Horror master James Herbert serves up a blend of faerie, supernatural chills, eroticism, and identity quest in Once...
--a fairy tale with a darker side.
Thom Kindred suffers a stroke and returns to his childhood home to heal. Castle Bracken seems like a pastoral paradise, but almost immediately, Thom begins to experience strange things, both beautiful and frightening. Soon, he finds himself the inexplicable target of hostile magic, even as he begins to recover his childhood ability to perceive the creatures of faerie that inhabit the land. As he struggles to heal, Thom finds himself at the center of a cataclysmic struggle between good and evil that demands all his physical and spiritual strength to survive.
Herbert's fans may find this story, with its bare-bones plot and extended descriptions of the faerie world, slower-moving and more predictable than his more energetic works Others and The Fog). Explicit sex and scenes of Herbert's trademark disturbing horror (including every arachnophobe's nightmare) make this a fairy tale strictly for adults. --Roz Genessee
From Publishers Weekly
Pastoral fantasy and graphic grue congeal immiscibly in this peculiar fairy tale from British horror laureate Herbert (Others). Set on the grounds of Castle Bracken, a verdant woodland estate with a shady history, it follows the trials of Thom Kindred, who returns there to recover from a stroke. Thom's mother worked for Sir Russell Bleeth, the estate's owner, and the grounds hold fond memories of years spent with his mum before she inexplicably abandoned him. No sooner is Thom comfy in the natural surroundings than he is subjected to seemingly unnatural experiences: displays of multicolored lights in the foliage, an encounter with an ethereal young maiden in the woods and increasingly persistent advances by a Wiccan nursemaid. In time, Thom discovers that the estate is a refuge for the faerie folk, whose blood he shares, and that he'll play a pivotal role in saving them from an occult menace that's already infiltrated Castle Bracken. Herbert does nothing original with this familiar fantasy theme of the individual who discovers his faerie heritage. Rather, he dwells at tedious length on the society of the faeriefolkis, indulging in twee descriptions of their world and endowing some with proper names that are titles of his previous books spelled backwards. Prolonged erotic interludes, spliced in to alert readers that this is a fairy tale for adults, do little to relieve the monotony. Only in the final moments, when Thom battles a series of viscerally horrific assaults, does the book show a glimmer of the vitality and drive characteristic of Herbert's best fiction.
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