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“Once and Future” is a hard to put down sci-fi, fantasy, romantic aventure

Bea’s Books

Sci-fi? Check. 

Fantasy? Check. 

Romance? Check. 

Action and adventure? Check. 

“Once and Future” by A.R. Capetta and Cory McCarthy somehow combines all of those in a well-written, hard to put down story with characters so easy to love, hate and feel something in between the two. 

I picked this up at the library after getting recommendations for almost three years (yes, it’s taken me that long). I opened it and was instantly plunged into the story of Ari Helix, the latest (and first female!) reincarnation of King Arthur. Merlin, Arthur’s well-known sidekick, is awoken from a fantastical slumber when Ari lifts a magical sword (a.k.a. Excalibur) from a tree after crash-landing her trusty spaceship, Error, on Old Earth. Old Earth, as it came to be known, is essentially the planet where we currently reside, but is now in ruins after the galaxy was taken over by an all-powerful company called Mercer. 

Ari and her brother, Kay, aren’t technically supposed to be on Old Earth, having just escaped Mercer associates. After her exploring leads her to lifting Excalibur from the ground, Merlin wakes and explains to Ari the system of reincarnation. Ari seems to be Merlin’s last hope to stop his backward aging; if he succeeds in the (very simple) steps set before him; training Ari, nudging her onto the nearest throne and uniting all of humankind. This (quite shockingly) proves to be difficult, even with Ari’s loyal knights she meets along the way. The tale is spun so elaborately, one adventure melds seamlessly into the next, fabricating an intricate web of politics, corruption, capitalism and a galaxy on the brink of being controlled by a merciless corporation. 

I picked this book up, read about 30 pages and put it down for a while, reading increments when I could. Eventually, though, the story just got too good and I read voraciously until the end. I loved how the characters wove into each other’s lives and had space given to them within the story. I also liked how the story was inclusive and diverse, highlighting LGBTQ+ and strong female youth. 

I was especially hesitant when it came to this book, as I am not a sci-fi/fantasy kind of person, and the pairing of an age-old myth and a futuristic, sci-fi universe seemed odd, but once I got past the irony I found that it worked quite well, though there were a few things that frustrated me. The first was that there was quite a bit of romance that went past what I thought would have been common in a YA adventure story, especially since a lot of it distracted from the storyline and was a bit cheesy. My other critique is that sometimes the dialogue could be hard to follow. This may not be an area of concern for others, but now and again I found myself confused with who was speaking and had to re-read passages several times. Otherwise, I found “Once and Future” to be a thrilling book with lots of twists, telling the classic story of overthrowing society in a whole new way and rebuilding sci-fi from the stars up, one planet at a time. I would recommend this book to ages 13+. 

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