I bought this novel based on the 5 star ratings and thinking it was a historical romance. The title should have been my first clue. ONCE UPON A TIME is really a fantasy story, a fairy tale, with some historical elements thrown in. It isn't terribly historical and it's not a spectacular romance (I had trouble finishing it), though it was sometimes entertaining. The 5 star ratings aren't justified.
The story begins in England in 1167 as a young prince, Ruyen of the Isle of Falcon Bruine, is supposedly meeting Richard, son of Henry II. But Richard fails to show up (in fact, he never appears in the story) and Ruyen's father is killed and Ruyen and his sister Cassandra are taken prisoner. Meanwhile, a young princess, Jilliana, has been raised in obscurity in a convent, protected by the imprisoned Queen Eleanor of England and the Pope. Jilliana is heir to the female-ruled kingdom of Talshamar. Her mother died resisting Henry's claim on Talshamar and to assure her young daughter escaped to one day retake the throne. No location is given for either Falcon Bruine or Talshamar, and of course, both are mythical kingdoms. Eleanor plots revenge against her husband, King Henry, and so arranges for Jilliana, now 19, to trick Henry into approving of a marriage to Ruyen that will save him and his sister from death and see Jilliana safely back to Talshamar. The deal is made for Ruyen and Jilliana, neither whom wants the marriage, to stay together just long enough to produce an heir so as to defeat King Philip of France's claim to Talshamar. After that the marriage will be annulled and both will be free to move on. If that isn't too bizarre for you, you might find this an entertaining read. I didn't. The conflict seemed contrived; the story didn't hold my interest; and when the Ruyen and Jilliana went from respecting and liking each other to total distrust, it just wasn't real. Can't really recommend this one.
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Harpercollins (1 March 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061082295
- ISBN-13: 978-0061082290
- Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 2.5 x 17.8 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 22.7 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item