Mild spoilers for The Frog Princess and Dragon’s Breath
“Many years before Princess Emma’s time, an angry fairy cast a curse on her ancestor, Princess Hazel. The fairy decreed that Hazel and all her female descendants, upon reaching their sixteenth birthdays, could not touch a flower, or else all their youth, beauty, and kindness would be erased.
Emma has seen it happen—her grandmother has always been a spiteful witch, and now her favorite aunt, Grassina, has fallen under the spell as well. Though Emma has wonderful new powers as the Green Witch, she has only a week before her own sixteenth birthday, and with it comes the threat of the family curse.
No one before her has been powerful enough to find the fairy responsible, or to reverse the curse, but Emma is determined-and with the help of Eadric; her favorite bat, Li’l; and some ancestors she has only just met, she may be able to outsmart an adversary she thought she’d left behind long ago.”
I love time-travel, and although I had one major problem with it (see below), the time-travel in this book was executed nicely, if not as Back to the Future-ish as it could have been. Baker continues to use her characters in such a way that absurd situations never seem absurd, just humorous. Every character is used for some sort of humor, and it makes the whole story very fun to read (the fight with the dragon is especially humorous).
I absolutely adored the ending. I thought that Emma was going to fall to the curse and Eadric would break it, but the way Baker worked it out was just so absolutely perfect and so sweet. I also like how Eadric doesn’t really take center stage at all and how Emma’s position as the Green Witch compromises their relationship (the premise of the next book, where Emma must—gasp!—not use magic!).
A big “awwww” to the vampire for waiting all those years for Li’l.
Okay, so when Emma first went back the past and started changing things despite always thinking about how Dyspepsia had warned her not to do that, I thought for sure that when Emma went back, something big was going to be messed up and she would have to fix it. And I know that’s sort of obvious, but I thought, “Why have Emma remember every time not to change the past while she’s changing things in the past when something big like that is not going to happen?” But then nothing did happen, and I was just disappointed. Emma’s trip to the past was just a convenient excuse for her to hear the curse, and Dyspepsia might as well not have bothered warning Emma when absolutely nothing happened.
(I suppose that you could argue for the J. K. Rowling route; that is, Emma didn’t change the future because she had already done those things in the past; i.e., the first dragon going to the mountains to set up a home where, in the future, the dragons reside. But I still think letting the servant out of the oubliette was a bad idea, because she learned some information about the past from his skeleton in the oubliette, which would not have been there since she freed him in the past, preventing her from learning that information in the future. Or perhaps I’m just overthinking this.)
Also, the plot was fairly simple and I finished the book feeling a bit let-down and wishing that it had been more complicated.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Middle Grade
“It sounds complicated.”
“It isn’t really. I’m sure you’ll do just fine. Oh, one other thing—make sure you don’t change anything when you go back in time. Any change then could have a big effect later. Everyone always gives the same example: if you kill your ancestor, you’ll never have been born.”
“That doesn’t make sense. If I killed someone, and then I didn’t exist, how could I have killed him in the first place?”
“I’ll go, Sire,” said Eadric. “I need the practice.”
Fenton made a rude sound, then said, “I’ll go, sire, to prove I’m worthy of Princess Hazel’s hand.”
“I’ll go, sire,” said Jasper, “to rid the countryside of a terrible scourge.”
“I’ll go, sire,” said the two knights.
“For honor,” said one.
“For glory,” said another.
“For goodness’ sake,” I whispered to Millie. “Do they all have to be so dramatic?”
I was a bit disappointed in Once Upon a Curse; although the time-travel was neat, I thought there were some major execution problems. It also seemed like it could have been much more complex and the simplicity of it disappointed me. However, it was quite funny for the most part, and the ending was great, certainly not what I was expecting in terms of who breaks the curse.
You can buy this here: Once Upon a Curse