Review: Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy


Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy // VBC ReviewOnce & Future (Once & Future #1)
Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy
Published: March 26, 2018 (Little Brown & Company)
Purchase at: Book Depository or Amazon
Review Source: Copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Amy

Rating (out of 5): 3.5 stars

I’d bet on saying that the legend of King Arthur is pretty widely known. So then what happens when you make the legend a reincarnation story where Arthur is tasked with uniting all of mankind under one banner, but somehow failing each time.

Except this time, Arthur has been reincarnated into the body of Ari, a young woman in the future, who pulls Excalibur out of an aged oak tree on what is now called Old Earth, and needs to defeat the tyrannical Mercer Company who has a monopoly on pretty much the entire galaxy and forces people to follow their laws and their rules lest they will cut you planet off from the rest of civilization with a barrier. And helping each Arthur on each quest is Merlin who has been progressively aging backwards with this cycle (#42) finding himself a teenager with a penchant of singing a pop song before conjuring his magic?

(Takes imaginary breath).

Well, you’d have Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy’s Once & Future.

If you can’t tell, the premise is attention grabbing. With all the retellings out there, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a gender-swapped retelling of the Arthurian legend in space. So right away it piqued my interest.

Once & Future has a lot going for it. First and foremost, the diversity and representation is fantastic. Capetta and McCarthy take all the stigmas that are still prevalent today, in regards to gender and identity, and make them a thing of the past. It doesn’t feel like something being forced or check-marked into the story either. It feels honest and refreshing and what we can only hope the world will embrace more in the present.

I also enjoyed how the ties formed between the original Arthurian Legend is utilized as a stepping stone for Ari’s story, but how she continues to subvert everything that Merlin has come to expect in each cycle. Most obvious being that this time Arthur is female. It’s these places that make the story the strongest and works the best. And if I’m being honest I feel like that’s the way it should be because, clearly, this cycle is different, this cycle has the potential to see all the steps through to the very end—to the uniting of humankind—it needed to be different from what’s already been.

However, when the story follows too closely the path set forth in the original Legend—calling out the Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot love triangle—is when it fell into too much melodrama for me. Granted no one has ever said that Arthurian Legend isn’t made of drama, but the problem is that everything felt rushed. I didn’t get to feel the heartbreak because in the blink of an eye we go from an intense attraction, complete with promising backstory, between Gwen and Ari to marriage to heartbreak. Merlin and one of Ari’s knights, Val, find themselves in a similar state of attraction, but I found their relationship a much better slow burn.

This is true for the friendships as well. I loved the interactions between a thoroughly futuristically modern Ari and a centuries old, sometimes stodgy Merlin. Set in his ways and secure in his tasks, Ari throws him for a loop and brings him out of his shell a bit. Ari starts the story off as a fugitive refugee and with Merlin’s influence becomes the face of a revolution. I wanted to see more of the build up from tentative associates to genuine friends.

Overall, Once & Future is an ambitious retelling, auspicious in scope and execution. The adventure clearly isn’t over for Ari and her knights, and I’m interested to see what they bring to the table next.

Sexual Content: Sex

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