REVIEW: Once More Upon a Time by Roshani Chokshi

by |January 21, 2022
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Once More Upon a Time is a delightful gem of a book that’s full of wit, humour and enchanting storytelling, weaving dark fairytales into a dazzling display of spellbinding magic and romance. This is the perfect fantastical little adventure for fans of the Brothers Grimm retellings!

Roshani Chokshi

Roshani Chokshi (Photo by Aman Sharma).

Imelda and Ambrose are on a perilous quest to reclaim their heart’s desire … the only issue is, they can’t quite remember what exactly that is.

Once upon a time, they loved each other dearly, so much so that even death was thwarted, with a little help from a witch. But, as we know, defying the inevitable comes at a cost, especially when the witch granting the wish is as hilariously diabolical as the one in this tale. Resigning themselves to a loveless fate, all memories of the past and their feelings for one another are swept away and they are forced to live out their sham of a marriage for a year and a day (together, in a tower, located in their very own kingdom called Love’s Keep – the irony of it all makes me want to weep). So, I know what you’re thinking, isn’t that where the story ends? I can practically hear you yelling: “Why haven’t you told us anything about what happens in between all of that – we demand descriptions of marital bickering with a deliciously torturous enemies-to-lovers twist!”. And to that I say, do not fear! There is plenty of that to come because, dear reader, this is merely the end of one story and the beginning of another …

Exiting their days of lonely solitude at Love’s Keep, King Ambrose is set to be exiled and Queen Imelda is to return to her father’s kingdom and watch after her sister’s brood of birds (her husband is a magpie). It’s safe to say that they both aren’t overjoyed at their future prospects – especially Imelda. In a delightful play on the tale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Imelda is one of twelve sisters who loves to dance the night away in fairy land. But alas, her overbearing father fits them with enchanted shoes that track their whereabouts and can control their feet, forcing them home before the revelry ever begins. All Imelda really wants is the freedom to do what she wants, like living barefoot (much to her servants’ chagrin).

On the other hand, there’s Ambrose who is altogether sick and tired of the jesting and scheming of court (what with brothers who want to poison you and such) and wants no part in it. He’d rather stay at Love’s Keep, content with his lot, not thrown out into the wilderness, forced to live in exile without so much as a horse to keep him company. (Well, he is gifted with an enchanted cloak that thinks it’s a horse. That counts, right?) Angry, shoeless and without a noble steed, the pair are on the brink of starting their lives over when the witch appears to present them with a deal of sorts – retrieve one of her favourite potions she’s run out of from a wedding she can’t attend (witches aren’t really popular at major life events) and she will give them whatever they truly desire. Seems reasonable, right? Surely, what could go wrong? And whose wedding is it anyway?

‘Defying the inevitable comes at a cost, especially when the witch granting the wish is as hilariously diabolical as the one in this tale.’

Thus unfolds a hilarious journey through magical landscapes, with enchanted creatures to help and hinder them along the way (like a seriously demonic honey badger), that brings Ambrose and Imelda face-to-face with the one thing they’ve been missing all of these years – love.

Pair a positively wild and snarky heroine with a self-declared respectable gentleman who fears anything remotely out of the ordinary and you’ve got yourself the perfect recipe for a romance of the ages. For such a short book (144 pages in total), the characters and settings are gloriously vivid, practically jumping off the page and taking up residence in your heart and mind. A superbly curious tale full of enchanted creatures, objects and at one point, a hilarious scene in which Ambrose is nearly consumed by a feral mattress, you will read this all in one sitting and thumb through the end pages wishing for more.

A short, sharp and self-aware retelling of one of the Grimm Brothers’ most famous tales (with a hint of Little Briar Rose vibes), I’ll treasure and reread this book over and over again!

Once More Upon a Time by Roshani Chokshi (Sourcebooks Inc) is out now.

Once More Upon a Timeby Roshani Chokshi

Once More Upon a Time

by Roshani Chokshi

A fairy tale prince and princess get a second chance at getting what they truly desire in this dazzling tale as they embark on an enchanted road trip and encounter a delightful cast of magical characters.

Imelda and Ambrose have forgotten why they got together in the first place. After a whirlwind courtship and a fairy-tale wedding, they embark on life together as royalty of Loves Keep. But when Imelda is in trouble, Ambrose sacrifices their love to save her life, little knowing that the loss of their love will jeopardise the entire kingdom...

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