Review of “Once & Future” (Once & Future #1) by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

Capetta, Amy Rose, & Cori McCarthy. Once & Future. New York: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown and Company, 2019.

Hardcover | $18.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0316449274 | 354 pages | YA Science Fiction

4 stars

A queer King Arthur retelling? Sign me up! I was never a fan of the original legend, what with there not being many great female characters, But Once & Future is a truly unique contribution to the mythos, not attempting to rewrite the story so much as to build on it, establishing more LGBTQ+ inclusivity and a outer-space setting infused with the trappings of Arthurian legend.

And while there are some rough spots (which I will get into momentarily), I mostly enjoyed this, particularly for its new takes on the characters. Merlin by far is the most fun, what with his sense of aging backwards, so he’s simultaneously super old yet somehow manages to keep up with these characters who are reincarnation of Arthurian characters, but have more modern sensibilities, especially when it comes to gender and sexuality.

I also like the relationship between Ari and Gwen, and how it’s so different from their original legendary counterparts with their love and passion for one another. And while it’s not explicit, I did like that things did get a little sexy, working to destigmatize queer sex in society.

I did find the elements of the Big Bad, the Mercer Society, and the big conflict there a bit underwhelming, since it felt a little more like the foe out of a YA dystopian than an enemy that the reincarnations of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table have to face, even taking into account that this is a science fiction/space setting.

But in spite of that, this is still a fun read with great representation, inspired by both the authors’ real experiences and nerdy interests. And if you’re looking for a radical new take on King Arthur, I heartily recommend it.

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