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Once Upon a Darkness

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Gretchen and her twin brother, Hank, were abandoned to a zombie horde when they were five years old. Intended to be a sacrifice by their zealot parents, they were instead rescued by The Company. Raised to become soldiers in the war against zombies, they now provide safe passage through danger zones, one contract at a time.

Clint's only skill is war, but he's weary of killing other men. When his contract with the Marines runs out, he takes a job on Gretchen's team, hoping that the search-and-rescue life will suit him better.

On Clint's second day, their four-man team is attacked, drugged, and taken to a prison full of frightened civilians. The only way in or out is by helicopter and, here, their enemies are human. One by one, the captives are culled from the holding area. Rumors say the facility director uses the prisoners as experimental subjects for the testing of a zombie cure.

When Hank is taken, Clint and Gretchen must put aside their personal feelings and find a way out of the prison, surrounded by thousands of starving zombies, before Hank becomes just one more disposable guinea pig in the hands of a twisted mad woman.

141 pages, Paperback

First published May 20, 2013

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About the author

Aria Kane

7 books186 followers
Aria Kane is a recovering mechanical engineer and romance writer. As a military brat, she grew up all over the country, but now lives in sunny Florida with a 60 lb mutt who thinks he's a chihuahua. She's the author of ONCE UPON A DARKNESS and A TITAN FOR CHRISTMAS. You can learn more about her at www.ariakane.com

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5 stars
29 (34%)
4 stars
34 (40%)
3 stars
12 (14%)
2 stars
6 (7%)
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2 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 26 of 26 reviews
Profile Image for Barbie Pomales.
142 reviews15 followers
August 20, 2020
I did enjoy this book but the reason i m giving it 4 stars is because I want a sequel and additional books . I want to read more from this series and I dont like there is only one book in the series. I m surprised that I like this book because its far out of my comfort zone but I m glad that I did read it .
June 12, 2013
check out this review and others at

I was given this book from the author for an honest review.

Ok so if you know me you are not shocked to see me reading a zombie novel right? Yes i love zombies. *raises my hand * I am an addict. I watch the Walking Dead and read other zombie novels with romance and action. SOOOOO when this review came through I jumped and said YES PLEASE!!!

Alrighty here goes....I really enjoyed the action and lil bit of naughtiness in the novel. i liked how it jumped right in and you get a quick back story about the characters but basically it is allllll action. I gave this a 4 star rating because I would have liked the book to be a little longer and not soooooo rushed at times.

This is a very fast paced story that takes place in 80 ebook pages. I will say I wish the book had been longer and a little more developed because I did enjoy it. I enjoyed the fact that you will meet up with hank and Gretchen's parents during the culling. It was interesting to find out why they did what they did and how they feel about it years later. I also enjoyed the Crazy Scientist who is in charge of these experiments on the humans. She is BAT SHIT CRAY CRAY!!! But the little surprize she tells about the virus was like "OH SWEET". The love story between Clint and Gretchen was just enough hawt to tease you the reader.

So I gotta say, I hope there is more tot his story....because I want to see Clint and Gretchen and see the team fighting more Zombies. I also want to know if CRAY CRAY Scientist was true in what she told Hank......
Profile Image for Kriss.
296 reviews
July 8, 2013
It was wonderful, fun and not long enough. I hope she writes more. Paced just right for a novella and written without it feeling rushed. I am a sucker for a good zombie book but this was more than just a zombie book. Hopefully it is just the first exposure and introduction to a group of great characters and survivalist.

Her background as a romance author shines through with her intimate scenes with Clint and Gretchen. However it is not overwhelming, it is used as a necessary story device. For me this is a huge plus! I like a little romance with my Apocalypse not the other way around!

I really want more of this world build and more from these characters. I really feel there is a lot more left for us to find out!

I am so thrilled I stumbled upon the author.

I highly recommend this for zombie story readers and those who may be interested in introducing themselves to a post zombie apocalypse world without all the horror, blood and brains. It won't keep you up at night but it will make you think.. not too deeply just enough to smile and bounce and say More MORE more~!!!
Profile Image for Melinda.
212 reviews2 followers
July 16, 2018
Seriously a fast paced pull you into the action book. I sat down and read it in one sitting and wished there was more. The relationship between Gretchen and her twin brother Hank is very strong as it has been them against the world (zombie and human) after being abandoned by their parents. Add Erik who may not be blood related but life has made him more than just a friend to these two and you can tell they would do anything for one another. I love the banter between the three. The relationship between Clint and Gretchen is just enough romance to give one hope in the darkest of times. This book had me holding my breath and on the edge of my seat at times. I look forward to reading more by Aria Kane.
Profile Image for Madison Warner Fairbanks.
2,232 reviews304 followers
February 1, 2016
Once Upon a Darkness by Aria Kane

A group of four trained zombie fighters get caught in a net that may mean the end of their lives.

Fast moving, short and not terribly complex but a good zombie story. Gretchen is the clear leader of the group and it's nice to read a strong character without having to have a male dominate.
A bit unbelievable in the execution of their escape but I liked that their team made it out intact. I can definitely see this book as the start of a series.
Three syringes or four? My printed copy wasn't sure.

I received this book in a contest giveaway by the author at a reader conference.
849 reviews10 followers
July 16, 2019
I loved this book! I loved the post-apocalyptic world. I loved the initial set-up of the story/series. I loved the characters and their dynamics. I even liked how an unexpected couple at the (spoiler :-) ) added an unexpected complication to an already dire situation. The pace was fast, and because it's a short story/novella, it was over was too soon. My only complaint is that there is not already a sequel.
312 reviews5 followers
June 21, 2021
This was amazing! Gretchen is kick-ass and so is her team. I am not usually a zombie movie or book person, but this book/series might just be the exception that proves the rule. I think it's because zombies weren't the whole point of the book. Sure they were intgral to the setting and plot, but they actually got little page time. All in all it was very well written.
Profile Image for Amber Todd.
397 reviews5 followers
January 30, 2022
Not gonna lie, I'm not a huge fan of zombies or apocalypse type stories. That being said, I would read more of Gretchen and her gang today if there were more books. Gretchen was a great heroine and I loved how capable she was. Also, for anyone concerned, there wasn't that much that revolved around seeing the actual zombies. So yay!
Profile Image for Jodi.
972 reviews
December 6, 2021
First of all, where is book 2? I am so surprised I enjoyed this book as I am not a zombie reader. This is an action based, fast paced book that had zombies but really there is a love interest as well. Gretchen and Erik, twins were left as a tithe for the Zoombies but were saved and are now badass destroyers of zombies, along with their friend Hank. They are captured and must free themselves from a mad woman looking to create a cure. Well, evil is evil and she only creates more zombies. Clint makes a nice love interest and I would love to see what more adventures this group of 4 gets into.
Profile Image for Linda.
1,115 reviews48 followers
February 17, 2016
A sexy, romantic, action-packed, teeming-with-danger apocalyptic story.

"What are you, Zombie Slayer Barbie?" Clint knew the words were a mistake before they left his lips.
She crossed her arms across her chest. He tried to keep his eyes from following them.
The big man in the back barked a laugh. "You'll pay for that one."

ONCE UPON A DARKNESS by Aria Kane is an emotional and gripping zombie apocalyptic survivalist tale interspersed with perfectly timed witty humor. AND it includes a sweet, heated romance that meshed perfectly with the intense nature of the story. I've been eyeing it since I got back from the Coastal Magic Convention with it happily ensconced within all the goodies I'd collected from there. I honestly didn't know what to expect when I started it today, but it grabbed my attention immediately and didn't release its hold until I'd read through to the ending. If I had any complaint, it was that I didn't want it to end!

Gretchen, our kickass heroine, and Hank, her brainy brother, have not had an easy life since their parents left them to die. Thankfully, they were rescued instead and were the initial members of a highly trained team that executes seemingly impossible rescue missions into areas overrun by zombies. The team has since been enhanced by big man Erik and ex-Marine hottie, Clint. While on a pseudo-mission, the team is thrown into a desperate, seemingly hopeless situation. I kept my hopes up by silently repeating over and over 'when the going gets tough, the tough get going' and 'only the strong survive'... they qualify with both.

I really liked all the characters, but I especially loved the sparks that flew between Gretchen and Clint. I hope the author considers writing more books set in this world. I'd like to read more about Hank because I have a soft spot for nerds, and Erik, who reminded me of a strong teddy bear..

This book is perfect for fans of the Walking Dead or any of the movies featuring young, hot heroes surviving against seemingly impossible odds. Be prepared for your heart rate to escalate in the zombie scenes AND with the sweet and heated romance. The story kept me biting my nails with bated breath for what was coming as I turned each page. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys sexy, romantic, action-packed, teeming with danger apocalyptic stories.

My full review will be posted at Reading Between The Wines Book Club. Please check it out http://www.readingbetweenthewinesbook...

4 Wine Glasses!
Profile Image for Melody  May (What I'm Reading).
1,485 reviews22 followers
June 16, 2013
Posted on What I'm Reading

All right, most of you know I'm not a fan of zombies. My least favorite show is The Walking Dead and here is a tidbit: it took me three days to watch Zombieland. My husband makes fun me, because he tells me it's not that scary. Hey, I don't like zombies, but I will try a zombie story every now and again. Todays zombie selection is Once Upon A Darkness by Aria Kane.

First off, I actually liked the story. I know, this is huge deal. Anyways, we have this group who do search and rescue for survivals in a post apocalyptic world of zombies. Now you wondering how romance fits into this book, but it does. Gretchen and Clint work together to find her brother Hank. Of course they have feelings for one another, but they can't focus on that because of the mission.

Overall, I did like this novella and I'm surprise to say this, but I wish the story was a little longer. I know, the non-zombie fan would have liked the story a little longer. For a quick zombie read it was pretty good. So, if you are fan of The Walking Day, you might enjoy this quick read of Once Upon A Darkness.

Copy provided by author
Profile Image for Miranda Jae.
125 reviews12 followers
June 26, 2013
First of all, I'd like to thank both Aria Kane and Goodreads First Reads for giving me the opportunity to read this amazing book!!

This was a very quick read, but it was pretty good. The author managed to fit this incredible story into a short 138 pages without making it feel rushed.
I loved that the lead female character was just as tough as (if not more than) all the lead male characters. You don't really see too many hardcore, kick-ass, "I can handle myself" kinds of chicks in books - usually the lead female character needs a "big strong man" to lean on. Not Gretchen. ;D
This book was a nice combination of steamy romance mixed with some zombie killing action.♡ I hope the author decides to write more, I would really like to see what kind of adventures Hank, Gretchen, Clint, and Erik go on next. "Once Upon A Darkness" feels like a very promising start to a kick-ass zombie series!
February 12, 2016
Zombie Fighters

An interesting tale that I wished was more developed. With the description I expected much more action then what was in there. I'm a little disappointed but I would gladly read the second book if there's ever one. I'm curious as to what's going to happen next. I usually don't bother to point out grammar errors but it really separates a good book from a great book. There wasn't a lot but there were some easily fixed errors like her should've been here. A read through would've fixed these easily fixed mistakes and made it a clearer read.
Profile Image for Crystal P.
490 reviews7 followers
December 29, 2019
I very much enjoyed this book. It was unique (to me) in that it took place many many years after the zombie apocalypse. There is a lot about the current state of the world that isn’t explained, but it isn’t necessary. I could see more being explained in future books in the series. This leads me to the question of why there isn’t already a sequel! It didn’t leave on a cliffhanger per se, but I am interested in seeing where the author takes things.
Profile Image for Kayelee Rock.
3 reviews3 followers
June 22, 2013
How you make a zombie story romantic, witty, and charming, I don't know... but Aria has done so! This story includes characters that by far are not your typical characters; a kick-ass female lead, and a Hottie McHottie who actually has more than hotness going for him. Not to mention the cute nerdy twin brother. Gotta love those! I read it in one sitting and wanted more! Sequel? Let's hope!
Profile Image for Chris.
52 reviews36 followers
June 22, 2013
Great book! Ms. Kane's work is fun and exciting. A page turner from beginning to end and great for satisfying your need for a zombie-read this summer. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Profile Image for Larissa.
35 reviews9 followers
June 24, 2013
This is an interesting story with fun characters in an intriguing world. Aria's writing is fluid and easy to get lost in. My only complaint is that it's a novella rather than a novel. I wanted more!
671 reviews1 follower
July 23, 2019
This book gripped me from the start. Contained within this book were zombies - and I don't usually like books with zombies. I was surprised and glad that I chose to read this book. There was so much pain and drama in each of the characters. We all do what we have to do to survive. The inclusion of plenty of twists in the book guaranteed this author a 5 star rating from me. This was a great world created by this author and I sincerely hope that she writes more about it.
95 reviews2 followers
October 21, 2019
Love this book! Great World Building. The characters drew me into their world. I want to know more about them and what happens to their world. Great mix of humor and drama. The horror elements were descriptive without being too graphic. I usually don't like anything to do with zombies but this book is different. I will definitely read the other books in the series.
Profile Image for Tamye Whitener.
669 reviews16 followers
September 1, 2021
I couldn't put it down!

Action-packed, Intense, but heartwarming at times.

Take some zombies, mad scientist, not-so-mad scientist, then throw in a few zealots (glad they aren't my parents), some good hearted mercenaries, a couple of ex-football players, firemen, gymnast, and flying cheerleader style, and you have a story that will keep you turning the pages to the very last page.

I loved this book and highly recommend it to others.
Profile Image for Romancing the Book.
4,420 reviews211 followers
November 28, 2015
Reviewed by Effie
Book provided by the author for review
Review originally posted at Romancing the Book

Loved, loved, loved this book! Seriously. I loved it. The first few pages were a little hard for me to get into, I felt like I was being dropped into the middle of something without adequate preparation, but that’s exactly all it took me. I was hooked by the end of the first chapter. I was so disappointed it was a short read, but it was really good and that more than made up for it.

We’re in the future, and zombies run around rampantly, basically. Gretchen and her twin Hank are kick-butt zombie killers. They have their own organization set up and they go out and do missions and try to make the world a little less bad. The love interest, Clint, is seriously awesome. Perfect mix of everything that is male, yet sensitive, honest and caring. He’s basically the consummate hero. The dynamics of their crew is awesome. It doesn’t take Clint long to become one of them and their banter and interactions are great.

Things go awry for them a few times, as things always do, but they came back from it and handled everything brilliantly. It was enjoyable to see how everything panned out, because while you knew that something needed to happen, I never could see where the author was going to take it. I read a lot of end of the world, zombie and general dystopian books, and it’s a sad fact that often enough you can see where things are going or how they’re going to end. Not so in this book.

Gretchen’s character and determination are enviable. The author did an amazing job making her just like every other girl, but giving her that extra pizzazz that makes an excellent heroine. The book is entirely (at this point) fiction, but you can really see these things happening, imagine these characters as real flesh and blood people. Once Upon a Darkness was a quick and great read.

Favorite Quote: “What are you, Zombie Slayer Barbie?”
Profile Image for Brandy Dorsch.
Author 18 books135 followers
June 30, 2013
So, I am a paranormal fan but not really into zombies. That being said, I took a chance on this novella and I was not disappointed! It is a short story but I feel that you get a good understanding of the characters and plot development.
It takes place in a post apocolyptic world that is full of zombies. Yuck. Something about zombies has always freaked me out. I don’t watch any of the shows on television either.
I didn’ t understand why Gretchen and Hank were abandoned but they manage to make a life for themselves. When Clint joins the team, you know the action is going to spark up with Gretchen. I liked the fact that there was romance but not drowning in it. This book was more about saving lives and making a difference in a devestated world.
I am hoping that there will be more with these characters. I think I have become a zombie fan.
Profile Image for Joline.
34 reviews
July 10, 2013
This book was a great easy read. I love post apocalyptic stories and I really really wanted more. The things I didn't like: I didn't realize it was a romance. I skipped most of the ooey gooey scenes. The other thing I wasn't a fan of (I think this is again the nature of a romance genre) is that the main female character went from a strong leader to a teary girl who needed the big strong man to come fix everything so she could continue on.
I would read more of this world presented in the book because the writing was easy to fall into, but I would skip any overly cheesy romance parts again.
Profile Image for Jillian Ashe.
Author 19 books76 followers
January 7, 2016
I like this book. I'm simply irritated it's advertised as the first in a series when it was published two years ago, with no mention of the second anywhere. Believe me, I looked. I probably wouldn't have started the series had I known there would never be a second one. Only reason it's 3*s for me, would have been 4 if I could read number 2.
Displaying 1 - 26 of 26 reviews

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