(It has been far too long since I've reviewed any books on this little blog...)
Title: Half Upon a Time Series
Author: James Riley
Genre: Children's Fairytale-retelling/Fantasy
Jack, son of the Beanstalk Jack, is your average kid smart enough to avoid candy houses, giants, and the Wicked Queen's wicked Eyes. That is, until a strange young royal who denies the very existence of magic (despite the lettering on her clothes which reads “Punk Princess”) drops unceremoniously out of the sky.
All at once, Jack is on the run from the Wicked Queen's Huntsmen on a horse that would probably rather eat him than bear him to safety. There's a fairy that hates him, giants that want to eat him too, a prince who wants to save the day and the princess, and the Wolf King who probably wants to eat everyone for some diabolical purpose or other. And all because Jack figures out that the princess's grandmother is the long-lost Snow White, a fact which leads him and his new friend on a mission to find her—which has the promise of making everyone happy, except for the Wicked Queen, who is decidedly unhappy about it and will do anything to stop them.
Take basically every classic fairytale (along with several of the more obscure ones), smash them altogether, get them to make infinitely more sense than they ever made on their own, and you have Half Upon a Time. There were so many strange things happening in the beginning that left my brain hurting from the wackiness, but they all had an explanation and the explanation was phenomenal. Aside from the old elements from Grimm, Anderson, and others, there are elements unique to the story itself (The Queen's Eyes, for example). And don't believe everything you've read in the fairytales. Because almost none of it is true, as heroines turn into witches, killers into family, and maybe even a punk into a princess.
James Riley is brilliant, that's all I can say. He baffles and surprises me, makes me laugh a lot and even cry a little. From Peter Pan and the Pied Piper, to Maleficent and Red Riding Hood, he takes the time-honored tales and turns them into something new—something completely magical.
I wholeheartedly recommend Half Upon a Time, Twice Upon a Time, and Once Upon the End by this talented author.
(Oh, and to those who don't devour every printed word in the books you read, especially the Acknowledgments, you are completely missing out. Because, yes, the dwarf thing made me way too happy, too.)