Once & Future + Sword In The Stars Review

Hi again everyone! It’s me! A few weeks back I was very kindly approved for an eArc of Sword in the Stars by Cori Mccarthy and Amy Rose Capetta, and I was so excited to read it! The only problem was, I still hadn’t got round to reading the first book in the series! So, I binge-read them and decided to do a full series review! I hope you enjoy!


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Title: Once & Future

Author: Amy Rose Capetta + Cori McCarthy

Pages: 336

Genre: Fantasy, Sci-fi, Retelling, Young Adult, LGBT

Rating: 3/5 Stars – 6.29 CAWPILE rating

Synopsis: I’ve been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.

Now I’m done hiding.

My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.

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 going to start by saying that I loved the representation in this book, and in this series overall. The main character, Ari, is pansexual, and in the wide cast of characters we also see trans, demi-boy, lesbian, bi gay and ace characters! Ari is also of Arab descent and many of the other characters (both main and side) are characters of colour! In the universe this series starts in there is no racism or homophobia/transphobia, which is something I always love to see in fantasy novels!

As for the characters themselves, I loved them! They all felt so three-dimensional and I cared about all of them. Ari, the forty-second reincarnation of King Arthur, is confident and strong throughout the whole novel and all the hardships she faces. Merlin is a great comedic relief to the book and I loved that his magic was controlled by using his voice (sometimes using Cher songs to conjure it!). Gwen was kind and soft but also a strong leader of her planet, alongside Val, who was intelligent and witty. And of course Lam, who was so loyal to their friends and who I’m sure so many people will see themselves in; Jordan, the beautiful, strong-willed female knight who I’m maybe in love with; and Kay, Ari’s brother who would do anything to keep her safe. They quickly became an amazing found family that fought for each other and always had each other’s backs, and are maybe one of my favourite found families that I have read!

I was also really intrigued by the world building. We’re in a future universe where a giant tyrannical corporation, Mercer, has a monopoly over the galaxy. We see a strange Arthurian legend museum on the moon, an abandoned and exploited Earth, a dance club with oxygen bars, Ketch, Ari’s home planet which was destroyed by Mercer, an ice prison scourged by a plague, Gwen’s planet Lionel, which resembles Medieval Earth. It was so interesting and I loved exploring the galaxy with Ari’s crew.

However, I did have two main problems with the book. The first being that I wasn’t convinced by the romance between Ari and Gwen (not a spoiler, they get married within the first few chapters!). They had some feelings for each other prior to the novel and also a falling out of some sort. However, when they were together, although they did voice their romantic feelings frequently, to me it just felt like a purely sexual relationship. They seemed to just say their romantic feelings and not show them. The other problem I had was the pacing. Countless times whilst reading this book I had to stop reading, maybe even mid-sentence, and go back a couple of pages to figure out what on Earth (ha ha!) was going on. Things happened so quickly and we even moved from one planet to another in maybe the space of a paragraph and I was so lost 90% of the time (and judging by other reviews, this was not just a me problem!).

Despite this, I really did enjoy the book and I would 100% recommend it, even to those who are not really sci-fi readers!


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Spoilers for the first book ahead!!

Title: Sword in the Stars

Author: Amy Rose Capetta + Cori McCarthy

Pages: 355

Genre: Fantasy, Sci-fi, Retelling, Young Adult, LGBT

Rating: 4/5 Stars – 8.07 CAWPILE rating

Synopsis: 

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 travelers 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…

So, in the sequel we’re transported back in time to Medieval Earth and we get to meet the very first King Arthur. I was so excited to be in this time period – I grew up with the BBC Merlin adaptation and so I’m a sucker for Medieval fantasy novels! To add to this, I loved the new characters we got! The original Arthur is only about fifteen in this novel, and he was such a sweetheart, I adored him! We also get to see old Merlin who is almost obsessed with King Arthur, and also a little power hungry. A few other well known characters were also sprinkled in, including Gwaine and Morgause, who I was very excited to see!

The pacing issue I had with the first book, I’m glad to say, was resolved in this one. The pacing was perfect and I was on the edge of my seat on numerous occasions. The intrigue and the sense of urgency among the characters was done so well, so I must say that, if you were put off by the pacing of the first book, then definitely pick up the sequel!

My main issue with this book, and why it didn’t get the full five stars (although it was very close!) was, unfortunately, the world building. I loved the world building in the first book but I really felt it was lacking here. I know that this book is ultimately character and plot based, but it really didn’t feel like we were in Medieval England at all. If you removed the knights, we really could have been anywhere at all. It was a real disappointment.

That being said, this book was a wild ride and I really enjoyed this series overall. The ending of Sword in the Stars made me cry and I loved all the references to other Arthur retelling (and the fourth wall break) that we got at the end. This series is witty and just so much fun and I really urge you to pick it up!

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