Book Review: Once Every Never
Published By: Penguin Canada
Publication Date: July 2011
Page Count: 312
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Audience: Young Adult - Fantasy
With Once Every Never, I wasn't sure what to expect. I adored Lesley Livingston's Wondrous Strange series, so I had a pretty good feeling I'd like this new story well enough... but Lesley pleasantly surprised me once again with a really entertaining read in Once Every Never.
The main character, Clare, is a typical 16 year old from Toronto who likes makeup and shopping and boys. Clare is also short for Clarinet Reid -- a true pun of a name given to her by her musician parents, who obviously had a good sense of humour. Her parents are about to embark on an orchestral summer tour so they have decided that Clare needs supervision while they're away, because the last time they left her alone, an impromptu party turned into a huge fiasco. Her parents send her to London, England to stay with her Aunt Maggie (aka Dr. Magda Wallace), and her best friend Allie (Al) tags along since she has family there as well. Clare is not even remotely interested in archeology, but her friend Al has a big interest in the Bog Men display at Clare's Aunt's museum where she is a curator/archeologist. Although, to her own surprise, Clare seems to have an inexplicable fascination with the Claxton Man's remains, and is unaware that she is integrally part of this exhibit until the adventure begins.
At first, it was a bit hard to take Clare very seriously... she was fun and likeable but seemed a very unlikely heroine. But I did get a sense that there was much more beneath her typical "teenageness". And as the story evolves... so does Clare.
Al was equally funny and snarky and Clare's own personal encyclopedia. Milo, Al's British cousin, has crushed on Clare since he was an awkward and geeky fourteen year old and now becomes involved in the girls' adventures and provides some added smarts to help them understand what is going on as well as some attempted super-hero moves. And did I mention that Milo, since the last time Clare saw him, has transformed into an "Adonis" (her word, not mine)? Although he does manage to keep that slightly geeky edge.
The characters from the very earliest days of the celtic tribes were well written. And I have to say that the intriguing mythology had me googling all sorts of things such as Bog Men, Druid folklore, and Queen Boudicca. A lot of research obviously went into this story. Lesley brought characters like Connal and Comorra to life and I loved how their lives intertwined with Clare's. Their history is key and central to the story as well. Llassar and Boudicca were other important players from the past and all were so richly written.
The teenagers' light and comical reactions contrasted and meshed well with the more formal and sobering plight of the celts and druids of the past. Their sense of humour and quick-wit lightened the seriousness of some of the situations they found themselves in, and that kept the story fun and light.
Once Every Never is a true adventure filled with humour and even a bit of romance. I think this story would be great for younger teens too. It was a bit "young" for me (I've been an adult for a while now), but I still found it addicting and very enjoyable to read, so 4.5 birdies it is because I love how Lesley tells a story. I loved how it all wrapped up at the end, and could stand alone as a single book but I've heard that Clare's story will continue on and become a trilogy. I look forward to reading more adventures with Clare and hope that Milo and Al tag along too.
Clarinet Reid is a pretty typical teenager. On the surface. She’s smart, but a bit of slacker; outgoing, but just a little insecure; not exactly a mischief-maker… but trouble tends to find her wherever she goes. Also? She unwittingly carries a centuries-old Druid Blood Curse running through her veins.
Now, with a single thoughtless act, what started off as the Summer Vacation in Dullsville suddenly spirals into a deadly race to find a stolen artifact, avert an explosive catastrophe, save a Celtic warrior princess, right a dreadful wrong that happened centuries before Clare was even born, and if there’s still time—literally—maybe even get a date.
This is the kind of adventure that happens to a girl once every… never.