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About The Book

The third and final book in a new trilogy of twisted fairy tales from New York Times bestselling author James Riley, set in the world of his popular Half Upon a Time series, that’s perfect for fans of Fablehaven and Chris Colfer’s A Tale of Magic series!

Who doesn’t love a good Happily Ever After? The Cursed City is now the Blessed City, with its residents’ curses removed. Lena is now fully human, as are the rest of the giants, and together they live in peace with all the other humans in the city, all their differences now gone. And sure, Jin might have disappeared, but really, genie magic only caused trouble.

At least, that’s what the magic spell in Lena’s head is telling her. But somewhere inside, she knows that this new world isn’t right, that no real Happily Ever After would take her giant heritage from her…and that Jin is in danger.

When things are at their darkest, can a single Spark light the way?

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide

Once Upon Another Time, Book 3:

Happily Ever After

By James Riley

About the Book

Happily Ever After continues the adventures of memorable characters like Lena, Shefin, the fairy queens, Gwentell, Jin, Jack, May, the Golden King, and the Last Knight as they seek to find their true selves and live fulfilling lives. A mix of storybook-inspired characters like Jack and Jillian, Humphrey, and Pinocchio add even more interest to the story as everyone deals with finding a true identity, a peaceful existence, and love—all with a good dose of story magic.

Discussion Questions

1. What is Lena’s life like under the fairy queens’ control? What stories does she read for school? How would you describe Lena’s relationship with Shefin? What do her parents think about him? How do you know?

2. What happens when Lena reads a message inside the book Happily Ever After? What does the message say? At first, why does Lena decide not to step into the Cauldron of Truth? What changed her mind? How did the story of Mrs. Hubbard’s background change her thinking? How does stepping into the Cauldron change Lena? Are these changes good? Why?

3. How did the fairy queens’ plans to stop Gwentell from changing The Tales of All Things involve Shefin? What do they want him to do? Why? Was it a good idea for Shefin to become part of the fairy queens’ plans? Why? How does Shefin behave after the fairy queens send him off on his “heroic” quest with three magical gifts? Is Shefin like other heroes you have heard or read about?

4. Why does Gwentell want to change The Tales of All Things? What are her plans? What do the fairy queens think about this? Do you agree with Lena that the fairy queens are evil? Why? What happens when they purify people? Describe the process.

5. While Shefin is working for the fairy queens, Lena is trying to help Gwentell. What happens when Lena, Jack, May, and Gwentell leave the Blessed City to find King Denir and get the Spark? Was Lena right to try to save Denir after the way he treated her in the past? Why? What is the new plan to stop the fairy queens’ magic? Does it work?

6. What does Lena learn about the sun giant from the vision she has about him and how he moves the sun each day from east to west?

7. Lena and Shefin meet again in the Cave of Marvels. What happens once they find the harp and convince her (the harp) to sing for them? Do you think it is right for them to do everything they can to convince her to take them to the fairy homelands?

8. As the story moves to the fairy queens’ homeland, several characters find out more about their pasts. What does Gwentell learn about her past as a human? What does Shefin learn about the true purpose of the fairy queens’ ball? What do readers learn about the skills that Merriweather taught the twelve princesses?

9. How do Shefin and Lena gain possession of the lamp? What happens when the lamp breaks open? What changes does the djinn Marid make when he emerges from the lamp? Are these good changes?

10. What happened to Jin after the lamp was shattered? What does Jin tell Lena about his plans?

11. In the final chapters of the book, do the characters live happily ever after? Discuss what happens to the following characters:

- Lena

- Shefin

- Swiff

- The fairy queens

- Marid

- Jin

12. Examine the clues the author gives you about Swiff’s true identity. When Lena is first introduced to Swiff, why does she say, “‘You!’”? Swiff tells Lena, “‘I feel like I was along on all your adventures too, especially the first two.’” (Chapter thirty-nine) Later, in the acknowledgments, author James Riley writes, “I like this Swiff guy, he seems fun and new and definitely not anyone we already know!” What do you think the author means? What do you think is Swiff’s true identity? How do you know?

13. Throughout the story, there are many references to the power of story magic. For example, Shefin’s Helmet of Wisdom tells him, “Story magic could do so much for you! You could learn about people and discover what it’s like to live a different life, be someone new. Or how about opening the magic to those around you so they could know you better . . .” (Chapter twenty-six) Is this good advice for Shefin? Is it good advice for everyone? What have you learned from reading or listening to stories?

14. How have Lena and Shefin changed over the course of the story? In what ways have they become more mature and more concerned with the well-being and happiness of others? Share some examples.

Extension Activities

1. Previews and Questions. Several chapters in the book begin with a one-sentence preview written in bold of what is to come. These previews generate curiosity about what is going to happen next. They raise questions in our minds that make us eager to read on and find out. Examine the previews at the beginning of the first three chapters and then discuss (1) what is going to happen in the chapter and (2) what questions you would like to have answered about these events. Do you think this is a useful idea for authors?

2. Story Ideas from James Riley: What if …? Watch a video of James Riley discussing three story ideas and suggesting What if? stories:

A. “Creating Story Ideas with Author James Riley”:

B. Here are the author’s ideas:

- What if your future self comes back in time and gives you a time machine? You could go anywhere and to any time period. When and what would you do?

- What if kids like you were in charge of the world? What would you change? What would you make better?

- Write your own What if? question and answer it.

- Using one of these ideas, write your own story.

3. Put Characters in the HOT SEAT. Select one or more characters from the story to interview. One student should pretend to be that character, while the rest of the group should prepare questions to ask. As you hold your interview, the character should tell the truth about what he or she knows and did. Interviewers can ask about people, places, goals, surprising events, and more.

4. Open Mind Portraits. Draw two outlines of the head of a character from the book, leaving the inside of each head blank. On the inside of one head, draw and write about the thoughts the character has at the beginning of the book. On the other head, draw and write about the thoughts the character has at the end of the book. Then, with a partner, discuss how the character has changed over the course of the novel.

5. One-Page Play. Select an interesting conversation or event involving two or more characters (one that has lots of dialogue) and turn it into a play. Here are some sample topics:

A. The conversation between Shefin and the fairy queens when they give him a “heroic” task

B. The conversation between Lena and King Denir when he decides to give Lena the Spark and arrange for her to have help

C. The final meeting of Lena, Shefin, and Swiff.

You can find many other conversations or events to write about.

Write your play as a dialogue between characters. Then practice reading it before sharing it with a larger group.

Guide written by Myra Zarnowski, a professor in the Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education at Queens College, CUNY.

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes. For more Simon & Schuster guides and classroom materials, please visit or simonandschuster. net/thebookpantry

About The Author

Author Photo by Maarten de Boer

James Riley lives in Virginia. He is the New York Times bestselling author of the Half Upon a Time, Story Thieves, Revenge of Magic, and Once Upon Another Time series.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Aladdin (May 30, 2023)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781665904940
  • Ages: 8 - 12

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