Lesley Livingston’s juvenile fiction consistently manages to be refreshing, engaging and surprisingly smart. She demonstrated this with her debut Wonderous Strange series (Wonderous Strange, Darklight, Tempestuous) and she does it again in a whole new world of characters in Once Every Never (Penguin) the first book in a new series that combines Celtic mythology with contemporary romance. It’s a mix that’s tough to put down.
We meet Clarinet Reid arriving at Heathrow with her best friend, Allie for a summer with Clare’s brainiac aunt, Maggie, a world famous professor of archeology. That familial connection makes a lot of the plot devices in Once Every Never possible, but it’s all good: our girl Clare gets to be the fish out of water while her aunt is not only the one supervising adult in this story, she’s also an internationally respected expert in a lot of the deeds and misdeeds that go on.
Clare has arrived in London for a summer of exile in what she and her friend had imagined would be “dullsville”. Of course, and in the natural way of things, nothing could be further from the truth as before much time has passed, Clare and her pal will be on the hunt for a stolen artifact, dealing with a Druid Blood Curse that is centuries old and falling hard for two hot guys: who happen to be inhabiting the same body.
There’s a lot to keep track of, but Livingston does a great job, keeping readers included and interested. There’s also a light smattering of learning that manages to never sully the real and pure entertainment value of Once Every Never. It’s a careful balance that few books for this age group manage successfully, but Livingston handles those challenges with aplomb.
Once Ever Never is a great start on a new series by an author who has proven to be a reliable, engaging voice in a surprisingly short time. ◊
Linda L. Richards is editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.