Middle-Grade Review: Once Upon Another Time by James Riley

Posted October 20, 2022 by jrsbookr in Middle grade / 0 Comments

Middle-Grade Review: Once Upon Another Time by James Riley

by James riley
Middle-Grade Review: Once Upon Another Time by James RileyOnce Upon Another Time Published by Simon and Schuster on April 5, 2022
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Action & Adventure / General, Juvenile Fiction / Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 336
Find the Author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, Tumblr

Storybook characters collide in this first book in a new trilogy of twisted fairy tales from New York Times bestselling author James Riley, set in the world of his popular Half Upon a Time series—perfect for fans of Fablehaven and Chris Colfer’s A Tale of Magic series!

Five and a half feet might seem pretty tall for a twelve-year-old, but it’s not when your parents are giants. Lena has kept the fact that she’s a tiny giant secret, using magic to grow when out in the giant village. But hiding who she is has always felt wrong, even though she knows the other giants might not accept her. Fortunately, Lena has friends down in the Cursed City who understand that looking different doesn’t make her less of a giant.

Someone who knows not to judge by appearances is Jin, a young genie currently serving one thousand and thirty-eight years of genie training that requires him to fulfill the wish of whoever holds his magical ring. In Jin’s case, it’s the power-hungry Golden King. At least the king only has two wishes left, one of which is for Jin to go to the Cursed City and capture its protector, the Last Knight—one of Lena’s closest friends.

What Lena and Jin don’t know is how close the Golden King’s plans are to coming together, between his dark magic and his horrible Faceless knights. If Jin does find the Last Knight and bring him to the Golden King, why, that could doom the entire fairy-tale world.

…This sounds like it’ll end badly, doesn’t it?



Once Upon Another Time is a humorous and fast-paced story full of familiar characters from the author’s previous Half Upon Time series. There’s a bit of nonsense, and chaos sprinkled in for good measure. Despite being a funny tale full of quirky magic, I was disconcerted by how much evil and hopelessness there is in this story. I was about ten pages from the end, wishing there was a simple answer but knowing there was no way everything could be resolved in time. It’s not a true cliffhanger (thank goodness!), but the ending didn’t make all that much sense and left me with more questions than answers. I liked the story, but it was so fast-paced that I didn’t get much chance to know the characters. I hope it finds its way into the hands of kids who like a quick silly adventure full of mysterious shadows, nonsensical riots, unexplained powers, and surprising magical objects.

About James riley

James Riley is the New York Times bestselling author of the Half Upon a Time and Story Thieves series, as well as many books too unwritten to count. He’s met thousands of imaginary people, most of whom are more polite than you’d think, but less interesting than you’d hope. He doesn’t believe fairy tales actually happened, mostly because he’s never had tiny elves do his work for him at night, despite them promising several times.

James currently lives outside Washington, DC, but it’s not like he’s special that way … so do a lot of other people.