June 13, 2019

Series Spotlight: Half Upon a Time, by James Riley

This is a trilogy that has taken me many moons to finish. The first book was given to us long ago--I have forgotten how or by whom. I read it way back then and enjoyed it very much, but somehow my frugal  (i.e. CHEAP) side kicked in and I never bought books 2 and 3 to finish it out. The libraries where we lived didn't have it. So it goes.

Then I received book 2 as a Mother's Day gift, and serendipitously happened to find book 3 at the library. Maybe they purchased it since I last checked?! So after 5 years, it's done in a couple of days. Nice!

Half Upon a Time (Half Upon a Time #1), by James Riley
4 stars: Delightful, with a side of sarcastic wit.
Jack has problems, like his grandfather's insistence that he rescue a princess when there are none to be found, for instance. Then a princess literally falls from the sky, and whether she likes it or not, she definitely needs rescuing. Figuring out who she is (could her grandma really be Snow White, or what?) and getting to the bottom of the whole situation is going to be an adventure for all involved.
A mashup of all sorts of fairy tales, Riley's quick wit and deft turn of phrase had me laughing in several parts of this book. The "modern girl dropped into a fairy tale world" theme worked very well here, because we got it all from Jack's point of view, with plenty of sarcastic exchanges between the characters. Along the way there were close shaves with giants, witches (and their children), and a wolf.
It did leave several loose ends to tie up, but it is the first book of a trilogy, so I suppose that's to be expected.
Content: clean
(Originally reviewed September 2014)

** 2019 update: While I did not find it as laugh-out-loud funny as the first time around, I still enjoyed it very much. I would stick with the 4 star rating.

Twice Upon a Time (Half Upon a Time, #2), by James Riley

3 stars: It's the middle book--what did you expect?

Jack, May and Prince Phillip are back to save the world--again. Well, sort of. In attempt to find out who May really is, they happen upon several legendary characters in need of some assistance; if by "assistance" you mean "demand favors at the risk of their lives." The Pied Piper, Bluebeard, the Little Mermaid, and several more. The problems keep coming and these 3 friends keep finding themselves in deeper and deeper water...um, literally and figuratively.

Meanwhile, Jack's dreams are constantly disturbed by an Eye (Wicked Queen's extraordinary guards/henchmen) named Lian who hassles him, predicts his every move, and smacks him around quite often just for the fun of it. It doesn't help that the Mirror's prophecy hangs over all their heads: one of the boys will betray May and one will die. Nothing like a good old prophecy to keep things chipper.

It will take everything they've got simply to survive, but rest assured they'll do it with plenty of sarcastic comments and foolishly bold feats of daring.

* * * * *
Well, talk about a sidetracked adventure! One or two questions about a person's identity become a tidal wave of things gone wrong. The verbal sparring of three main characters was still my favorite part of the book. There were some plot lines that didn't make sense for most of the book, which got old, but I was willing to stick it out based on my general enjoyment of it. It was fun to see how many stories and fairy tales I could spot.

Content: Clean.

Once Upon the End (Half Upon a Time, #3), by James Riley

4 stars: The plot twists in this one were great!

The 3 friends are at the beginning of this final tale, with Phillip and his rescued Sleeping Beauty (Penelope) back in his kingdom doing boring royal stuff; May sleeping in an attic and cooking and cleaning for her surly stepmom and stepsisters; and Jack on the side of the Wicked Queen as one of her Eyes. Nothing is going right for any of them, it seems. And yet...

* * * * *
I'm not going to go any further with my description, because I don't want to give anything away. Never fear, though, there are adventures aplenty still ahead for our Fearsome Threesome--oh, Foursome, I guess now, with Penelope. There were some fun and very clever plot twists that kept everything hopping and incidentally, made certain parts of Books 1 & 2 make more sense.

I was satisfied by the ending--of the book itself and of the trilogy.

Content: Clean.

* * * * * * * * * *

This is a fun series. It's Young Adult/Teen, but I would say probably young teen. Actually, my 11 year old and my 9 year old have read the first book and liked it, so it could go down to elementary-aged kiddos as well.

I appreciated that Riley kept it squeaky clean throughout the series. Even with the boy/girl dynamics, there were a couple of kisses to awaken sleeping...people, but other than that, it was all just fun and innocent. Even the kisses were innocent--everyone was pretty embarrassed by the whole thing, to be  honest!

The characters are all very witty and full of ready one-liners for every perilous situation they encounter. While everything did come together by the end, I liked that it didn't just fall into place from the get-go, particularly with certain relationships. Jack's relationship with his Dad and sister was an interesting story arc.

I guess now I may actually have to purchase book 3, so we have the whole set at home!

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