Reviewed on 29th April 2019

Once & Future – Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

Genre: Fantasy / Fiction / Young Adult
Once & Future – Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy Synopsis

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 backward 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.

No pressure.

Once & Future – Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy Review

Move Over Arthur – Make Way for Ari

King Arthur. The two words that will automatically get me to pick up any book. I absolutely adore Arthurian legend and when it is mixed with a gender-bending and an inclusive plotline, it’s like my own personal catnip. That’s what the blurb of Once & Future was for me. I didn’t stand a chance against it, I fell hook line and sinker.

Then I saw the sword on the cover and fell even deeper, this book is what dreams are made of.

I have huge respect for the writers Capetta & McCarthy for taking on something so loved and putting their own spin on it. It takes guts and I was thrilled to read about a female Arthur or as I should call her Ari.

I have only ever read one other retelling in which Arthur is a girl (K .M. Shea’s King Arthurs and Her Knights series) and I adored it, so needless to say I dived straight into this one with high hopes and maybe a smidge of prejudice.

10 pages in and I was already laughing. This book is hilarious and I am sure I am not the only one that saw the slight reference to the squirrel scene in the Disney adaptation of The Sword in The Stone. But let me go further and explain why I was so excited (yet hesitant) to start reading.

Inclusivity, it’s such a hard topic to write about and get right. It means different things to different people and you have to steer clear of making umbrella assumptions about gender, sexuality and other such markers.

In truth, I still don’t fully know how to write about it myself and that’s why when I read the blurb I had a small moment of hesitation. The book sounded like it was taking on too much.

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Don’t get me wrong it sounded great, but as the giant sceptic I am, I was dubious that Capetta & McCarthy would able to pull it off. I even mentioned to my housemate, that I expected the book to be either be brilliant or a major flop, in my mind, there would be no in-between. I admit that a sick and twisted part of me knew I’d probably enjoy it if it did fail to meet my high expectations.

I can’t stand people who pretend to know all the ins and outs of gender and sexuality, their sweeping statements annoy the hell out of me and if this book was written anything like that I knew I would have a great time criticising it.

But in my heart of hearts I knew it wouldn’t be, look at the writers… their own story (if you don’t know much about them, look them up – it’s worth it). I knew the book was in good hands, hands that I could trust.

The authors were extremely clever with how they tackled the issues actually and that alone kept me turning the pages. Their use of the adolescent Merlin, for example, was brilliant. Here was a character that had literally been living in a cave, each new incarnation of Arthur throwing new societies and cultural norms at him and he adapts to each one.

I have so much respect for the writers in creating Merlin in such a unique way. The newly drawn character speaks to me on a personal level. His struggles to do anything right often mirror my own. The way the character grows and develops over the course of the book is reassuring. You see, Merlin gets confused and often makes missteps, but he is never hated for it, he tries his best and people see that. They tease him a little about it but they also educate him, and by doing so he not only becomes more knowledgeable but also has his own self-awakening. The transformation mirrors a self-development so many of us have to go through.

But while I could talk about Merlin for the rest of the review (I love Merlin) he isn’t the only part of the narrative that spoke to me this way.

One thing that really struck a chord with me was the world building. At first, I was a little defensive about putting King Arthur in such a drastically different location but once again I ate my words. It absolutely worked.

I connect more with books that only take a couple of steps away from reality and this is what Capetta & McCarthy did.

They may have put King Arthur in space, but it was uncomfortably believable, and it gave me shivers. Why?

There is nothing I love more than when a fantasy novel seems to parallel the world outside my window. Escapism crashes head first into real life. It can be such a powerful feeling. When you read about a universe controlled by a corporate power where the destruction of green spaces and the overcrowding of cities is the norm, and a wall is built around those who oppose the new hierarchy and then look outside or read the news…yup that right there. Shivers.

But the people in this fictional universe, the superb ones anyway, are still progressive. They make me jealous because they have something I want – an acceptance, a normalisation of different gender identities and sexual preferences. It doesn’t register to them that it’s any other way and that makes me so happy and hopeful. If they can speak of things in this way then maybe so can we. It might take time, but it can happen, and I only hope we can get there in my own lifetime.

This book is one wonderful reinvention of the Arthurian myth I can completely get behind.

The satirical portrayal of society kept me on my toes and made me dream of a better more inclusive future. Capetta & McCarthy really did create something brilliant here, they pulled each of their promises out of the bag and now I must wait impatiently for the next installment.

Go read this book. Give yourself a healthy dose of Knight’s, Magicians, sass, and badassery. You won’t regret it.

Published by: Jimmy Patterson
ISBN: 978-031644-927-4

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