Listen, I was sold on this book the second someone said the words: “Gay space King Arthur”.
Book: Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy
Read before: No
Ownership: Proof copy sent by publisher free of charge for review. All opinions my own.
This book is exactly as much fun as it sounds! It follows Ari, a teenage girl who is a wanted refugee from a banned planet, and who also happens to be the 42nd reincarnation of King Arthur. Her friends and family slot into the roles of King Arthur’s court, and a somewhat-bewildered, younger-than-ever Merlin has to find her, train her, and help her to fulfil her destiny. Ari, however, may well have other plans.
Oh my goodness. It’s such a romp. There are hard and complex issues here – environmentalism, consumerism, immigration, corrupt governments – but the book never gets too weighty, instead allowing a gloriously fun rollercoaster as the characters ride through the galaxy smashing stereotypes and having a whole lot of drama. That’s not to say the stakes aren’t gripping, just that somehow, it manages to encompass all that and show off with exactly the kind of shiny, glitterball dramatics that ‘gay space King Arthur’ makes your brain picture. Almost no one is straight, and the rep is really really well done, throwing likeable and loveable characters at you from all ends of all spectrums – it’s an absolute feast for lovers of queer stories.
Though I liked Ari and Gwen, and as I say, I’m always here for putting the f/f in sff, my favourite character by far was Merlin. In the years since the original Arthur’s story, he’s aged (backwards, of course), from a wise and wizened old man to an awkward, hormonal teenager who has no idea how to talk to the boy he likes. Oh, I so enjoyed him having to deal with adolescence! I love a wise old mentor in stories, but I really enjoyed seeing it shaken up a little here: Merlin tries to be an imposing, firm hand on the tiller, but undermines himself with his rubbish teen beard and his gawky geekiness. He’s a great foil for Ari’s impulsiveness. I also loved the representation of Morgana we get here, but to say much more would spoil things…
This is the kind of book we need more of. Queer teens of all sorts finding each other, loving each other, trusting each other, and defeating evil. It’s like Sailor Moon but gayer. It’s like King Arthur but YA-er. It’s utterly fab. A must-read for everyone, just everyone. I already have a loooong list of queer friends to lend it to. Five out of five cats!