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Once Upon A Summer Day by Dennis L. McKiernan

01/01/2009. Contributed by Jill Roberts

Buy Once Upon A Summer Day in the USA - or Buy Once Upon A Summer Day in the UK

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pub: ROC. 367 page hardback. Price: $23.95 (US), $35.00 (CAN). ISBN: 0-451-46012-X.

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In this story we are introduced to the Faery realms of Eternal Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. These realms are all separated from one another by a twilight border.

Four princes and princesses rule these realms:-
Alain - ruler of Summerwood, where there are long, sunny days of warmth, summer flowers etc.
Liaze - ruler of Autumnwood, where there are fields of wheat, ready to be harvested, hedgerows of ripe blackberries, orchards of apples where all that is harvested is magically replaced.
Borel - ruler of Winterwood, where there are daffodils and crisp white snow, etc.
Celeste - ruler of Springwood, where there are melt-water streams, trees coming into leaf, flowers coming into bloom, birds chirping in the trees, etc.

The story begins in the realm of Summerwood, where they all tend to meet up at Summerwood Manor to sit and talk and rest, often to dine and dance in the evening.

Prince Borel begins to have dream of a damsel in distress asks him for help. Night after night she comes to him in his dreams. It becomes clear these are a vision of some importance, so he sets out on a quest to discover where she is being held prisoner. He is captured by a witch called Hradian, escapes and rescues a woodland sprite called Flic and his companion a bee called Buzzer, who join his quest. Among his adventures, Borel is nearly drowned trying to tame a wild, enchanted horse and in marshland, hides in a smelly bog to avoid a large invisible creature. They do discover that the lady is Michelle, and there is a curse of the House of Roulan.

At Roulan Manor, they find nothing but bare stone as the whole valley has been magiked away and hidden in the Endless Sands. With the aid of others, Borel, Fic and Buzzer reach the Endless Sands where in the hidden valley find the Manor covered with monstrous, thorny vines and a spell of deep sleep lies over every one within. With the help of a rusty iron sword, Borel cuts through the enchanted thorns and inside the Manor, with Buzzer's aid and her stinger, he rescues Michelle. His kiss her, wakens her from a deep sleep and they travel back to Summerwood, vowing to marry each other.

But there are still more perils. A tall, bony man with an ebony blade that fails. Rhensible, the witch that cast the sleep spell, casts a spell rooting them to the spot, uses poisonous talons to rake his skin and poison them both. His wolves come to the rescue, killing Rhensible, releasing the spell on not only Borel and Michelle but also on Roulan Manor and her parents and re-uniting them all.

I found this a delightful and charming story. It expands and fills in a lot of the back story in the tale of Sleeping Beauty and her Prince Charming. A romantic story set in a medieval land of lords and ladies. The text does allude to other events and other people outside of this story so it does feel part of a larger story like Camille's search for Allain when he had previously been enchanted.

There is a French-lit to the story with various words and phrases in French giving it a feel of a medieval romance with its talk of a 'damsel in distress'with lots of short easy to ready chapters. There are textures and sights and smells, but not overly burdened with descriptive passages, You can feel Borel's frustrations at setbacks on his journey and the danger of the ordeals that beset him on his quest. It coveys the feeling of time running out and the joy of finding and rescuing the Lady Michelle from her enchanted tower and the shock of the witch Rensible turning up, paralysing them. Delightful.

Jill Roberts

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