cover image Once Upon a Dreadful Time

Once Upon a Dreadful Time

Dennis L. McKiernan, . . Roc, $23.95 (395pp) ISBN 978-0-451-46172-8

Technically a stand-alone, McKiernan’s solid fifth and final Once Upon fantasy (after 2006’s Once Upon a Spring Morn ) focuses on the battle to keep the dreadful witch Hradian and scheming wizard Orbane from despoiling Winterwood, Springwood, Summerwood, Autumnwood and the River of Time itself. After King Valeray and Queen Saissa’s children and their consorts destroy Hradian’s three wicked sisters and take possession of the seasonal lands, Hradian becomes determined to exact revenge. Toward this end, she decides to free the wizard Orbane, whose evil machinations soon exceed even Hradian’s foul desires. Fey allies and the enigmatic guidance of the Fates are required to counter Orbane, and success is far from assured. Series fans should be satisfied, though some may be disappointed that this one is more about war than romance and that background information, presumably for the benefit of newcomers, slows the plot in places. (Oct.)