‘Regina Rising’ Review

| 08/11/20 | 3min read |

Regina Rising – by Wendy Toliver
⭐⭐⭐⭐

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In this charming extension of the Once Upon A Time universe, Wendy Toliver weaves a short but enjoyable tale about young Regina’s experiences of friendship, love, manipulation and betrayal. We see her grapple with her mother’s overbearing nature, while navigating being a teenager, discovering who she is and attempting to form connections with others.

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The Main Characters:

Regina Mills
Regina in this book is a convincing continuation of the young girl in the show, and I actually pictured her more as Ava Acres than I did as Lana Parrilla. I think she is a bit more precocious and naive in this than the calm, sweet young Regina we see Parrilla play in flashback scenes. But that worked well for me, as she matched up with the child Regina we see in the series.

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Henry Mills (Regina’s father)
Gentle and respectful as we see him in the show, we really feel the sense of love and pride Henry has for his daughter – as well as his timid compliance as Cora dictates their lives.

Cora Mills (Regina’s mother)
The notoriously cold-hearted Cora was captured perfectly here, and I completely pictured her as she is in the show.

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Original Characters
Claire was the other main character, introduced to us as the daughter of Henry’s friend. Her characterisation wasn’t overly deep, and she certainly wasn’t as well-developed as Regina, but the true purpose of her character comes to light later in the book, when we see the part she has to play in TV-Regina’s development.

Jesse, the stable boy, helped to make the setting seem more real and provide a background presence besides the focus on Regina and her immediate surroundings. I got him confused with Jasper at first, but later realised I’d merged the names in my mind – he’s the stable boy and Jasper is the artist that Regina takes a shine to.

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Jasper – I thought his presence might somewhat take away from the story of Regina and Daniel, but actually I think their hint of a connection (and the collapse of it) almost foreshadowed the fate of her future relationship. Scenes with him had a palpable spark and vivacity, partly due to the almost tangible descriptions of the paintings and outdoor scenery.

Benjamin – The prospect of a marriage to the (much older) prince was a little odd to witness, but I can see it was an important part of the plot, to set up the ending. I didn’t feel that he was a very deep or interesting character – though that was perhaps the point, as we’re not supposed to think much of him.

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[Minor spoiler in the following paragraph:]

I did notice a bit of a discrepancy: in the show, she hadn’t met Snow White before saving her from the bolting horse, had she? I believe Snow introduces herself then, yet in this book they meet and spend some time together, on good terms. At first, I thought the memory potion Regina obtains was going to be for herself – which would explain why we never hear of these events in the show. But what she does with it seems like a shortcut way to avoid explaining things to a particular character (also perhaps to show her beginnings of ruthlessness and controlling people). Snow was a little more ‘bratty’ than in the show, but the onscreen version does have this air about her, and I can see why Regina would view her that way at first. There’s quite a sudden turn at the end, but it is true to character for Regina (based on how we see her react to events in the show).

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The writing style came across as quite simplistic to me at first, but of course it has to cater for different ages, and I actually warmed to its tone as I began to see it was more complex than it first seemed. References were woven in, with effective descriptions and frequent moments of emotional depth. There was also a key allegory that Henry tells Regina towards the start, which comes to light at the end. I like how it matches up with the events that play out, though the content of the parable isn’t so obvious as to ruin the impact of the surprise.

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Overall, I really enjoyed it! Notably, the scenes of painting and riding were most memorable for me – described in particularly beautiful detail. Other highlights included descriptions of sweet treats at the Blind Witch’s cottage, a rebellious escapade through a grand palace, and a slight twist where we see Regina’s darker side peeking through! I also loved the subtle romantic vibes from interactions with Jasper, and the fun friendship with Claire. There were little references to other characters and stories from the show (Geppetto, Hansel & Gretel, the Blind witch, and the fact that Regina is “Cora’s ‘only’ child” [wink wink]).

It also had a nice overall aesthetic, and was a lovely (yet subtly sinister) read that was perfect for during my October holiday. Thank you Wendy for this tale based on one of my favourite characters of all time!

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