Once Upon A Summer Day
by Dennis L. McKiernan
Review by Drew Bittner
Roc Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 045146012X
Date: 30 April, 2005 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Prince Borel thinks he's dreaming.
When he sleeps, he finds himself in the presence of a rare beauty, who seems to know him well. Intrigued, the Prince of the Winterwood sets out to solve the riddle of this woman-- and fulfill her plea to Borel: "Find me."
Borel sets out on this quest, aided only by a sprite named Flic (whose partner is a bumblebee named Buzzer) and his loyal wolves. The mystery woman insists that she has only one month before doom befalls her, so Borel must hurry. Thinking through what he knows, he realizes that the woman is familiar... and then he realizes that she is almost certainly a demoiselle named Chelle, whom he knew as a child. But what has befallen her--and why is she in his dreams?
Recounting what he knows of Chelle from his dreams, Borel is able to describe the garden where she lives. This gives them a vital clue in the form of flowers. Buzzer thinks she may know where that garden lies, but it will take them weeks to reach the site. Borel takes the chance and follows the bee through land after land, from adventure to adventure. He takes on evil ogres and goblins as well as a wicked sorceress, bargains for knowledge with enigmatic oracles, and learns how to lead Chelle into other places in their private world of dreams, so that they can learn about each other.
The trail leads to a band of riders under a magical curse, who take Borel to a fateful meeting with the King Under the Hill. Step by step, he closes on his goal of the Endless Sands and what lies beyond. Unfortunately, Chelle's home is entirely gone, removed by magic, and time is running out. If he cannot solve the puzzle posed by a final mysterious guide, Chelle and her family are doomed.
Dennis McKiernan takes time away from his Mithgar fantasies to tell a fanciful fairytale, albeit one with very adult elements. Fans of fairy tales will recognize the basis of the story rather quickly, but McKiernan takes the tale in some unexpected directions. He also offers an engaging, clever and resourceful hero in Borel, as well as entertaining sidekicks in Flic, Buzzer, and Chelle herself.