Top positive review
"The Spiderwick Chronicles" for adults
on 23 November 2015
I've read several James Herbert books and liked them now, so it was natural I would choose to read another. I'd know about "Once..." for some time and it seemed sufficiently unlike his normal subjects such as killer rats and undead Nazis (yes, he's done them too) that it would hold my interests.
Thank goodness, it did. It was an unusual read for a James Herbert book, although that didn't give it the edge I'd hoped it would. His descriptions of a faery world just outside human perception are vivid and beautiful, although you'll see from the title of this review that it isn't too original. However, this is no pure fairy tale, even if classic fairy art did come to mind as I read it. There's violence and adult content that you wouldn't want the kids reading.
The characters are all believable, even the fantastical ones. The interplay and development of characters is good, from a cold aristocratic father, to his bitter, lackadaisical son, to the lead character, a young carpenter recovering his mobility after a premature stroke, and even a witch who is trying to claim the man's family estate who ultimately suffers a fate you may feel she didn't deserve. It takes the classic fantasy concept of a journey and turns it into an emotional journey (since no-one travels very far), which I thought was nicely original. There is even a happy-ish ending, which isn't how horror books normally go. However, the believability of the story is stretched a little too thin.
Yes, I had fun reading it and yes, do read it if you liked the author's works or this is your sort of thing. However, it doesn't have the edge to be a classic, or even a classic James Herbert.