Once There Was

Once There Was

by Kiyash Monsef
Once There Was

Once There Was

by Kiyash Monsef



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Notes From Your Bookseller

Narnia for a new age: magical creatues live alongside us in a world not unlike our own, and adventures ensue.

A New York Times bestseller!
A Morris Award Finalist

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them meets Neil Gaiman in this “striking and heartfelt” (Kirkus Reviews) novel about an Iranian American girl who discovers that her father was secretly a veterinarian to magical creatures—and that she must take up his mantle, despite the many dangers.

Once was, once wasn’t.

So began the stories Marjan’s father told her as a little girl—fables like the story of the girl who sprung a unicorn from a hunter’s snare, or the nomad boy who rescued a baby shirdal. Tales of mythical beasts that filled her with curiosity and wonder.

But Marjan’s not a little girl anymore. In the wake of her father’s sudden death, she is trying to hold it all together: her schoolwork, friendships, and keeping her dad’s shoestring veterinary practice from going under. Then, one day, she receives a visitor who reveals something stunning: Marjan’s father was no ordinary veterinarian. The creatures out of the stories he told her were real—and he traveled the world to care for them. And now that he’s gone, she must take his place.

Marjan steps into a secret world hidden in plain sight, where magical creatures are bought and sold, treasured and trapped. She finds friends she never knew she needed—a charming British boy who grew up with a griffon, a runaway witch seeking magic and home—while trying to hide her double life from her old friends and classmates.

The deeper Marjan gets into treating these animals, the closer she comes to finding who killed her father—and to a shocking truth that will reawaken her sense of wonder and put humans and beasts in the gravest of danger.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781665928526
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date: 04/04/2023
Series: Once There Was
Format: eBook
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 84,997
Lexile: 700L (what's this?)
File size: 3 MB
Age Range: 10 - 13 Years

About the Author

Kiyash Monsef is an Emmy Award–nominated producer and director; a writer of short stories, videos, comic books, and games; and a designer of innovative conversational and voice interface experiences. He’s the author of Once There Was, which was a finalist for the Morris Award. 

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: The Girl Who Saved a Unicorn | CHAPTER ONE | THE GIRL WHO SAVED A UNICORN
Once was, once wasn’t.

A long time ago, in that forest that lies between the Alborz Mountains and the Caspian Sea, a girl went foraging for mushrooms.

It had rained the day before. The ground was soft and damp, and the air smelled of loam and moss. It was a good day for mushrooms, and the girl had nearly filled her basket with lion’s mane and hen-of-the-woods when she heard a sound away off in the trees. It sounded like an animal crying out in pain.

There were leopards in the forest, and jackals, and brown bears. But this girl didn’t like to think of any creature suffering. So she set out into the forest in the direction of the sound, to see if she could help. A little ways off the path, in a clearing in the deep woods, she found the source of the cries.

The unicorn was bleeding and scared, its leg caught in a hunter’s snare. It was a huge beast, and very wild. The girl had never seen such an animal before, and she knew at once that it was special. She also knew that as soon as the hunter returned to check on his snare, the unicorn would be no more. So she swallowed her fear and crept up on it, as gently and as carefully as she could. To calm it down, she offered it some of the mushrooms she’d picked. And when she felt it was safe to approach, the girl bent down and opened up the trap.

The beast seemed to fill up the entire clearing with its long legs and its sharp, treacherous horn. The girl stood there frozen, too awed and frightened to move. The unicorn looked at its savior for a long time. Then it took a cautious step on its injured leg toward the girl, lowered its massive head, and plunged its horn into her chest, right above her heart.

The girl fell to the ground, and as she did, a piece of the unicorn’s horn broke off inside her. The unicorn watched her for another moment, then turned and loped off into the woods, favoring its wounded leg, and was not seen again for a hundred years.

The girl, bleeding and in shock, managed to gather enough strength to return to the village at the edge of the woods, where she lived. There she collapsed and was carried to her bed. She lay there for many days. At first no one thought she would survive. But after a day, the bleeding stopped. And after three days, the pain began to subside. Slowly the wound grew smaller and smaller, until all that remained was a crescent-shaped scar, just above her heart, and a little piece of unicorn horn, lodged between her ribs.

Time passed, and the girl became a woman. She married, and had children, and when they were born, some of them had crescent birthmarks above their hearts too. And so did some of their children, and their children’s children, and so on. It’s said, though no one can be sure, that some of the girl’s descendants are still alive today, and that a few of them still carry that mark on their skin, where the unicorn first touched her.

And it’s whispered that maybe, just maybe, there’s still a little of the unicorn inside them.

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