Once & Future (Once & Future #1) by Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy
Fantasy | Retelling | Science Fiction | Young Adult
Published by Little, Brown and Company
Released March 26, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Those of us in the book community who follow countless book-centric blogs, YouTube channels, Instagram accounts, etc., need to be careful when it comes to hype and consensus. I imagine that every single one of us can name at least a handful of over-hyped books that fell flat for us. Likewise, sometimes we hear about various people not liking a particular story, which occasionally leads us to not read it.
This almost happened to me with Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy’s gender-bent, queer retelling of the King Arthur legend, Once & Future. I first heard about this book when some of the most popular Booktubers started hauling their ARCs of it, and I was immediately intrigued.
For one thing, I’m slightly obsessed with Arthurian legend and magic swords. Second, I think that modern retellings of classic stories are a lot of fun. Third, I love gender-bent stories. I added Once & Future to my TBR and waited (not-so) patiently for its release date.
Once the book was released, however, I started seeing negative reviews of the novel. I was disappointed, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from trying to enjoy it. In the weeks I waited for it while on hold at my library, I kept hearing that it was “just alright,” nothing special. At one point, I even considered canceling my hold on it.
I am so thrilled that I stayed on that hold list and eventually got the opportunity to read it.
I loved Once & Future. It’s a fun remix of a classic legend, with loveable characters and exciting quests.
In Once & Future, we meet Ari, who is the forty-second reincarnation of King Arthur. She’s from a planet called Ketch which has essentially been quarantined from the rest of the universe by the Mercer Corporation – a tyrannical, monopolistic company that runs literally everything. Ari was adopted by her parents at a young age and has an adopted brother named Kay, who is now the only family she has, as the Mercer Corporation has imprisoned their parents.
During a resupply mission on a space station near Earth, things go horribly wrong and Kay and Ari end up on the run from the Mercer Corporation. In a last chance effort to outrun them in their seriously under-powered spaceship, Ari takes the ship down onto the surface of Earth.
On Earth, Ari stumbles upon a sword stuck in a large tree and pulls it out. You guessed it – the sword is none other than the famed Excalibur. The sword’s removal awakens Merlin, the magical wizard we all know of – except in this world, he’s aging backward due to a curse, and is currently an awkward teenager.
Ari, Merlin, and several other characters based on the classic legend, such as Gwen, Lam, and Val, work together to try to discover the truth about what happened on Ketch while also trying to take down the Mercer corporation.
This is such a fun novel. I love that Gwen is the Queen of a planet obsessed with medieval times, complete with robotic horses and jousting. I also appreciated the humor in the novel. I’ve always been a huge fan of comedic sci-fi or fantasy, and that’s exactly what this is. At the same time, however, the novel deals with very serious topics, such as genocide, pollution, and betrayal. I feel as though the authors did a great job of balancing both the serious and the comical aspects.
The book is wonderfully diverse, with a wide range of characters and sexuality. I love stories with plenty of representation, and this one doesn’t disappoint. In this world, no one cares what your sexual preferences are or what pronoun you choose to use – it’s all completely normal to these characters. However, one of the few gripes I have with the story is that all of this diversity is used as the defining characteristics of these characters. In a world where diversity is really fully embraced, wouldn’t those characteristics be in the background? I wish some of the characters had been given more personality than just to say that they’re ace or pan.
There were definitely bits of the book that I cringed at, such as Merlin singing a Katy Perry song, but those moments were few. I feel like people are way too harsh on this novel. I really it and I’m looking forward to its sequel, to be released in 2020.