Disclaimer: I received this novel from Bloomsbury publishing as an arc in exchange for a review. once & future was published on 3rd of June 2019.
What do we want? A gender-bent King Arthur retelling!
When do we want it? Like right now!!
You can actually have it!!
Blurb: 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.
The following review will be gushy, excited, but non-spoilery so please enjoy my thoughts on this amazing novel, then feel free to pick it up and tell me what you think!
This novel does not fail to deliver what it is advertised as! Once & Future is a gender-bent retelling of the Arthurian legend of the sword in the stone up until the birth of ‘Mordred’. Minus the rape and male entitlement of the decade that the Arthurian legend was set in, while still addressing these issues in a safe manner.
This novel has so so many quotable lines that I won’t put in this review to avoid spoilers, but I may discuss these in a later blog post maybe one in anticipation for the second novel that will be released in 2020.
Once & Future centres around the 42nd reincarnation of King Arthur, who just so happens to be a young woman named Ari. This story takes place in a
world galaxy which is run by a huge corporation that controls essential resources, access to other planets, etc. and causing the galaxy’s residents to submit to them out of fear.
Throughout the course of the novel, we meet Ari’s knights who each resemble a knight of the original King Arthur’s round table. We also meet a young Merlin and ghostly Morgana who, in their own ways, aid Ari on the journey fate has bestowed on her.
“But I do have an impulse-control problem. And a sword.” – Ari
As per any fantasy that involves a horrible corporation, there is death, famine, a very predictable big villain head of the huge corporation, and rebellion.
As I keep banging on about how hugely relevant and positive this novel is for the youth of today, I want to point out a few of the positive representations there are in Once & Future.
- This reincarnation of King Arthur is a female. With all the traits of the past King – incl. being impulsive and isolated – but with none of the gender discrimination that would have befallen her in King Arthur’s time.
- The immense lack of homophobia, sexism, racism, etc. The societies are inclusive of all, the only issues had are with people who protest against the big corporation.
- At the round table, there is a gender-fluid character, lesbian mums, two gay men, straight humans, more lesbian women and an asexual woman. Yes, lots of romance and fluff and drama!!!! It hurts.
- Merlin learns about this new accepting society and thus all the new lingo to go with it, in turn, teaching and informing the reader on things like proper pronouns, etc.
Due to the lack of spoilers in this review (thankfully, keeping it nice and short), I can only talk about Merlin, which happens to be my all-time favourite part of this novel. I thoughtfully enjoyed ever moment where Merlin was in the picture, but mostly the parts where Merlin had to catch up to ‘modern’ lingo/ customs. It’s a moment where us as readers may also go into the novel with the same level of cluelessness as Merlin, having to learn about different sexualities or just diving into an entirely new world altogether and it’s good to have a character that can be related to in that way.
Merlin also makes some very funny references to his past cycles when he was awake and will cite pop songs that are so catchy even he can’t forget them.
The final battle in this novel doesn’t go as planned but is a feat of teamwork, love and pure dumb luck on everyone’s part.
There is politics, magic, love, inclusivity and representation. Once & Future truly is a novel for the modern young adult, especially one who loves retellings, crazy government corporations, and a galaxy without hate and homophobia.
★ Rating ★
I rated this book a ★★★★☆ (5/5 stars)! I can go on all day talking about how much I love this book and its relevance to today’s society, but for your sanity, I won’t.
Please go read it!
When you’ve finished Once & Future, and commented below how much you love it, there is a second book coming out in 2020 titled The Sword in the Stars! The cover and the official blurb are currently not up on Goodreads.
With Love Bree xx