This LGBTQ+ female King Arthur retelling in space is just the kind of story you needed: Once & Future (Spoiler Free)
A Spoiler Free review of Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy
My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
As you can guess, this is a King Arthur retelling, but there’s a catch. In this story, King Arthur is Ari, a girl who is an illegal immigrant in space, hiding from the controlling and evil corporation, Mercer. Ari lives on a ship with her adoptive brother, Kay, and they are looking for their moms, who were taken prisoner by Mercer. Merlin, yes the actual Merlin from the original story, is now a teenager again due to his backwards aging. This is the 42nd time he’s had to locate, train, and assist the new Arthur and his knights, but this time things are quite different.
The whimsical and unpredictable array of characters make this story diverse, hilarious, and different. There are bisexual, non-binary, gay, lesbian, and asexual characters. The LGBTQ+ elements are embedded into the world as a norm for the characters (well except for Merlin). So this isn’t a story of coming out or trying to find acceptance, but more of a Sci-Fi in a world that does not discriminate against non-hetero characters. There is also a decent mix of races, even though the story takes place after humans expand out into the universe and mostly abandon their ancestors’ original cultures and ideas about the races we know today. For example, the main character, Ari, is supposed to be of Arab descent, but the characters see her as Ketch (which is her home planet where many Arabs went after Earth’s collapse).
This retelling is quite unique. I don’t generally prefer retellings, but this one is a great ride all the way. The best part is that you don’t really know what’s going to happen next (at least I didn’t). This book is a fun and exciting journey with some awesome characters, so I wasn’t really trying to predict what would happen. This story also isn’t just a retelling of Arthur; it also has some important and well done commentary on current politics and consumerism.
The writing is very well done. I didn’t have any issues with it. I think the spicier scenes are written tastefully for the age group (obviously this is a YA book so it’s not explicit, but it also didn’t shy away like most YAs). I feel like the pacing is well done, not perfect, but definitely not an issue. I never got bored or felt like things were off. This is a fast book with a lot of action, so you can expect to fly through this if you like the characters. I was so hooked to the point that I was reading at every chance I could in the second half of the book, just so that I could find out what happened.
I feel like the authors did a great job crafting this book and making it compelling (even though it’s super dramatic). I am living for the drama. There is a certain plot twist around two thirds of the way in that had me seething, and I had a physical reaction to what happened. If that’s not successful storytelling, I don’t know what is (but seriously, something is revealed that had me feeling like throwing up from anger for our main character).
Also, if you’ve read this book, you will know what I am talking about when I say that when a certain someone died (an important side character) I was actually happy. I didn’t like said character much from the beginning, and later, when that character made certain decisions, I really just didn’t like them. I hope this person stays dead, but we will see in the second book.
My Favorite Character: Merlin + Big Mama (a dragon)
My Favorite Moment: Merlin and his love interest finally get some action
@globalbuecher’s favorite character: Jordan
Some of the characters are not super fleshed out, but their surface level personality is great, and I still enjoyed them. I think we will get a lot more of those characters in the second book. Not all characters in a book can have a lot of depth (there just isn’t time), but all of the characters in this book are interesting and unique, even if not deep.
This story does end on a cliffhanger, and that is really annoying to some people. I don’t really have an issue with it, but I can’t wait for the second book now. If you don’t like cliffhangers, this may not be for you.
This book is presented by James Patterson’s publishing company, Jimmy Patterson. I have a personal issue with his decisions as a writer/publisher, so I usually avoid books in association with him. This book was an exception, because I really really wanted to read it and got the chance to buddy read it with my booksta friend @globalbuecher. The inside cover of this book does have a listing of Patterson’s other books, not this book’s actual authors’ other works. Again, this is just a personal issue I have with Patterson that doesn’t reflect on the quality of this book or the authors, just the logistics behind its publishing/marketing.
Content Warning: Around page 212, there is reference back to the original Arthur story, which involves a character talking about Arthurs less than consensual conception, but it is not detailed (if you know the original story, it basically mentions that as context for the main character who doesn’t know the original story). There is also cheating, genocide, parental death, death, battle/sword violence, mentions of a character wanting to die/commit suicide, child abduction, plague, and on/off relationships. None of these things are explicit or the center of the story, just be aware that they are mentioned or present at some parts. This book is mostly light and comical.
Do I recommend this book and who do I recommend it to?
Absolutely! Anyone who likes Sci-Fi, history, retellings, mildly humorous writing, action/adventure, and/or LGBTQ+/inclusive stories. I personally think this book is okay for anyone 14+, but it is up to the parent(s) to decide. I think the messages and representation in this book are very important for young readers, and the sexual content is not too explicit for someone younger who is mature (but with parent approval, of course). A young person questioning their gender/sexuality could get a lot from this book, so I do recommend it for those reasons.
If you don’t like drama/relationships that tend to be in YAs, then this will not be the book for you. I personally loved it though. The drama was sooooo entertaining and had me screaming (literally, I am not joking, you can ask my partner).
What season would I suggest reading this in?
This is really an any season read, although I do think it leans on the summer side due to talk about summer camp and a planet they visit is pretty sunny and sandy. Overall, this book has both a light and dark tone, but is always laid back with a bit of humor. This is also a great Pride month read!
Would I read this book again and will I continue with the sequel?
Yes, and yes. I can see myself reading this again later on. I loved it so much that I actually purchased myself a copy, even though I had been reading a copy from the library. I can’t wait to get to the sequel, Sword in the Stars, which was released April 2020.
Thanks for checking out my review of Once & Future!
Have you read this book? What did you think about it? Did I miss anything?
If you have any suggestions to add to my reviews, please let me know! I want to be as helpful as possible!
Don’t forget to check back for my June TBR and book review of All Systems Red by Martha Wells!
-Knight of Cups ❤
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