Book Review, Fantasy, Young Adult

Once Upon A Time: Regina Rising by Wendy Toliver

Sixteen-year-old Regina is very different from the Regina known by fans of ABC’s “Once Upon a Time.” She seeks romance, adventure, and approval. Of course, getting approval from a mother like Cora is next to impossible. For Regina, friendships have always been a rare commodity. Could it be that Regina has finally found a true friend? Or is it too good to be true? As Regina struggles to find her own identity and create her own destiny, she discovers that her fate might just be to become everything she despises.

ABC’s Once Upon a Time was and still is one of my favorite shows. When I heard about the tie-in books coming out, I could not wait to read them. The first one I read in this series was Red’s Untold Tale, written by the same author. I enjoyed it so much; I snagged this one as soon as it came out. With both Red and Regina being my top favorite characters (why did we not get a Zelena tie-in? Hello ABC! Another favorite character), I was skeptical. This book did not disappoint. I have been wanting to read this book for a while but got distracted by other shiny books lol.

This takes place 2 to 3 years before Regina officially meets young Snow White. Putting this in the show timeline, Regina is sixteen. As a viewer, we do not know a lot about Regina’s childhood. We know her love for horses came from her riding time with her father as a child, and we see this love throughout the book. This book adds to the dimension and development of the character. We learn about an unknown innocent crush, before Regina’s love for Daniel, Regina having a friend name Claire and what had happened to the relationship explaining why it was not addressed in the show, and more. What I enjoyed about this book was how it made Regina’s character richer and keeping Regina’s personality equal to the show. Regina is one of the best developed character in the show.

Claire is another major character in this book. She is the niece to Regina’s father’s friend and neighbor. I thought the author wrote the character well and was a well-rounded character. She was interesting and a good friend to Regina. I felt Claire helped Regina’s character develop in a lot of ways in reflection in both the book and show.

As a show viewer, you only thought you knew the abusive (mental and magical) relationship Cora and Regina had as mother and daughter. This book adds to this toxic relationship. Cora was not a favorite character, and this book made her even worse. She pushes her daughter to hate her, her husband to bend to her will, and thinks she is doing right. She insists on making Regina Queen, not caring or listening to what Regina herself wants. The book explains partly why Cora is the way she is, but in order to understand fully, you would need to see the show.

In reverse to Cora, Regina’s father Henry is the positive light in her life. He allows Regina to do things behind Cora’s back, and it remains a hidden gem between the two. One secret is Regina riding full saddle instead of sidesaddle, which is what Cora insists and full run instead of trotting. Instead of treating her like a Queen in training, Henry treat’s Regina like a daughter, a child, and someone who is coming into her own. We do not see this relationship between father and daughter in the show as much as I would have liked, and this was one of my favorite arcs.

If you have seen the show, the setting is in the Enchanted Forest and needed brief explanation and development. If you have not, then I believe there was enough development to understand this world without bogging the book down. This book takes off and was a quick read that if there would have been anymore than what the author described, I believe it would have slowed the book down.

I recommend this book to anyone who is a Oncer, loves retellings of fairy tales, fantasy, and fun quick reads. You do not have to watch the show in order to understand the book. This could classify as a prequel to the show, but it would add more perspective and knowledge. I know there is this trope of “villains are not always born but created” and some people are tired of it, but Regina or Snow White’s Evil Queen, started this trope or at least it was the first time I have seen this from the Fairy Tale perspective.

I give this book a 5/5

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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