Welcome back, my lovely people.
After about a month of reading adult fiction, I have decided to return to young adult fiction for this week. What better way than through an epic retelling of the story of King Arthur, set in the future, with spaceships and themed planets.
James Patterson presents Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy.
I’ve read one of the books James Patterson presented before (96 Words for Love) before, and I wasn’t the biggest fan of that one. Read on to see if I liked Once & Future any better.
Ari: Born on the planet Ketch, Ari was lost in a pile of floating space junk right before the tyrannical Mercer Company put a barrier around Ketch. Ari was adopted by a family ten years ago and raised as their own, with no memories of her past and no way to get home. She is also the forty-second reincarnation of King Arthur.
Merlin: Far from the epic, old wizard that he used to be, Merlin is cursed with backward aging. He is seventeen when he meets Ari, though chronologically he is several thousand years old. He likes to sing or hum before casting spells.
Morgana: Morgana is also several thousand years old, but she doesn’t have a body. She has killed or mislead many past Arthurs and makes it her duty to torment Merlin.
The Administrator: The Mercer Company’s CEO is cruel, calculating, and in it for the money and the drama. He will do quite literally anything to maintain and expand the Mercer Company’s monopolistic reign over the universe.
Kay: Ari’s adopted brother. He is smart and loves snacks, and is the reincarnation of Arthur’s knight, Kay.
Lam: Lam has one hand and some fierce dreads. Ari had a huge crush on them when she was younger (yes, Lam uses they/them pronouns) and is loyal to those he loves. He is the reincarnation of Lamarack, one of King Arthur’s knights.
Gwen: Queen of the medieval-themed planet Lionel, Gwen is, of course, this story’s Gwenevere. She is intelligent, calculating, and loving. She’s also bisexual, though no one ever uses the word.
Val: Val fulfills the role of Percival and is Lam’s brother. He is Gwen’s chief advisor.
Jordan: Jordan is one of Gwen’s knights on Lionel. She will follow Gwen wherever she goes and protect her with her life.
Ari was born on the planet Ketch and is the only Ketchan to have escaped before Mercer put up the barrier. Since she was discovered in her new family three years earlier, Ari has been on the run with Kay, trying to avoid capture. Mercer wants to capture her because she is, technically, an illegal alien in their company’s territory,
After an ill-fated supply run to the space-mall Heritage, Ari and Kay escape capture by the Mercer Company by crash landing on Old Earth, the birthplace of humanity. There, Ari finds the sword Excalibur embedded in a tree. She pulls it from its resting place and leaves the planet to go to the moon, where car companies have established colonies. She loses herself in Dodge, where she meets Merlin and Morgana and is told she is the forty-second reincarnation of King Arthur, which she, understandably, doesn’t believe.
Ari and Merlin escape to Ari and Kay’s ship, Error, where Kay and Lam are waiting for them. They flee to Lionel, where they meet Val, Jordan, and Gwen. Merlin plans to start Ari’s training there, but circumstances get in the way.
Merlin has a set of steps given to him by Nin, the Lady of the Lake, at the beginning of the endless cycles of Arthurs: find Arthur, train Arthur, nudge him onto the nearest throne, help him destroy the greatest evil, and unite mankind. Merlin will do anything to finish the steps, because he believes that that is the only way to stop his backward aging. Ari, he thinks, is the most likely Arthur to fulfill her destiny.
There’s nothing like a fresh retelling of a good story (seems James Patterson likes this kind of thing).
And really, it was fresh.
I enjoyed the characters, and the mission, and the future the novel presented. Not the tyrannical, monopolistic company ruling the universe, but the simple fact that everyone could basically be themselves. Humans were no longer bound by hetero- or cis-normativity, and could be or love whoever they wanted. They were not expected to subscribe to the gender binary.
More than that, Once & Future was fun. It’s the first in a series that hasn’t been finished yet, and I think I’ll read the rest when it comes out. The adventures are action-packed, often heart-wrenching, and make me feel a lot.
That’s not to say the book is perfect. It rushes through some things, and it seems to me that everyone just kind of… accepted Merlin’s story of reincarnation and kings and knights way too easily.
Still, I’ll read the rest. I want to see where it goes, because there were a few plot developments that took me by surprise in a very good way.
All in all, a 4 out of 5. I’ll add this one to my bookshelf.
Until next week!