Once & Future

Once & Future
Written by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy
Space Opera, Fantasy, Retelling, LGBT
368 Pages
Publishing June 3rd 2019
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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★★★☆
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.
Since her rescue in the cold, infinite depths of space at seven years of age, Ari Helix has been considered an illegal young woman and a Ketchan native denied refuge. Her adoptive mother's have been arrested for harbouring a criminal and sentenced for their crime by the Mercer Corporation, a company of vast consumerism, commercialism and the monopoly throughout the galaxy since the environmental destruction of Old Earth. Now Ari and her adoptive brother Kay are fleeing the Mercer Corporation authorities, planing to take cover on the abandoned Old Earth planet until Ari realises that not only are Mercer conducting deforestation but she finds an old sword, saving it from an ancient gnarled tree.

Meet Ari Helix
Each new cycle, the infamous King Arthur is reincarnated yet with the same overwhelming quest, save the world and unite humanity. Like the forty one Arthur's that have gone before her, Ari is the latest reincarnated Arthur destined for greatness and the first female Arthur. I loved Ari, she's essentially an illegal refugee from a Middle Eastern society on a planet that was isolated from the galaxy and civilisation. A planet where Dragons haunt the nightmares of children. Ari remembers little of her young life before being rescued by now adoptive brother Kay and his mothers, now her mothers. Kay's family have hidden her from Mercer authorities until the point of their capture, now Kay and Ari are on the run with a prayer and a promise to keep his sister safe, despite her brash determination and dangerous bravery.

Kickass Sidekicks
The side characters are bloody magnificent. Kay fluctuated between loving brother and a bit of a prick at times, which only added to the authenticity between the brother and sister relationship. Ari's futuristic Knights are all brilliantly developed. Siblings Lam and Val are wonderful. Lam is fluid using them and they pronouns while Val is gay and very much into Merlin. Merlin has been Arthur's sidekick and adviser for over forty cycles and although he begun the journey as an old, grumpy wizard, with each cycle failed, Merlin has been ageing in reverse. Now at seventeen, this is his last attempt to help the latest Arthur succeed before tapping out. On the plus side, Merlin will no longer be cursed but after decades of pining away for friendship and finding love, I'm stanning Merlin and Val.

Representation Y'all
If I had limited characters to describe Once & Future, it would be girl King Arthur and queers in space. That right there is enough to lure most readers in. In Ari's universe, love knows no bounds. People love who they choose, live as they choose and express their sexuality however they choose. Ari is pansexual. We have characters who are gay, bisexual, fluid, asexual and using them and they pronouns. Straight is no longer the default in a world without gender assumptions and it's bloody brilliant! Ari herself is an illegal refugee from the planet Ketch, founded by Arab settlement that has been isolated and segregated from the rest of humanity. I love authors that weave in a little salt throwing at western governments who treat asylum seekers like shit.

Once & Future is also an own voices novel. Amy Rose Capetta identifies as a queer demigirl and Cori McCarthy uses they and them pronouns, identifying as an Irish Lebanese American as well as a pansexual demi enby. While it's wonderful to promote diverse reads with main characters from marginalised backgrounds, supporting own voice authors is incredibly important.

It Was Really Good... But
The first half was adventurous, mysterious and sassy. Lots of character banter disguising the sexual tension between characters. Merlin and Ari begin to form a wonderful bond before they're again separated and then the storyline begun to feel disconnected. It did allow Ari to mature as a character during the time lapse chapters but overall, the second half felt a little lacklustre.

So What's The Verdict?
Give it a read. After a frantic beginning, Once & Future is shaping up to become a pretty epic series. Wonderfully diverse and character driven, it follows the original tale of King Arthur and Merlin but rather set in space, fighting against big corporation oppression and greed. There's mention of historical genocide, so tread carefully friends but overall, a sassy and spunky retelling of the legend that is King Arthur. 

20 comments

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    1. Can't wait to see what you think of it Noel!

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  2. This sounds sooo cool but I'm in the fence for some reason.

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    1. It's a great read Amber, I just found it a little lacklustre after such a frantic beginning. On the plus side, you're able to feel a sense of who each character is which I really enjoyed. Definitely a character driven novel with incredible characters.

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  3. I generally love retellings set in space <3 Yay for the magnificent secondary characters and all the diversity <3 I didn't know it was own voices! That makes me so happiiee!!

    Uma@Books.Bags.Burgers.

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    1. Me too Uma! It was a great example of inclusion without it needing to be part of the narrative. It simply was and it was incredible!

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  4. I'm all for kickass sidekicks! And girl king arthut! Sign me up! It reminded me of Avalon (Disney Channel original movie). Great review!
    Genesis @ Whispering Chapters

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    1. I haven't actually seen that! I'll have to hunt it down over the weekend. I think you'll really enjoy Once & Future, such a short, sharp and entertaining read!

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    1. It's the first book in a series Karen but it doesn't end on a cliffhanger, it gives you just enough to need to continue the series.

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  6. How fun that Arthur is a girl in this one. I don't think I've read any Arthur re-tellings. Yay for queer characters too though. Love it!

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. It's so queer Lauren, it's magnificent! I haven't either, which is strange considering how popular the original legend was. I really enjoyed it and looking forward to the next installment.

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  7. I have this one, but haven't had a chance to read it yet! I love the idea of a King Arthur retelling in space, plus you said the diversity was on point. It's disappointing the second half wasn't as awesome as the first, but hopefully it'll lead to a great second book!

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

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    1. It's most definitely setting the scene for an epic book two, I'm not sure how many books in the series though. I think a duology would be awesome. The characters are absolutely brilliant, I can't wait for you to read it!

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  8. “girl King Arthur and queers in space” that sounds like the best story ever.
    And YAY!!!!! To representation! But only three Kelly stars :-( Shame the ending didn’t keep up the pace of the start – I’m still keen to read it but <3 :-)
    Fantastic review Kelly <3 :-)

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    1. The first half was phenomenal but the pacing slowed down significantly after that. I think it's more so to set the scene for book two. I loved the characters though, so wonderfully diverse and queers in space! Doesn't get much better.

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  9. I liked the idea of this one but ended up giving it a pass. I could tell I wouldn't adore it and I expect brilliance. It sucks that this book began so well and the ending was lacklustre for you. Good representation though! That's always a plus.

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    1. I had super high expectations too! I'd added it a while ago and was so excited to pick it up. It lived up to them for the most part but the second half fell a little flat for me unfortunately.

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  10. This one sounds so cool - and I love that cover!

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    1. The cover is absolutely stunning isn't it! As far as retellings go, this is one of the more unique ones but still stays true to the original fable as well. Well worth the read and would love to see what you think of it!

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