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Literature / Once Upon The End

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In the final conclusion to the Half Upon a Time trilogy by James Riley, Jack, May, and Phillip have gone their separate ways expecting they will fulfill their destinies. Instead, they're all in for some thrills and surprises as they prepare to face the Wicked Queen once and for all.

All spoilers are unmarked, including those for the end of the book. Proceed with caution.


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  • Almost Kiss: Almost happens between Jack and May in the final chapter, but they get interrupted by Jillian.
  • Affably Evil: The Wicked Queen acts this way toward the heroes, especially May. She even genuinely offers May to become her successor to her throne as she rules over the kingdoms she conquers.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Ensues for the main characters after the Wicked Queen is defeated.
  • The Bus Came Back: Many of the characters that hadn't appeared since the first book make an appearance once again. Justified, since Jack's gambit involves him actually traveling back to the time of the beginning of the story.
  • Chekhov's Time Travel: Turned out Jack was the one that had stolen the Wicked Queen's heart after he'd accidentally traveled to May's world six months in the past.
  • Disney Death: Jack dies when he buys time for May and the others to escape from the Wicked Queen's throne room. However, he lives, thanks to the sword's healing potion.
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  • Everyone Is Related: Turns out Jack and Jillian are related to Snow White by marriage, as she is wed to their maternal uncle, and May's great grandfather was the Wicked Queen's uncle, making them distant cousins.
  • Exact Words: One of the boys will betray May, and the other will die. Unfortunately for the Wicked Queen, the Mirror didn't actually say that one of the boys would betray her for the Queen, and Jack takes advantage of this and pulls off a Heroic Sacrifice to make sure May and the others escape. The "for the Queen" part is important because Phillip betrays May not for the Queen, but to protect his kingdom and people.
  • Fish out of Water: Jack finds himself in the real world, and the first he sees is a car driving straight at him. His horrified reaction at thinking he's facing a metal monster is only the beginning of his exploits. He even finds out about his father and grandfather's adventures, and his reaction to seeing his family being regarded as heroes is one of stunned shock.
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  • Guile Hero: Jack and his father. Jack pulls off a daring plan to finish off the Wicked Queen by stealing her heart and stabbing it. Jack's father in particular is said to be the sneakiest, cleverest, most shrewd person to ever live.
  • Foreshadowing: In the previous book, when Phillip questioned Jack about the sword and urged him to give it up, Jack said that the sword belonged to the Charmed One, who betrayed the Queen and fought for the good guys. Phillip then said that the Queen killed the Charmed One with his own sword. Guess what happens to Jack?
    • There's other details as well. In the beginning, as he's talking with the Wicked Queen, she declares him an Eye and reminds him what will happen if he ever betrays the Queen, and Jack's thoughts switch right to the image of his sword hanging over Phillip. Sure enough, when that actually happens, Jack turns on the Queen and pays for it with his life.
    • As the legend says, the Charmed One turned on the Queen because of Snow White, his true love, and died for it by his own sword, and Jack is meant to take his place. The Mirror says that one of the boys will die for May. You do the math. Hint: it has to do more than Jack's death.
    • In fact, the very relationship between Jack and the Charmed One on its own foreshadows Jack's true fate.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Jack. As he has his sword over Phillip's head, as the Mirror predicted, he instead cuts out May's chains and triggers a series of events in which he dies by his own sword, but saves May and the others in the process. He gets better, though.
  • Modest Royalty: May and Jack are still dressed modestly after they learn of their royal blood.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: May and Penelope get one each.
  • Prophecy Twist: Almost everyone thinks Jack will betray May and join the Wicked Queen—or rather, he already did—and Phillip will die fighting for her. In fact, the Mirror seems to confirm this by showing Jack holding his sword over Phillip's head. However, this turns out to be wrong—Jack's running his own plan to beat the Wicked Queen, and it involves taking advantage of this very trope. Sure enough, when the moment arrives, Jack saves May and Phillip, turns on the Queen, and dies by his own sword, and when they escape (or rather he carries her while she's unconscious) and reach a dead end, Phillip betrays May for the tiniest chance to save his people.
  • Really Royalty Reveal: Turns out Jack and Jillian are royalty on their mother's side, as the Charmed One is their maternal uncle, making them Prince and Princess to the kingdom of Charm.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: May takes it upon herself to track down the remaining royal families of the kingdoms the Wicked Queen took over. She also decides that if there are kingdoms with no surviving royals left, they'll have presidential elections so the common folk can pick their leaders.
  • Training Montage: Approaching the end of the book, the Charmed One turns Jack into the ultimate Eye so he can enter Snow White's mind and free her from the poison keeping her unconscious.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Jack takes several as the Charmed One trains him into the best Eye ever to enter Snow White's mind and wake her up.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Everything about Jack's plan is left very ambiguous right until he snags the Wicked Queen's heart.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: While not published at the end of the book, James Riley did write and post an epilogue on his tumblr page taking place at Phillip's coronation.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: If the Wicked Queen hadn't intervened, May's Cinderella story might have occurred, including meeting Jack at a ball, but they meet and fall for each other anyway.
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