Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Once Upon a Winter's Night - Dennis L. McKiernan [June/06]

This novel comes before Once Upon a Summer's Day, a novel I read earlier in the month. It is rare that I read the same author in the same month, I like to get some variety, but sometimes there are those books that you just can't wait to get into. This is one of those authors. From the back of the book:

Once upon a winter's night, a poor crofter trades his daughter Camille to wed Prince Alain of the Summerwood in exchange for a lifetime of riches. Though true love blossoms between Camille and the prince, he is haunted by sadness and will not allow her to see his unmasked face. Believing she can lift whatever curse has been bestowed on him, Camille acts on her own - with devastating results, as all she loves is swept away.

Not, to regain what she has lost, she must embark on a desperate quest through the hinterlands of Faery, seeking a mysterious place lying somewhere east of the sun and west of the moon...

Once Upon a Winter's Night is a retelling of the classic folk tale, East of the Sun, West of the Moon. Unlike Once Upon a Summer's Day, the person on a quest this time is a girl, Camille. She is of in search of the Prince of the Summerwood instead of him searchng for her. This takes care of the two brother, as the other prince did the rescuing in Once Upon a Summer's Day. That means that the later two novels will concentrate on the princesses and their adventures.

I am shocked how many people are not familiar with this fairy tale/folk tale. My advice to you is that you should read where it all began before attempting this novel. A little background information will reveal to you the basics of the novel, but the children's tale came first, so it is only right.

In the novel, as in the classic fairy tale, the prince is cursed to take on the shape of a bear by the day and a prince by night. Only Camille is not allowed to know that, or the prince's curse will be farther reaching. Camille listens to her mother, though, who is a money-hungry oppurtunitist, and the girl attempts to learn the secret of her princes fate. Once she does, though, disaster strikes and she is forced into a quest with only a bird to accompany her and unlikely aid along her path.

It is hard to write this review, because by explaining the basics of the novel, I give away the fairy tale to those that have not read it. Many people would think that Camille is being shown as a nosey female, not knowing what is good for her, but her courage is tested and she is shown willing. She makes unlikely friends along the way, and there is laughter and danger to follow. In the end, her curiousity may have been better for the prince than remaining in the dark, because she shows readers that heroes do not always have to be men and shows Camille that she is capable of doing anything. Something that had been dashed while living in her small lifestyle with her parents and several siblings.

Sort of corny in a sense, a novel that shows that love can overcome all obstacles, but then it is a fairy tale novel, isn't it.


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