. I also thought that it was a nice surprise to see pictures in the book, which are greatly drawn. The immagination can only go so far and sometimes needs a push in the right direction! All in all, I would reccomend this book to anyone, be they a horror fan or otherwise. It is scary enough for all the non-horror fan's but with just enough for the horror reader.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings..., 24 Mar. 2009
By 
FAMOUS NAME (UNITED KINGDOM) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Once (Hardcover)
I do not as a rule read 'contemporary' fiction, and so when I purchased this, I must not have realised this, but have been swayed by its fantasy element. Though having heard of him, this was my first and possibly last purchase by James Herbert.

Whilst being of no literary masterpiece or classic prose though, this was extremely readable, since I kept going well past the point where I may have otherwise put it down for the reasons mentioned. The chapter 'twentieth' I really got lost in - in a magical way and it made a lasting impression upon me. The morning I finished reading this particular chapter, I looked out of my bedroom window (I live in the Shropshire countryside where this novel is set) and across the garden, and saw two birds hopping along the lawn; I immediately became their size and realised that the daffodils with their bobbing yellow heads they passed must have seemed like tall trees to them! It prompted me to contemplate the world from their perspective. Powerful stuff indeed!

In total contrast to this superbly written chapter, the chapter 'twenty-third' was by far the worst I was to read - it seemed to bear no relation to the actual story, and simply seemed to have been added as a mere 'thrill' for those men who are forever fantasising about two women getting it on together. ( I wonder how many 'straight' writers would have written the same piece about two guys!?) I am not a prude, and do not have a problem with this kind of writing - in the right place or novel, but I found this repulsive and not at all 'erotic' from any viewpoint, which I think was perhaps the author's intention in a perverse sort of way, and consequently it spoilt the whole book for me... It was at this point that I came closest to giving up on this read.

As if this wasn't bad enough, and so soon after, in the very next chapter, the chapter 'twenty-fourth', there is a reference to the Icelandic Singer 'Bjork' (without being actually named - but there can be no mistaking who this is) and spoils everything still further for me... Totally ridiculous and pointless in my opinion... (I am assuming the Writer must inevitably be a fan - hence why he felt the need to bring her into this novel - however remote)

The subject matter of the last few chapters were certainly 'milked' for all they were worth, in terms of being terribly drawn out in the longest possible way... The 'forest storm' chapter for instance went on and on and became exceedingly boring, and at this point, I just wanted to get past these, and to finish the book in a rush... The novel is almost five hundred pages long, and so I failed to see the need for the protraction of these last few chapters, and I think the story would have faired better in any case had it been a couple of hundred or so pages shorter. I also found the 'unoriginal' and obvious plots (those outside the fantasy element at least) rather disappointing...

However, despite all these criticisms, I have mixed feelings about the book: throughout there were many parts when I was unsure as to whether I actually liked and enjoyed it or not - yet to my surprise, I did finish it!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 6 Aug. 2006
By 
Eclipse "suz29" (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Once (Paperback)
What a shame as I was really looking forward to reading it, I'm interested in wicca, magick, faeries and also big James Herbert fan so this book seemed to be right up my street, unfortunately not! At first it held my attention and had some interesting characters but as the story unfolded I found myself wishing the book to end. The only thing that made me smile was the welcome return of Rumbo!! I am still a huge fan of Herbert but not of this particular book.
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2.0 out of 5 stars The Wrong Sort of Fantasy, 25 Nov. 2009
By 
This review is from: Once (Paperback)
James Herbert may claim to be the crown Prince of horror, but on evidence of this novel he certainly is not the King of fantasy. This is a misjudged book that tries to blend horror, fantasy and erotica. That's right erotica. The story of a stroke victim returning home to the secluded cottage in the woods only to be bombarded with witches and fairies should be solid fantasy. And it is, just not wizard and warlock fantasy. Putting to one side the dodgy sex scenes the book is not that great anyway. The plot takes a long time to get going and the pace alters inexplicably for the final 50 pages or so. The adult scenes only add to the overall negative aspects of the book.

Hidden within the book are some decent moments and Herbert remains a skilled writer. His romanticised style works well in a land of goblin and fairy folk, but less so in the world of men. Character wise he does create some intriguing people with the witch in particular being well written. However, with only 5 or 6 people in the entire book there is not enough interaction to call a story. `Once' is a strange novel that is structured poorly and has intermittent embarrassing scenes. Having read a few of Herbert's other books I do know that he is a good writer and that he does not normally delve towards the carnal. I hope that this book remains an anomaly and not a new direction.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Fun but Forgettable, 29 Dec. 2007
By 
C. Cubbin "fox5596" (South Wales) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Once (Paperback)
The basic premise of this book is a good one - that traditional childrens' fairy tales can be spiced up to make them appeal to grown-ups. The Grimm Brothers' tales make sinister enough reading and it was a good idea to tweak some well-known images from childhood stories to turn them into disturbing adult fiction.

However, despite some graphic sex scenes and fairly shocking horror (you would expect no less from Mr Herbert) the story never quite grips the reader enough. The characters are a little, well, normal and both good guys and bad guys seemed decidedly hesitant to act with any decisiveness or even subtlety. They're all a bit nerdy to be honest. I found myself wondering why the hero doesn't just take a good piece of 2x4 to the bad guys and lamp them one. When the reader feels able to out-think, out-fight and basically out-hero the hero (with nothing more than stout timber) then something has probably gone wrong somewhere. It all seemed a little rushed and not particularly well thought out.

Having said that, 'Once' has a unique feel to it and is skilfully written. I found myself interested in the story and felt only faintly disappointed that a very good basic plot and flavour was slightly spoiled by the characters and their actions (or lack of). It's worth a read, but the title probably describes how often you'd want to.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Once read. Forgotten., 10 Aug. 2009
By 
G. Phethean "GP" (South East, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Once (Paperback)
My first experience with James Herbert and a somewhat forgettable one. I liked the premise: Protagonist Thom Kindred moves back to his childhood residence to find out Faeries really do exist within this nice little estate: Bracken. Some foul play is afoot, which places the hero into plenty of dark, erotic and simply weird situations.

The problem is the pace. I found it rather slow and although I like to have a clear image in my head of what I'm reading. There's only so much you can describe something e.g: sex scenes (too many), repeat description of anything already described (in depth). More often than not, for me, reading became a chore and after, say, 60pages of description something exciting would happen and then would go back to being boring and average.
The characters were unimpressive, they had nothing special or overly memorable about them.
Aside from the bad stuff I think that James Herbert writes very clear and true dialogue, knows how to set a scene and has some very interesting concepts. I believe he is very good at explaining something difficult, albeit at the cost of descriptive overdose.

This book didn't do it for me and as I've said it will not stay in my mind for any period of time now I've finished with it. It's not a bad book, it's not a great book, it's just a...book.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An olde fashioned ghost story, 10 Oct. 2001
By 
Mr. Paul J. Stephen (Leeds) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Once (Hardcover)
James Herbert is a great story-teller. An author who I always look forward to reading.
A friend of mine says his story are often very 'twee' and British, and it has to be said this follows the previous novels like The Magic Cottage, Haunted, etc etc very well. The old fashioned ghost stories are certainly a genre of the past when looking over the new horror releases and it is refreshing the James comes along every year or so to gives us another fix.
Not his best really but a solid interesting and spooky tale with the undertones of an adult fairy story. Sexual in nature, with portions taken from his other works... but he writes such a fine yarn that you are taken along at pace. The haunted woods , mansion , cottage are all here, and sewn together with a needle full of witchcraft.
If you've read his other stuff you know what your getting... if not try The Fog or the Rats trilogy first.
Recommended!
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Once
Once by James Herbert (Paperback - 4 May 2007)
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