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Once Upon a Time: Red's Untold Tale Hardcover – September 22, 2015
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About the Author
Wendy Toliver is the award-winning author of four YA novels: The Secret Life of A Teenage Siren, Miss Match, Lifted, and Once Upon A Time: Red's Untold Tale. She lives in the Utah mountains with three sons, two cats, two dogs, and one husband. She enjoys reading, hiking, wakeboarding, snowboarding, watching movies, sweet potato fries, Halloween, and daydreaming.
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First of all, this book should have been 200 pages shorter. For the first 200 pages the only thing that happens is that Red gets picked on by Violet and her friends and she pines for Peter. Finally, around page 250 the story picks up when she decides to seek out a wizard to help her granny. There are hints in her dreams that she is a werewolf but she never discovers it which is not a secret since they address some of Red's back story in season 1. Also, the werewolf story, which is the the whole exciting part I was hoping the story talked about, was hinted at but never discussed. Complete waste of a potentially good story.
The story itself is easy to read and understand even if it is very slow. There is a little bit of swearing (Damn and bastard are used every so often) and there are two parts that mention people they mistakenly thinking she is a "woman in red" and a hussy referring to a prostitute and sleeping around but it's never actually spelled out. This book was available at the scholastic book fair at the middle school I work at. It would be ok in a library. You don't necessarily need to have seen One Upon a Time and the story does stand on its own, but I don't think its worth reading.
First, the good. It was written well. The author knows how to put words together to form a beautiful tapestry of story, but instead of creating an otherworldly picture with her skills, she's essentially just woven a bunch of boring squares. I don't know if she was commissioned to write this by ABC and they gave her the guidelines, or if she came up with this story on her own, but it was kind of like riding a roller coaster with little tiny climbs that would plateau and then slowly descend at a reasonable speed. It was like going skydiving from 6 feet off the ground. It was like going to hell only to find out that the Devil is actually kind of a nice guy and, yes, you would love to play chess with him next Saturday. It's like continuing to read similes in this paragraph and hoping there will be a point, BUT THERE NEVER IS.
I will look into this author's other books, though. Like I said, she's a great writer, she just didn't have anything to work with.
I found this book on a shelf in the grocery store. Rather than buy a paper copy, I just brought it up on Kindle and downloaded it right away. I thought it would be about Red's absence due to the actor leaving the show for a while--like, what happened while she was gone that led to her imprisonment as a witch's pet wolf? I think that would have been a pretty good story.
Instead, it's a story from Red's childhood.
Now, even after I learned that, I still gave it a chance, because Red is my favorite OUAT character. But even going into it, I knew--Red's entire character arc is centered around her not only being a werewolf, but her KNOWING about it. So, this book takes place before she knows any of that. It centers around the dangers of Wolfstime, which did bring a little excitement to the story, only for a pretty huge letdown at the end, but I'll get to that in a second.
One thing this story suffers from is the "If only you'd explained" syndrome. The plot is advanced by Red neglecting to give a simple explanation that would have straightened everything out. The reason the author had to do this was because tension needed to be created in a story where almost nothing happened. Red liked Peter. There were bullies at school. The tax guy wanted Granny's house. There was no over-arcing plot or bad guy to defeat. There was 'Wolfstime,' but the wolf only ever killed one person and a bunch of livestock. It wasn't seen until the end, and I didn't feel any sort of dire desire to see it vanquished.
Mostly, there was Violet (Red's bully) who was annoying and cliche.
But let me get to the whole wolf thing.
If you remember from the show, it turned out that the wolf killing the hunters was Red. That's a spoiler, but I'm sure you wouldn't be considering reading this book if you haven't at least seen the first season of OUAT. Anyway, that is Red's huge reveal. She's been killing and eating her own villagers during the full moon, because she can't control herself. She's a monster. As far as I remember, it's stated a few times in the episode that there is one wolf.
So, this is a few years before the series, but there's buildup throughout the book that this wolf is attacking. First killing a cow, then Granny's chickens, then ultimately, a villager. Since the reader knows by this point that Red is a werewolf, the logical conclusion is that this is the beginning of Red's Wolfstime rampages. I hoped that the climax of the story would have something to do with Granny discovering that her granddaughter is inflicted with the curse, or that someone would figure out Red was the werewolf and keep it a secret (I was thinking Violet, since she was so VERY annoying and needed to do something to redeem herself) or something like that.
Anyway, it turns out there's another werewolf and Red kills it. Only she doesn't kill it. It disappears and the story ends.
So, yeah, that happened.
There's also plotlines in the book that are never followed to conclusion. IDK if this book is supposed to get a sequel or what, but I'm not sure how many can be written, since the end of this book kind of tapers into the beginning of Red showing up in the series. I felt like the author was allotted a certain number of words, and when she got near the limit, she had to patch together an ending. There's two important plot points that just fall off a cliff into a void - one regarding Red's dreams, and the other regarding her quest to help heal her grandmother's pain. There's also a minor one involving the tax man and an enchanted necklace. Would have been nice to see something come of that.
I mean, the idea behind a sequel is okay, but there's no indication that this is book one in a series. So I really feel as if these plot points were discarded right in the middle of telling them.
I still don't hate this book. I didn't find myself rolling my eyes and wanting to put the book down because it was terrible. It was just ... boring. It's something you might read in a waiting room while waiting for a doctor, except when you put it down, you have no strong desire to see what happens. You wouldn't feel like you wasted your time, because you read good words, but it's almost as bland as listening to work-safe gossip.
I don't know how else to describe it.