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For a long time I've wanted to set up an online repository of my interviews, reviews and other writings ... and here it is! Use the Subject List to the right to select an author/topic and you will get all the entries which relate to the selected subject. Have fun browsing through!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Once Book Review

By James Herbert
Published by Macmillan
471pp £16.99 h/b

There is always something special about a James Herbert book … as a writer he is constantly reinventing himself, defying critics to place him in a niche as one type of author writing one type of fiction. As he says himself, he writes what he writes, and more often than not, the results are enjoyable, entertaining, and satisfying – exactly what one might expect from someone who hits the top of the best-seller lists with every book he writes.

In keeping with tradition, therefore, Once… is not a traditional ‘James Herbert’ novel, whatever that is. After the sad and mutated human horrors of his previous novel Others, Herbert has moved to happy and sexy faerie folk for the new tale. But don’t be lulled into a false sense of expectation. Once… may appear to be a faerie story for adults, but it is also horrific and erotic in a way that only James Herbert can manage.

Thom Kindred returns to his childhood home following an accident which left him easily tired and slightly lame. There he finds that things have not really changed, and the cottage he is staying in brings back many memories. However his childhood friend Hugo has a problem: Hugo’s father is sick and dying, nursed by the startlingly attractive Nell Quick. When Nell starts to take an interest in Thom, his suspicions are aroused, but soon Thom finds himself distracted. He sees creatures with wings and shedding light: faeries. He is captivated by one such human-sized creature, and soon Thom starts to discover that his past is not all that he believed, and that he has a strange affinity with these beautiful and alluring creatures.

Herbert paints a wonderful world of shifting light and dark, where characters’ motivations are often hidden, and those who seem benign turn out to be anything but. Thom experiences sex and lust with the faerie folk, and it’s difficult not to become involved in the erotic scenes that follow. However by turns the novel brings darkness and horror as an evil succubus is sent to obtain Thom’s semen, and Thom finds himself subject to terrifying attacks by wasps and spiders as he tries to understand the threads that bind him to the cottage.

I really enjoyed this novel. Like many of Herbert’s books it’s an undemanding read, yet draws you in and captivates you. The plot is straightforward, and the characters are interesting … all told an excellent read. But Herbert always goes one step further, and the packaging of the book is also superb. It’s currently available in two hardback editions: one with a black cover and one with a white cover. Moreover both editions feature a number of superb colour plates by artist Steve Stone, as well as numerous elves and faeries drawn by Bill Gregory and Herbert himself. It all amounts to a lovely package from a master storyteller.

David Howe