Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Once and Future is a science fiction retelling (or reimagining) of the King Arthur legend by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy. I was so intrigued by this premise because King Arthur is female (and because I love the King Arthur mythology.) Ultimately, I feel that the premise was much better than the execution – but I was still enthralled by the storyline anyway. It is one of those books where I really enjoy it as I’m reading it, despite the myriad little things that bug me throughout, but once I really reflect on it I can point out a lot of issues with it.
My biggest critique of this book would be how well things were developed, be it characters, world, connections between people, or the backstory. Sometimes things just felt incredibly forced because the authors felt that they needed to have something in the story, but couldn’t quite determine how to make it work. It was funny, face paced, and confused all at the same time. For example, Merlin’s remarks could make me laugh but just as frequently his citations of (mostly) modern pop culture just pulled me out of the story. He has lived hundreds of years and yet the specific referenced that we get are from the 21st Century like when he chooses to sing Katy Perry.
I understood the premise that the main characters were reincarnations of people from Arthurian Legend, but that idea was just too quickly accepted by all of them. I wanted more of a backstory about each of the people from legend and how our new characters really embodied them, instead, there were quick, little adjectives attached to each person like loyalty that somehow were meant to explain it all. The development was about halfway there, but I just wanted more from it. I never understood why Ari and Gwen would be together, there just wasn’t support for it.
I really enjoyed the characters, whether it was Lam’s remarks or Ari’s honesty. They were all unique and based on people from King Arthur’s history, like Lancelot, Guinevere, and Arthur’s knights. Individually, they were generally likable characters that I wanted to succeed in their quests, but ultimately they fell flat as a whole. I adored the attempt at inclusivity in this book, as the authors tried to make sure a broad range of people would be represented and might be able to see themselves in the characters of this book – but it ended up feeling incredibly forced to me. So I struggle between my happiness that there is so much rep and the awkwardness I feel from the actual smoothness with which it was woven into the story (not much). They tried to make it feel normalized by having Merlin stumble through learning that it’s just the way things are, not weird in this era, and you should ask people for their preferred pronouns – but it just felt forced, like I said. I wanted to love it so much and I was just left confused and unsure of how I felt.
The pacing could have been better throughout the novel. Sometimes it felt as though the story really needed to have been broken up into multiple books and that’s where my feeling that there was lack of development really hurts my enjoyment of the book. There were important scenes that we just raced through and were forced to accept, without support. Then we raced through months or years in the span of a chapter. Other times, we spent pages and chapters on single scenes or storylines. It wasn’t consistent overall and as such, what should have been poignant or emotional moments sometimes lacked weight.
Now, I don’t want that to make it seem like I didn’t enjoy the book. I loved it, but I also had a lot of issues with it. I would absolutely read another book in this world if they choose to do another (which I believe they will). I just loved the idea of this book more than the book itself, but I cannot take my love of King Arthur away from this read and so I may enjoy this story more than other people, despite the issues.
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Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta