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3.73  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,977 Ratings  ·  167 Reviews

The International Bestseller

For Thom Kindred, life is nothing spectacular. A stroke victim, Thom finds himself partially incapacitated and battling daily to regain control of his life. Moved by haunting dreams of his youth, he travels back to the wooded land where he grew up to recuperate. Surrounded by the comforts of Castle Bracken, Thom plans to relive old, forgotten m
Mass Market Paperback, 460 pages
Published January 20th 2003 by Tor Books (first published January 1st 2001)
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The Shining by Stephen KingIt by Stephen King'Salem's Lot by Stephen KingDracula by Bram StokerPet Sematary by Stephen King
Best Horror Novels
248th out of 1,383 books — 4,240 voters
The Fog by James HerbertThe Rats by James HerbertLair by James HerbertThe Dark by James HerbertDomain by James Herbert
The best of James Herbert
8th out of 24 books — 27 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Edward Lorn
May 13, 2016 Edward Lorn rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Jared Fogle and Jada Fire
Shelves: paperbacks
Boy oh boy, this book is shit. Fortunately, it was a buddy read with my good friend Thomas Strömquist so I didn't have to suffer alone. Funnily enough, I asked Thomas if we could skip the book we'd initially agreed to read this month, The Venus Complex, because I wasn't in the mood for erotic horror. Thomas had also mentioned wanting to read some James Herbert. I decided on this book. Why, yes, Virginia, I am a fucking moron.

I was under the impression that James Herbert was a horror author, that
Thomas Strömquist
Oh gosh, where to start? I'll admit to being entranced by the narrative for the first third of this and I really liked it that far! Therefore, I so much wanted to put something more that a measly one-star for the book. Until I remembered that the two-star rating on Goodreads is defined as "it was ok". Which made the one star rating a so-called "no-brainer". Following the (admittedly) well-written and alluring intro this thing descended into a cesspool of fairy-tale clichés and tasteless porn. My ...more
Erin (Paperbackstash) *Proud Book Hoarder*

Once is an adult fairy-tale fantasy with bizarre sexual scenarios, a nostalgic touch, and gothic feel. There’s a whole bunch going into this one. The front of the book has stunning artwork for several pages too, and the author clearly had fun breaking up the classic “Once upon a time” line between pages, instead starting chapter one with “death.” This is one of those books where you get the bigger impact reading the beginning in book form rather than electronic.

The length is drawn out considerin
Sam Fleming
Jan 11, 2013 Sam Fleming rated it did not like it
The problem with Herbert is, to my mind, that he has always tended more towards slasher-fic than true horror. Oh, and the porn. Dear gods. The porn. I mean, I liked him when I was a teenager and still thought that Iron Maiden’s Eddie was just the coolest thing ever, but as I grew older I came to realise that a chainsaw-wielding maniac and some explicit passages about blow jobs do not a horrifying story make.

Once declared itself to be a fairy story, of sorts. I don’t know how it came to be on my
May 03, 2013 Jean-Paul rated it did not like it
James Herbert Once...

I don't often get the opportunity to review a book which I really didn't like. At least not since college and assigned reading lists. I'm not beholden to others to do my reviews so I generally try to pick books which I think I'll like and I can stop reading if I don't like it. Mostly though I do finish books once I start them and even on books that star off rocky I usually find something redeeming in their pages.
And then we have "Once..." by James Herbert. I think it's usual
David Brian
Jun 28, 2015 David Brian rated it liked it
I grew up reading James Herbert, and I honestly consider myself a fan of his writing. This was disappointing.
Firstly, this isn't actually a horror story. This in itself was not the problem as Mr. Herbert has previously turned his hand from the horror genre, with the excellent Fluke being a prime example of this.
The book is actually a fairy tale for the modern age. Following his recovery from a serious stroke, the irritatingly named Thom Kindred returns to his ancestral home within the grounds of
Jun 24, 2009 Kenci rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
Once by James Herbert was more than a little disappointing. Yes, I had read other reviews first and they were all pretty consistent about this book... sucking. Yet I still hoped for more. The synopsis sounded great and I really liked James Herbert's Haunted. And from the synopsis, I was hoping for something more like John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things or Neil Gaiman's Stardust. Faery with some horror elements. My expectations were set way too high.

The story initially drew me in and had me q
Martin Belcher
Jun 27, 2011 Martin Belcher rated it really liked it
This James Herbert novel is very different to many of his others and introduces us to Thom Kindred who after a serious accident returns to his childhood home of Little Bracken set deep in the mysterious forest surrounding the stately home of Castle Bracken.

The narrative sets up quite a spooky feeling about the setting and also the both houses. The Characters of Hugo Bleeth and Nell Quick are not who they seem and then we find out that the forest is populated by a whole host of incredible mythic
Jan 16, 2015 Susie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, horror, adult, sold
- Sort of liked/OK

I actually sold my copy of this book a few years back as I could never see myself rereading it... It wasn't a bad take on the "adult fairy story", it's just that a few sex scenes seemed to be pointlessly added to it. As the first book I'd ever read of Herbert's, it didn't endear me to reading any more. OK, but far too ridiculous at points.
Stephen King recommended author as noted in Chapter 9 of Berkley's 1983 paperback edition of Danse Macabre.

I've read Herbert before and think he could have done better with this novel. It started out pretty good and I was settled in for a great page-turner, but soon became distracted by all the sex scenes(albeit well-written). (view spoiler)
Apr 02, 2013 Anna rated it it was ok
This is more of a 2.5 star book, but Goodreads doesn't have half-star ratings for reviewers. That said, while certain horror aspects of 'Once' are more than effective (such as the succubus), too much detracts from that.

First of all, there's far too much fluff involved. I found myself skimming pages of it in attempts to find my way back to the plot. Second, the ending was a bit horrendous if you think about it. Amusingly enough, it can be summarized as 'And then the villain defeats themself, the
Peter Chandler
Oct 20, 2010 Peter Chandler rated it did not like it
It is impossible to shake the inescapable sense that this book must be labouring under some sort of Glamour. Certainly all is very stylish upon the surface, a great deal of artistry has gone into the cover, its map and it's imagery and yet none of this can hide the gaping empty void where the actual story should be. There are so many things that are bad about this book it's hard to choose where to start but I will begin by mentioning the general prose style and its habit of indulging in unnecess ...more
Apr 15, 2012 Sophia rated it liked it
Once was completely bonkers, but also utterly compelling. I'm still not sure whether I thought it was terrible or brilliant - I may take a few days to mull it over and work out which.

The story follows Thom Kindred, a 27-year-old man who has suffered a stroke which has left him with a weakness down his left side. After being discharged from hospital, he returns to his childhood home deep in the Shropshire countryside to convalesce. The cottage in the woods, part of the estate belonging to his bes
Feb 01, 2013 Stargazer85 rated it it was amazing
This is probably one of my most favourite books to date. Dark fantasy based on faery folk with the approach that not all fairytales are pink and fluffy as it were. For any adult that appreciates the idea that fairytales never started off as princesses in castles but more on open lustful desires, then this is definitely worth a read!
Jul 12, 2008 Elaine rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008, july
An unusual combination of horror story, faerie tale, and erotica - definitely not recommended for arachnophobes.
Mar 09, 2014 Kahn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
James Herbert is one of those funny authors - if I love one of his books, I can't put it down, but if I can't engage with it I really can't engage with it.
There is no middle ground it seems.
Sadly, Once... falls into the latter camp.
Where Rats, say, or '48 grip you from the off, Herbert spends too long here setting the scene - while failing simultaneously to actually create a lead character of any depth.
He's had a stroke, and an unhappy childhood, but that's all we know of him. He's barely two-di
Aug 06, 2014 Gav451 rated it it was ok
The one that got away:

The last few James Herbert books I read were really good. Thoughtful, interesting, atmospheric and pacey. This one however seems to have gotten away from him a little.

On consideration 3 may be one too many stars. The problem is the plot is ever so slightly thin and the sex scenes are jarringly out of place within the story. They serve no purpose other than to allow the cover of the copy I read to assert that it was a dark erotic fantasy.

When I was a young teenager the earl
Feb 24, 2009 Rosie rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-i-own
I do enjoy James Herbert's books but this one does fall a bit flat in retrospect.

James Herbert creates likeable characters and intriguing suspense with relaistic and believable fantasy. I do, however, think that he plugs in the gaps with non-stop sex scenes - Nell and Thom twiceish, Nell and the other guy, Nell and Katie, Thom and Jennet twice. Sex does play a large part of the plot especially in regards to Nell and Thom, as she is trying to seduce him for other means.

The ending is where James
Mar 22, 2013 Julius rated it it was ok
This book is a slow, boring stroll through the park for about a good 150 pages. I almost gave up on it. Halfway through turns into a kinda cool/kinda odd roller coaster. Let’s just say if I had a list of books I wouldn't mind unreading, Once wouldn't be very low on that list.

It was boring half of the way through, and at the point when the boringness ended, it quickly turned awkwardly explicit. I don’t mind explicit scenes in a book, but these were just odd! (view spoiler)
Jan 08, 2013 Clare rated it liked it
Thom returns to his childhood home to convalesce after suffering a horrific accident. The cottage he was brought up in is located in a forest which is part of an estate owned by the Bleeth family. Thom's best friend from childhood is Hugo Bleeth - son of Sir Russell Bleeth the wealthy owner of the estate (who happens to be very ill and on the brink of death). Hugo welcomes his friend back into the fold and introduces him to Nell - an intriguing seductress who has been hired to care for his sick ...more
Dec 20, 2010 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
This was an entertaining dark fantasy with a fair bit of sex thrown into it! The plot is straight forward enough with few real surprises - it’s typical good versus evil fare – so some people might be disappointed if they wanted something to tax their brains a little!

There was, however, an interesting overview of the Lloyds of London insurance scandal of the 1980s on pp. 134-6. This is rather topical given the current global financial problems caused by (among other things) the collapse of the s
Mallory Heart Recommends
Review of Once by James Herbert
5 Stars

Going in, I sort of expected a horror story, because that is the genre for which Mr. Herbert is so well-known. Instead, I found a very realistic and believable contemporary fairy tale, myth and legend come to vibrant life in the English countryside. Thom Kindred, product of a single mother, was raised till age ten in the cottage called “Little Bracken,” on the estate of Sir Russell Bleeth, whose son was tutored by Thom’s mother. She died when Thom was ten, a
William Middleton
Feb 09, 2016 William Middleton rated it liked it
Shelves: library-books
This is my first James Herbert book.
I give it 3 stars in the end, all the while I was reading
I was sure it would bust loose into 4 or 5 territory at any moment.
But ...
Overall: entertaining? yes, worth reading yes

Joanne Morris
Jul 23, 2014 Joanne Morris rated it it was ok
Downloaded this to my Kindle as a favour to my neighbour and thought I might as well read it after she'd finished using it. Almost wish I hadn't bothered. I say 'almost' because I did like and sympathise with Thom, the main character, but I really had no idea that James Herbert was so utterly obsessed with describing women's breasts, particularly their nipples. Seemed like pages and pages of "pink nubs" and "engorged points". Once I start a book, though, I have to finish, no matter how silly. An ...more
Dec 01, 2014 Grace rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
The writing was good but this could not decide if it wanted to be a horror or a fairytale and so failed at being either. I pushed through to the end but it wasn't something I would read again in a hurry. or ever.
May 20, 2014 Keith rated it really liked it
Not in his typical brand of Horror/Thriller writing - and yes, I have them all so far . . . So I guess this may put off some of those readers who probably enjoy his more usual style of darker horror stories. However, I actually enjoyed the unexpected change in his genre here, which is more akin to that of a sexy fantasy thriller.

All of them have been easy to follow - although some may take slightly longer to pull you into the story itself. But they always usually end up as a good read. To my ow
Kolby Kolarik
Apr 28, 2015 Kolby Kolarik rated it it was amazing
Once is a biography about a Jew disguised as a Christian who is determined to find his family. Felix is a Jew struggling to survive during World War II. He is an “orphan” living at a Christian orphanage trying to hide from the Nazis. His parents sent him there; then, when they left the orphanage tells Felix that they died in a car accident. A nun at the orphanage knows about Felix, and his parents and told him they were probably dead. Felix doesn’t believe her, and he is determined to find his p ...more
James Parsons
May 11, 2014 James Parsons rated it really liked it
I have not read all of his books, but I know his background, his reputation as a strong Brit horror genre author who with his first dozen or so novels shook up the genre, added some modern grit and grime and gained a solid reputation as a modern horror fiction master for the next couple of decades. From around the 90's onward, he then progressively changed a few specific elements in his tales, often the time period-setting stories many decades or even a century back, and then also some might bel ...more
Mar 17, 2014 Dark-Draco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, horror
I know the saying - books, covers, etc., but I have to say that I love my edition of this book. The white cover with the silver detailing, the nice, crisp thin pages, the colour plates, the general decoration between chapters...all are fantastic. The story probably doesn't quite live up to the promise, but it will be a book I keep for a while yet.

Herbert has moved away from outright horror to a more fantastical, erotic story, centred around Thom Kindred and his convalescence back at his family h
Dec 01, 2015 Menion rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, fantasy, horror
I can't see why people disliked this one so much-I almost gave it five stars, I loved the story and writing. Just to address the two major criticisms of the book-namely, the descriptiveness and the fucking:
1. I found the descriptiveness to be some of the best I have read, and did NOT find it going over the line into utter wordiness. Sure, he skates up close to the line, but this is so well written I could picture all the scenes in my head with no difficulty. It was like watching a movie going on
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James Herbert was Britain's number one bestselling writer (a position he held ever since publication of his first novel) and one of the world's top writers of thriller/horror fiction.

He was one of our greatest popular novelists, whose books are sold in thirty-three other languages, including Russian and Chinese. Widely imitated and hugely influential, his 19 novels have sold more than 42 million
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