Honestly, I think this review might be torture for some of you. Why you ask? Well, if you have the misfortune of living anywhere but Canada you're going to have a hard time getting your hands on Lesley Livingston's latest book, Once Every Never. Sadly it's currently only set for publishing from Penguin Canada on July 1st, with no news yet on any foreign rights. Good news for me, bad news for any of you who don't have a Canadian pen pal.
Clarinet Reid is a pretty typical teenager. On the surface. She’s smart, but a bit of slacker; outgoing, but just a little insecure; not exactly a mischief-maker … but trouble tends to find her wherever she goes. Also? She unwittingly carries a centuries-old Druid Blood Curse running through her veins.
Now, with a single thoughtless act, what started off as the Summer Vacation in Dullsville suddenly spirals into a deadly race to find a stolen artifact, avert an explosive catastrophe, save a Celtic warrior princess, right a dreadful wrong that happened centuries before Clare was even born, and if there’s still time— literally—maybe even get a date.
This is the kind of adventure that happens to a girl once every … never.
Once Every Never was the kind of rollicking adventure I'm starting to think is Livingston's signature way of telling a story. Funny, fast paced and teeming with great characters, Lesley even managed to pick one of Europe's most under-appreciated historical female leaders as her historical hook up. I think it's cool she's thrown in a little pre-Roman history, it's not the stuff you'd ever touch on before University so it should be news to most teens, plus Queen Boudica was pretty awesome.
Her main character Clare and her best friend Allie are the kind of girls I really enjoy reading about. Friends since forever, really bright but way too capable of getting into loads of trouble, and full of amusing repartee largely made the story for me. Set against them was the Celtic cast, who although 100% serious were intriguing and full of mysterious motives. The way the two realities played against each other was the true success of the the story. The levity of the present often keeping the seriousness of the past from being utterly grim.
I'm a huge history buff, and what little information or writing there is on the Iceni Queen I've eaten up like candy. Not only does Lesley breath life into a little known segment of history but she does a great job of presenting them as the glorious and proud people they're known to have been. For those of you who read Once Every Never and then find yourself jonesing for a little more info about Boudica as well as several other lesser known kick-ass historical women, I would highly recommend Antonia Fraser's book, The Warrior Queens: The Legends and Lives of the Women Who Have Led Their Nations to War. Dry title but riveting stories, trust me, if you like the history of Once Every Never you'll really love Warrior Queens.
If you have the pleasure of being in Toronto this Tuesday night, make sure to RSVP for her launch party for the book. Assuming I'm healed enough from my epic bike accident, I'll see you there.
Buy The Warrior Queens on Amazon