- Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-316-44927-4 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-316-44928-1 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 10-12
Ari is the seventeen-year-old, forty-second incarnation of King Arthur in a futuristic universe run by the evil Mercer Corporation—a corporation she is tasked to defeat by her mentor Merlin (now also seventeen due to his curse of backwards aging). Merlin yearns to break the ongoing Arthurian cycle by guiding an Arthur to save the world and thus set Arthur’s soul to rest; he is determined to succeed before he grows too young. Amidst the hindrances of Morgana’s interfering spirit, the inevitability of Gweneviere’s betrayal, and the all-powerful Mercer watching Ari’s every move, Ari must unite the people to save the universe. This story is a strong step forward for inclusivity, with Ari and her knights sharing diverse identities: pansexual, asexual, genderfluid, nonbinary, gay, and lesbian. Unfortunately, the book suffers from too much happening in too few pages, leaving readers with underdeveloped characters, clichés (as in the case of a painfully cartoonish villain), [End Page 250] rushed and hypersexual relationships that are hard to care about, and a surplus of telling rather than showing. In spite of these flaws, the story flourishes where it cleverly references T. H. White’s The Once and Future King and its theme of might versus right, as Ari and her friends battle “the cancer of unchecked capitalism.” Ari’s struggles are a reminder of the role teens can play in rebelling against oppressive structures, and readers may find this an offbeat way in to Arthurian legend.