Desert Isle Keeper
Once More Upon a Time
Once More Upon a Time is a completely captivating, charming and comedic fairy tale novella about what happens after you find what is supposed to be your happily ever after.
Imelda is one of the twelve dancing princesses. Contrary to popular belief, she and her sisters had good cause to wear their slippers out every night and no, that reason wasn’t a curse. Now that the gardener’s assistant has ‘saved’ them all and ruined her life, she is wondering what to do with herself. Then she, in the manner of all good fairy tale princesses, falls in love.
Ambrose is a prince and a disappointment to his father. He constantly fails at fulfilling his princely duties and instead, always winds up doing something completely unexpected. For example, when Ambrose is sent to kill the dragon harming the family’s patch of heirloom tomatoes, rather than just slaughtering the beast, he talks to him. Ambrose learns the poor dragon is incinerating the delicious delicacies because they had been grown from the poisoned waters of a nearby pool and would kill the population if eaten. In exchange for his charitable endeavors, Ambrose gives the dragon a medal and a job, and now the beast happily incinerates with the full blessing of the kingdom. Ambrose’s older brother had, of course, killed his own dragon and thus laid claim to the throne.
Fortunately, Ambrose attends the wedding of the dancing princess and the gardener, meets her sister Imelda, falls in love, and is offered the throne of the small kingdom of Love’s Keep. As the narrator informs us:
“It is an unoriginal yet instructive name because to protect it and for the land to grow and all the denizens within to be hale and happy, the king and queen must always be in love.”
Ambrose and Imelda are delighted. They are young, in love, royal and have an enchanted kingdom to rule over. Then Imelda makes the near fatal mistake of having a salad and one of the poisoned tomatoes from Ambrose’s kingdom winds up on her plate. She’s dying when a witch offers to take their love in exchange for a spell to save Imelda’s life. Ambrose agrees to the bargain. They no longer love each other but they are allowed to stay at Love’s Keep for a year and a day till the kingdom kicks them out for lacking amore.
Ambrose and Imelda live separate lives in the palace, rarely speaking or crossing paths, with each of them wondering what they had ever seen in each other. Then when their time is up and they are getting ready to leave, the witch reappears and offers them another bargain. And that’s where the tale really begins – but I won’t tell you anything about it because this story is less than 150 pages long and I don’t want to spoil any of it.
Ms. Chokshi does an incredible job of packing a lot into a little. Her short tale covers the realities of marital love, difficult family relationships and how our childhood informs our adulthood. If you are a fan of Disney’s Tangled or the classic film The Princess Bride, (guilty on both counts) I think you will absolutely adore it. There’s a comedic horse, the princess rescues the prince over and over, there’s plenty of adventure and the characters are whimsical, endearing, relatable, intelligent, funny, kind and really add depth to what could have been a very cheesy, breezy narrative.
That said, I strongly recommend Once More Upon a Time to any lover of fairytale romance. It’s subtly sexy, delightful and loads of fun.