Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dead Upon a Time by Elizabeth Paulson: Book Review

Dead Upon a Time
Author: Elizabeth Paulson
Publisher: Scholastic Press, 2015
Age: 12 up, Young Adult
Pages: 211


Once upon a time there was a young woman named Kate Wood, who took food baskets to Nan (her grandmother) in the woods, fought off wolves, and like Nan, was “uncommon.” Shunned by the Shepherd Grove villagers because of her family’s magical powers, Kate is desperate for help when Nan disappears. Her one clue is the strange tapestry that Nan left behind, with terrible scenes of suffering stitched into the fabric showing children imprisoned in cell blocks. 

Children have been disappearing from Shepherd Grove for some time now. Kate goes to her childhood friend Jack (also “uncommon”), who has been hiding in the woods ever since the ‘giant killing’ fiasco. He agrees to help, but they are captured a short time later by Constable Sterling of the village and taken to King Wilhelm for questioning, where they learn that Princess Ella has also disappeared. Kate convinces King Wilhelm that she and Jack can find Ella along with Nan. Privately, she suspects his evil new wife, Queen Cecilia. Adding to her suspicions, Kate finds a tapestry similar to Nan’s in Ella’s belongings, with the words “you’re next” inscribed at the top. 

Also, stitched in both tapestries is a trail of vines that leads to a brick fortress, which Kate and Jack find and follow in the forest. Arriving at the fortress, they meet Nan’s evil twin, Catarina. She has been luring Nan and Kate all along and needs “uncommon blood” to maintain her evil state and beauty. Kate offers her life in exchange for Ella, the children, and Jack (also captured), who are then released. To Kate's surprise, Constable Sterling arrives unexpectedly (they had long since ditched him). 

An enchantment spell is lifted revealing his true identity, Kate’s long lost father. Catarina is quickly defeated and imprisoned. Kate happily takes up residence with her father and Nan. Jack is content to stay in the woods and most of the children happily live with Ella and the king. Their families and evil Queen Cecilia remain a mystery, but that’s another story. A bit too fairy tale-ish for me, but I'm sure some will love this rather dark tale.


  1. Wonderful review, sounds like an excellent book.

    1. Yes, some readers are bound to find it interesting. Just wasn't 'my cup of tea'. The relationship hinted at between Jack and Kate is never fully developed, and the villagers' lack of involvement at the end bothered me.

  2. This is quite a good review and from an author who loves fairy tales obviously

    1. Thanks! This is the first I've read by this author. It will be interesting to read other books by her and to see if she continues with fairy tales.

  3. It clearly reflects archetypal themes - which of course, always fascinate us without sometimes our even knowing why. I enjoyed the review - and if I knew a 12 yr old or whatever young age, I would gift them such a book.

    1. Hi Susan. Thanks so much for your comment :)


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