Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy – REVIEW
“I’ve been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.
Now I’m done hiding.
My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.”
When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backwards over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Rock the Boat. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
“That plaque over there says chivalry gave birth to toxic masculinity, which caused Old Earth a few millennia of bullshit patriarchy.”
I’m a huge fan of Arthurian legends thanks to my dad so had to request this gender-swapped retelling set in space. I’m reviewing the ARC but the authors have stressed that the finished copy has a lot of small changes so I plan to re-read it to compare and make sure this is a fair review. I absolutely loved the characters, plot and world building and can’t wait for the sequel. A couple of small niggles I had involved the lack of back story and build-up to key moments, which left them feeling rushed and meant I sometimes wasn’t as invested as I think I was meant to be.
“So now you’ve got an impulse control problem and a sword.”
The cast of characters and the representation in this story are phenomenal though, with my favourites being Merlin and Val (Merlin is such a cinnamon roll). One of the best aspects for me was the friendship dynamic between the group and how they treated each other with respect and encouragement. Setting the Arthurian legend in space might seem odd but it actually works. The blending of old and new is handled skillfully, such as the jousts with cyborg horses, and both parts complemented each other.
“That’s what resistance looks like, Merlin. It’s not one glorious, shining victory. It’s a torch that you keep burning, no matter what.”
Ari is the 42nd reincarnation of Arthur and an illegal refugee. Using Ari’s back story and the wider threat of the ruthless Mercer Company, the authors sensitively explore the devastating impact of colonisation and cultural assimilation. Another prevalent theme is the potency of stories and myths, the hope they can inspire, and their ability to help make sense of events. I loved recognising Arthurian myths such as the crystal cave and can’t wait to see which ones they incorporate next.
“A girl they couldn’t control, who wouldn’t stop talking. That’s the scariest damn thing in the universe.”
The time-jump in the middle of the story is a bit jarring at first but necessary to the story as it completely alters the group dynamic and has devastating repercussions. Using time-travel (I did wonder where this random ability came from as it wasn’t mentioned until the last moment), the group decide to travel back in time to Camelot and I can’t wait to read how this diverse cast reacts to the patriarchal, racist, and feudalistic Medieval era. Overall, this was a fun, fast-paced and witty Arthurian retelling that I’d highly recommend.