Once In a Blue Moon
by Simon R. Green
Review by Drew Bittner
Roc Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451414663
Date: 07 January 2014 List Price $16.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
Hawk and Fisher might have thought their glory days safely behind them. After all, they had traveled to the world of Reverie and destroyed the Demon Prince--what more was left? So they settled down and established a school for heroes, until the day their nemesis once more returned. Such is the beginning of Once Upon a Blue Moon, the third and final chapter of the Forest Kingdom saga by Simon R. Green.
As Hawk and Fisher watch hopeful students audition to attend their Hero Academy, Princess Catherine is blissfully happy with her childhood friend turned true love Malcolm. Although not noble, Malcolm is the Champion of King William of Hillsdown. They intend to marry--only to discover that Catherine is to be given to Prince Richard of the Forest Kingdom in order to end an escalating war. Despite her defiance, she is sent forth with the ever-helmeted Sombre Warrior as her guardian and Lady Gertrude as her chaperon.
What Catherine does not suspect is that her brother Christof orchestrated her marriage, in part to secure his own ascent to the throne. Christof, however, did not reckon with the possible return of the brilliant sociopath nicknamed the Broken Man, which threatens to overturn all of his plans, or of King William's growing fascination with the monstrous statue known as the Standing Stone--and the entity within.
Setting out with Chappie, the enchanted dog of the long-gone High Warlock, Hawk and Fisher round up their son Jack (who was once a rather terrifying entity before changing his ways) and their daughter Gillian (who's something of a legend herself in the mercenary Brotherhood of Steel). They begin to perceive the hints of war building up, tensions rising unnaturally, and suspect that they must go to the top; they must find a way to talk with Prince Richard. And to do that, they must defeat every challenger at the Grand Tourney...
Richard and his two best friends, swordfighter Peter and minstrel Clarence, try their hand at entering the Darkwood, where Hawk and Fisher (then known as Prince Rupert of the Forest Kingdom and Princess Julia, his betrothed) fought the forces of the Demon Prince on their home territory. Almost needless to say, the brief intrusion shatters their nerves and sets in motion a terrible chain of events before Richard and Catherine meet.
While events transpire in the Forest Kingdom's Castle Midnight, hidden forces conspire to make war. To make this happen, a powerful individual enlists two extremely dangerous sources of power. One is the Stalking Man, the counterpart of God's wrath on Earth (he exists to destroy the holy and the just), and the other is beyond comprehension. There are several nasty surprises planned for the Forest Kingdom, indeed.
However, the Forest Kingdom is not without resources of its own. A traitor (or two) stands revealed, so that a defense may be mustered even at the last minute. The armory of Castle Midnight is unlocked and unthinkable weapons are deployed. Now it will come down to the power of a mad warlord against a handful of heroes, with the survival of a world at stake.
This is the final part of the Forest Kingdom story, wherein Hawk and Fisher find their destinies fulfilled. There is a HUGE amount of story packed into this book, with complex relationships between the characters wedged between extensive action scenes. It might honestly have been best if this had been split in two, as it feels like some parts would have been better with a bit more room to grow.
That said, this is Green delving into this world of his--the oldest of his fantasy creations--with a loving, kitchen-sink approach that defies playing it safe or holding anything back. There is something here for everyone, from a butterfly-collecting dragon to a snarky dog to a slew of plot threads that pay off in unexpected ways. There is more magic unleashed in this book than in half a dozen other epic fantasies together, and even the fabled Rainbow Sword is not enough to stay the Demon Prince this time.
Yes, there are losses and some heroes fall, but so do some villains and others who are neither one nor the other. Richard and Catherine have some wonderful scenes between them, with new characters like the Headless Axeman, the Sombre Warrior and Christof keeping things lively.
And there is very definitely a reckoning for those legendary heroes known as Hawk and Fisher, with a very touching reunion at the very end. As endings go, this is about a much a love letter as a writer can create, and well done too.