Red's Untold TaleAs ABC's hit series Once Upon a Time begins its fifth season, Kingswell (a division of Disney Press) finally expands the characters with the first original Once Upon a Time novel, Red's Untold Tale. Fans of the show may have noticed that Ruby/Red was absent last season, due to the fact that actress Meghan Ory accepted a role on another show. The good news for Red fans is that not only is the character and actress returning this season, but now there is this wonderful book to give you more of her story.

Red's Untold Tale takes place in the Enchanted Forest when Red was 16-years-old. Red lives with her granny, the Widow Lucas, and has developed secret feelings for her best friend Peter. Their residents of her village fear Wolfstime, a monthly occurrence surrounding the full moon when wolves freely roam the woods at night, attacking anything living. Widow Lucas is especially weary, putting Red on lockdown each month and making her wear her riding hood, which granny had a wizard enchant to protect her.

Amidst bullying at school from jealous girls and the pains of young love, Red has to work hard to sell her granny's baked goods so they can keep the tax collector off their backs. When her troubles escalate beyond her control, she must be brave and strong, keeping her dreams of a happy ending in sight to make it through these tough times. It's a story of having the strength to be true to yourself and your morals despite living in a world that wants to make you someone else.

Fans of Once Upon a Time will already know how Red's Enchanted Forest story ends, but that doesn't detract from the beauty within this prequel. I already liked Red on the show, but this novel made me love her. Wendy Tolliver has done an incredible job of making Red's village believable, every character feels real. The love between Red and Peter is authentic and adds new layers to the season one episode "Red Handed," which takes place shortly after the events of this book.

The best part about the novel to me, though, was the way Red handles her bully problems. The three mean girls in the book, lead by the pretty and popular Violet, are horrible to her and it all stems out of jealousy over her friendship with Peter. On top of that, they are envious of her beautiful red riding coat. They tell lies and spread horrible rumors about Red that even Widow Lucas believes and they are also out to steal Peter, her only true friend, away from her. It's incredibly relevant for modern day students, where bullying seems to be at an all time high. But anybody whose ever been bullied can instantly relate and deeply feel for her.

Once Upon a Time: Red's Untold Tale is geared towards high schoolers and is a quick 400-page read, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and feel that any Once Upon a Time fan would enjoy this, even if you're beyond the target demographic. In addition to expanding Red's corner of the Enchanted Forest, it also makes mention of other locations and character that you know and love from the series. It also sets up a potential flashback plot from the upcoming season. Therefore, it earns my highest recommendation to any fans who yearn to learn more about Red's past or who just want to linger a little longer in the Enchanted Forest before returning to Storybrooke.