Browsed by
Tag: Once & Future

Review: Sword in the Stars by Cori McCarthy & Amy Rose Capetta

Review: Sword in the Stars by Cori McCarthy & Amy Rose Capetta

Ari Helix may have won her battle against the tyrannical Mercer corporation, but the larger war has just begun. Ari and her cursed wizard Merlin must travel back in time to the unenlightened Middle Ages and steal the King Arthur’s Grail — the very definition of impossible. It’s imperative that the time travellers not skew the timeline and alter the course of history. Coming face to face with the original Arthurian legend could produce a ripple effect that changes everything. Somehow Merlin forgot that the past can be even more dangerous than the future.’

I adored Once & Future and have been looking forward to Sword in the Stars for a good many months, so I was very grateful to be given an E-ARC by the publisher. I’m glad to say that Sword in the Stars does not disappoint and, in my opinion, doesn’t suffer from the lack of momentum that second books in duologies and trilogies tend to. One of the things that saves it from doing so is that it picks up almost immediately after the events of the first book and doesn’t spend the first few chapters recapping what happened in Once & Future, instead dedicating this time to moving the story forward. The pacing is good, balancing enough time with the characters in ways that develop them and their motives with action and learning about the outside influences that are affecting them. There is very little time when there is nothing significant happening, which prevents the narrative from stagnating.

Gwen and Ari remain one of my favourite couples and I love that there are so many plot pieces in Sword in the Stars that are often used in fiction as reasons for couples for have misunderstandings and for relationships to break down that are actually used as things that bring them closer together and keep them together. Both of them are unpredictable and delightfully headstrong, and while this sometimes leads them being surprised by each other and not anticipating exactly what they’re going to do, they don’t chastise each other for it or seek to have the other change to make things any easier on them. They see and applaud each other’s strengths, and while Ari’s role is that of the ‘hero’, Gwen is by no means any less significant, clever or strong, and it’s fantastic to see a couple who are unapologetically themselves and not expected to be ‘less’ for the convenience of their partner or the story. I would love to write a lot more about the both of them, but I don’t want to ruin the book for anyone!

Another of the things that I liked about the narrative is what the characters discover about themselves and their roles in history by trying to adhere to the narrative they know, while trying to figure out how to manipulate it just enough that what they do remains what everyone knows of the tale – if there was ever even any other chain of events. I love stories that play with time travel and time loops (and what if/cause and effect, etc), and I got a huge kick out of all the contemplation of paradoxes and the looks at how myths (and history) are manipulated as they’re transformed through literature and the social consciousness of different eras.

Sword in the Stars is a brilliant blend of fairytale retelling, science fiction and social commentary and I enjoyed every minute of it (I would be very, very happy to read more about Ari and co at some point in the future!). The cast as whole is hugely likeable, though characters are not without their flaws, and it’s very easy to want good things for all of them and hope that they will succeed both in their relationships and in what the overarching narrative needs them to accomplish to protect the wider universe from the corrupt Mercer. Highly recommended!

I received a digital ARC from Netgalley and the publisher.

Review: Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

Review: Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

‘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.’

I’m a huge fan of retellings of myths and legends, and Once & Future is quite possibly the best that I’ve read in a long time, for the manner in which it approaches the story doesn’t just take characters and put them in a different era or setting, but threads its narrative all the way back to the original, using the idea of reincarnation (something else I love stories about) and ongoing ‘cycles’ of the story to explore different outcomes in different times, which have impacted important figures in the narrative and affect the decisions they make in the cycle that they find themselves in.

Ari is the 42nd reincarnation of King Arthur and from a planet that has been sealed away from the rest of the galaxy by the Mercer Company, who make it their business to make sure that people and planets are completely dependent on them for everything that they need and are unable to escape their influence without severe consequences, the concept of today’s consumer society expanded upon in a frightening and worryingly real manner. Ari has so far managed to stay under the radar, thanks firstly to her adoptive mothers and then largely to her brother, until her curiosity gets the better of her and leads to an incident in which she unwittingly finds Excalibur, awakening Merlin, who has more than a handful of his own troubles to deal with, among which numbers Morgana. And so begins the ‘cycle’, wherein it is Merlin’s job to ensure Ari’s safety, undertake her training and attempt to have her unite all peoples. Which happens to be exactly what Mercer does not want.

The society presented in Once & Future is one that accepts the spectrum of sexuality and gender without question, which, to my mind, is one of the strongest elements of the story and the universe created. More than one character is known to have had – or have – relationships with more than one gender, whether sexual or otherwise, and the inclusion of asexuality and gender fluidity is something that we don’t see enough of in YA fiction (or fiction in general). Ari and Gwen’s relationship is one of my favourites in all that I’ve read over the past few years and is something that I hope to see explored further in future instalments. I really want to say a lot about these two, but I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone, so I’ll have to settle for saying that both of them are wonderfully clever, stubborn, flawed and fallible, and I adore them.

Once & Future has just enough exposition for the reader to quickly grasp the elements of the universe in which the story is set, particularly from Merlin’s side of things, without information overload or giving away too much. It strikes an effective balance between action and character development, never leaving any one character out of the narrative for so long that they become insignificant. There always seems to be something happening, which is good in terms of keeping a decent pace, though it also sometimes requires a little reading back to make sure all the threads of the narrative are clear. One of the many things that Once & Future does very well is make it easy to empathise with its characters and quickly grow to care for them. Though the universe that Ari and co live in has many elements that are much more ideal than our own, there is also much that’s identifiable about our own world, such as how the Mercer company chooses to treat and manipulate multiple peoples, its discriminatory and frankly abhorrent behaviour highlighting worrying truths about the world in which we live and how the future threatens to be.

I absolutely loved Once & Future and just couldn’t put it down, to the extent that I truly resented any interruptions to my reading! Thank you so much to Rock the Boat for sending me a copy! If you’d like to pick up a copy of Once & Future (and I highly recommend that you do), it hits the shelves in March this year!