Note: This article was drafted originally during my Winter Break, end of 2008. I apologize sincerely for how much it sucks – hopefully it will be interesting anyway.
In my recent adventures at College (capitalization intentional, and intended to be ironic), I haven’t had much time for reading – much less, reading for fun and escapism. But then, what are breaks made for but exactly those sorts of things? Ergo: I did some reading, and it was fun, escapist fantasy.
Honestly, I’ve been meaning to read this guy for a while; a few years ago I went to a writers’ workshop where he was one of the panelists. He was a somewhat elderly gentleman – one of the sorts of people who talks very little, but who is worth listening to any time he chooses to open his mouth. He was far less talkative than the other authors on the panel, but his comments were always spot-on and his advice clearly superb.
I have to admit, if it weren’t for the introduction I probably wouldn’t guess as much from the book. Not that that’s a problem – from what I hear, his other books are fully intellectual enough to imply his delightfully understated wisdom. This one, as he mentions, is not designed to fill that gap. Once Upon A Winter’s Night is an extension of a fairy tale, one from a book he read as a child. He says that he always imagined them as longer, more elaborate, more raunchy – in short, more interesting. And that’s exactly what he did in the book; he kept the vaguely archaic tone of a fairy tale while adding in all the interesting details time and surreptitious religiously-inspired editing cleaned out of the real tales. He also added in a few witty asides that demonstrated his modernity – a comment, for example, on the relative social standing of male and female virginity. It provided a great balance; the book was clearly designed, like the fairy tales, to be a fun and exciting break from reality, but at the same time it occasionally twinged the brain of the reader in a small way. The book also introduces a new world, called Faery, that is the setting for a series of books (at the time of this writing, there are five out; Once Upon A Winter’s Night is the first, followed by similarly-titled endeavours into the other three seasons, followed by Once Upon A Dreadful Time; I’ll probably be reading these others in the future sometime).
As if this weren’t clear, I’d recommend the book – but only if you’re looking for what it offers: a brief, fun break from reality and an interesting first look at a new world for a series of books that will be brief, fun breaks from reality. Definitely worth a read if you’re up for that – and who isn’t up for a break from time to time?