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Once...

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  2,575 ratings  ·  138 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
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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
208th out of 1,200 books — 3,820 voters
The Rats by James HerbertThe Fog by James HerbertLair by James HerbertThe Dark by James HerbertDomain by James Herbert
The best of James Herbert
12th out of 24 books — 22 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Erin (Series Addict)

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
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Sam Fleming
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
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Jean-Paul
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
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Kenci
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
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Debra
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)
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Anna
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
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Peter Chandler
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
Susie
- 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.
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Martin Belcher
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
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Stargazer85
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!
Elaine
An unusual combination of horror story, faerie tale, and erotica - definitely not recommended for arachnophobes.
Kahn
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
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Gav451
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
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Rosie
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
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Julius
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)
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Clare
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
Sophia
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
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Greg
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
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Joanne Morris
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
Grace
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.
Keith
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
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James Parsons
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
Dark-Draco
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
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Ryan
Tried to finish this, but I couldn't get through. Needlessly explicit sex scenes killed the action for me and whilst I understand they may have been necessary, the excess detail however was not. The book felt more like soft core porn and I wasn't really looking for that type of story.
Americanogig
I wish I could have rated this book higher. There are so many parts of it that are just fabulous, but there are other considerations. Let's start with the good.

Thom Kindred is a character that you immediately connect with. Which is relatively surprising, as even his so-called normal life is fantastical to someone like me. After having a collision-caused stroke, he returns to his childhood home on the estate of Castle Bracken for rest and recuperation. His patron still lives in the castle with h
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Nor'dzin Pamo
I read this book in a day because I was unwell and reading was about all I could manage. It was a good book for this: not too demanding, good pace, interesting story.
I had not read a James Herbert book before, but had a vague notion that he wrote horror fiction. My son lent me the book, thinking I might like it because it is about fairies (he had not read it). The story holds together well and reaches a satisfactory conclusion. The characters are well drawn and interested me. At times the fairy
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♡ Wildflower ♡
Not my usual type of read but was recommended to me and I fancied something different. I enjoyed it, as a one time read. Although the sex scenes were rather bizarre and unnecessary, I enjoyed the nostalgic fantasy aspect. Rarely does a book capture my imagination like this one did, the imagery is brilliant with lots of wonderful detailed scenes painted in our heads, and unsettling horror scenes too! I wish I had discovered James Herbert when I was younger as I am sure I would have been very pass ...more
Emmaedwardsworkyahoo.co.uk
In my opinion this book was very enjoyable. It was a little slow to start but once you have got to know the characters and understood the background behind the main plot the story gets very interesting. I will say that parts of the book were too detailed when it came to sexual acts but it is classed as a book for adults so I expected it. Thom kindred is an excellent character who you want to know more about. Also the Faery characters were excellently described and I felt as if I could really see ...more
Andrea-c Lake
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Charly Fitzpatrick
So a James Herbert book I got in a jumble sale and I found I read it years ago. Still, I could not remember who did what to whom so I finished it. Now this is billed as a fairy tale for adults and there is sex in it - lots of it. In fact, it is never really explained why the fairy Jenet is having a wank in the woods and why she should let our hero watch. And James Herbert certainly has an odd attitude to sex. He spends pages writing about a lesbian encounter between our hero's physio and a witch ...more
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80984
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 nineteen novels have sold more than forty
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More about James Herbert...
The Fog The Rats (Rats, #1) The Dark The Secret Of Crickley Hall Haunted (David Ash, #1)

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