Once More Upon a Time
By Patrick Thomas and Diane Raetz
Publisher: Dark Quest, LLC
Review copy purchased by reviewer
Review by Ida Vega-Landow
This is a different kind of Mystic Investigators tale by my New York homeboy, Patrick Thomas, and his latest collaborator Diane Raetz. I’m more accustomed to reading about the exploits of Agent Karver, and his empathic partner Mandi Cobb, in the Department of Mystic Affairs. They’re both pros at dealing with practitioners of the Dark Arts, fairies and mystic beasts. But the protagonist of this novel is a young witch named Jillian Anderson, an agent of Templar Mason, once known as the Knights Templar. She’s new at this business, so new that her mistakes can cause serious repercussions for the people she’s trying to help.
Jillian is a charming girl in her midtwenties, an aspiring fashionista who wears two different colored designer shoes, preferably Jimmy Choo, and always has the latest handbag by Ralph Lauren or whoever, and of course, she never wears anything off the rack. She also has an impeccable background. Not only is she a third generation witch whose family were all Templar agents, but her great-great grandfather was Hans Christian Anderson, who literally wrote the book about traditional folklore, or fairy tales as they’re more commonly known. What isn’t such common knowledge is that Hans was also an agent for Templar Mason, as were the Grimm Brothers, whose beloved collection of fairy tales also served as a handbook for TM agents about the things that go bump in the night, and how they frequently bump into innocent humans and cause their lives to go haywire.
You see, all those fairy tales you loved so much as a child are based upon a grain of truth, just as a beautiful pearl is formed around a single grain of sand. So they’re not just folklore, but history. And we all know how history tends to repeat itself. Yes, all those dark deeds perpetrated by evil magicians and stepmothers, tyrannical kings and queens, and heroic deeds performed by poor but honest heroes and beautiful, virtuous heroines keep reappearing in every century. Mercedes Lackey, another fantasy author beloved by this reviewer, is also familiar with this phenomenon. She refers to it as The Tradition, a non-sentient but powerful force that causes hapless humans whose lives bear even the slightest resemblance to these popular tales to relive them, over and over again.
So in every generation, we get a new Cinderella, a new Snow White, a new Hansel and Gretel, and so on and so on, and their stories seldom end happily. This dark force that toys with peoples’ lives doesn’t give a damn about happily ever after. It only wants to play out the chosen story, shoehorning its subjects, or victims, into the traditional roles whether they like it or not. That’s where Templar Mason comes in; they’re in charge of investigating these strange phenomenons, discovering which popular folktale they are based upon, and stopping them before they get out of hand. Unfortunately, our young heroine is a good witch, but only a novice as a TM agent. So quite a bit of mayhem results from her investigations, along with a few deaths, not all of them innocent.
In the first case, “So Much For Breadcrumbs”, she figures out that the Hansel and Gretel story is involved and finds out where the lost children are, but nearly gets them and herself killed. The second story, “Hair Apparent” turns out to be a variation of the Rapunzel story. And the third, “No Business Like Show Business”, is based upon the Snow White story, centered around a celebrity who sounds suspiciously like the late Whitney Houston. At least that was my impression; maybe it was the bodyguard that threw me off. Anyway, the same villain connects all three stories; an evil wizard motivated by the same age-old desire as most practitioners of the Dark Arts, to rule the world and everyone in it.
Young Jillian is a faithful follower of celebrity gossip, which, since these fractured fairy tales always seem to happen to celebrities, the new royalty of our modern times, makes her well prepared to meet this menace in an occult sense, but her lack of experience shows in her spectacular failures, as well as in her near-miss victories. No, she’s not as experienced as Agent Karver, but neither is she as cynical. She can’t even kill one of the bad guys in self-defense without feeling guilty about it. I’m sure she’ll get accustomed to killing with time, but I hope it never comes as easily to her as it does to Karver. He’s a reformed serial killer who’s still atoning for all the damage he did in his former life while he was possessed by a homicidal demon, but she’s a relative innocent who’s just getting into the ancient art of demon hunting. I wish her well, and hope that she never becomes as cynical or hard-bitten as her male counterpart in DMA. That way lies despair, which in the Catholic Church is as much a sin as murder, though the only victim is usually yourself.
In conclusion, “Once More Upon A Time” is a fun, fast read for those who enjoy action and adventure mixed with the occult, but are too grownup for Harry Potter. Be sure and check it out at Patrick Thomas’ website, www.patthomas.net, or at www.darkquestbooks.com, as well as at www.barnesandnoble.com.