Once Upon a Spring Morn (2006) is the fourth Fantasy novel in the Faery series, following Once Upon An Autumn Eve. In the previous volume, Liaze enterred the Chateau Bleu with forged documents and informed the comtessa of Luc's return. The next day, the guards selected by the comtessa admitted Luc onto the grounds and he issued a challenge to Guillaume for trial by combat. Afterwards, Luc gave the survivors a day to flee the domain.
In this novel, Princess Celeste of Springwood rests in a fork among the huge branches of her Companion of Quietness, a massive oak tree. Here she comes whenever she feels uneasy and today she is here to brood over the absence of her sister Liaze. When she hears the sound of a horn, she frowns, for she has not sanctioned a hunt that day.
When the hunters appear below her, she confronts them and finds that they are hunting for HER. As they move on the tree to pull her down, she lets fly an arrow into the leader's breast. Just then a lone knight rides up and attacks her wouldbe kidnappers and she picks off the ones attacking from his rear.
The armed men are led by a raven, who flees into the forest crying "Revenge". Celeste's own guardsmen ride up just as the few surviving outlaws are fleeing and they gallop after them. The knight defender introduces himself as Sieur Roel and declares that he is questing for his missing sister and his two brothers, who had gone looking for her.
After his wounds are tended, Sieur Roel tells the full story of how his sister Avelaine was taken by the Lord of Changelings. Then he tells how his brother Laurent left to consult with the sage Geron before continuing onward in search for Avelaine. After Laurent had failed to return in three years, the second brother Blaise had ridden off to consult with Geron and then search for Avelaine.
Blaise had also failed to return for three years. Since Roel has now earned his spurs, he too went to consult with Geron and received Couer d'Acier to take with him on his quest. The older brothers had not wanted to wait for the sword to be fabricated, but it was ready when Roel came for advice.
The Heart of Steel had a steel core flashed over with silver and constructed with runes to suppress its steel aura. After Roel left Geron, he had to exchange all his steel weapons and appurtenances for bronze equivalents before he could enter Faery, but he was allowed to take the sword with him. It was this weapon that he used against the outlaws.
Roel had a long and difficult recovery, for the worst cut was also poisoned. While he rested in Celeste's chateau, Roel came to know the princess and gradually fell in love with her. Before he leaves, Celeste announces their betrothal to her retainers. By this time, Roel is well liked by all.
Although Roel objects, Celeste accompanies him on his quest. For the journey to Mizon, the first part of their travels, Celeste's warband escorts them. As they approach the port town, the group is attacked by Goblins, Ogres and Trolls and both Roel and Celeste flee through the twilight wall to the next land. When they cannot be found on either side of the wall, the warband returns to her chateau thinking that the couple are dead.
In this story, Roel and Celeste meet King's Captain Chevell of Mizon after they fall onto his ship, the Sea Eagle. The King's ship is pursuing corsairs who have stolen a rare map. When Roel and Celeste realize that this map is the one that they were going to Mizon to use in his quest, they join forces with Chevell and sail across the sea after the remaining freebooter ship.
Roel and Celeste have many other adventures as they travel toward the land of the Changelings. Along the way Celeste encounters the three Fates. After Roel complains that he hasn't meet any of them, Lady Doom appears to them both. As in the other Faery tales, Celeste acquires gifts from each of the Fates and uses them to complete the quest.
This Faery tale is based on two ancient stories: Le Bel Inconnu and Childe Rowland. The first is Arthurian and the second is a later English tale. As usual, the author adds embellishments that were surely in the original tales.
Highly recommended for McKiernan fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of the Faery lands, loyal knights and true love.
-Arthur W. Jordin