Cover Image: Once & Future

Once & Future

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DNFd at 15%, may give this another chance in the future...
It wasn't at all what I was expecting and the synopsis is very confusing.
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This was a fantastic take on a king Arthur retelling. It was a lot of fun and really enjoyable ride. I loved the characters and that it was in space
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I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

This book is so far out there, that it will either be 100% your jam or you won't be able to get into it at all - there is no in between. Luckily for me, I was really freaking into it.

First, I'll summarize super quickly: space, King Arthur, more & different kinds of representation than I have ever read before, and GAAAAAAY.

Okay now that I've got that out of the way, I'll review this thing more "eloquently."

From the first pages, I felt myself thrown into this futuristic space story. The first setting takes place on a massive space station that's basically a gigantic mall. And as soon as each character is introduced - they have their own personality and definitive relationship with Ari. So while it was a bit jarring to entire into this universe without much explanation - which happened any time the characters went to a new planet - eventually my brain caught up with the setting as more of it was incrementally revealed and explained.

Ari herself is very much a hero, but not the traditional or "classic" kind. She certainly has faults - she is impulsive, doesn't let others into her heart easily, and is too curious at times - but those faults only make her more accessible. She very easily could have been an infallible type of hero who was just too unrealistic. But instead she was rash and sometimes completely misjudged situations and people. She's also not conventional in that she is pansexual and of middle eastern descent.

Her supporting characters are not any less diverse! Literally we get characters who are: asexual, 2 gay characters, disabled, 3 black characters, and non-binary, and pansexual. WHAT?! It was beautiful and I loved it so very much.

This book is told from two POVs, which felt appropriate for the story. Especially considering certain plot points where one of the characters wasn't available to tell the story. It also meant we got to know both Ari and Merlin very intricately.

The way each character is a reinvention of the original Arthur & his Knights was fantastic!

My only issue with this book was that at times the writing felt inappropriately immature or jokey.

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These two are both knew to me authors but they are officially on the list. It injects science fiction into the classic tale by adding... SPACE. This is a story has reincarnation and adventure but most importantly it has fully realized characters and a great setting. The writing is also engaging.
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Ari and her adopted brother Kay live a life under the radar thanks to the fact that Ari is an illegal alien from Ketch, a planet beyond the barrier, making her a wanted fugitive by Mercer, the corporate entity that rules the galaxy through extreme capitalism. The appearance of Merlin, an aging-backwards wizard, further creates chaos in their lives. Merlin is sure that Ari is a reincarnated King Arthur, whom Merlin is to train to defeat the most evil bad guy and unite the citizenry. Shenanigans, love triangles, and murderous glares occur, as only can when late teenagers are trying to save the galaxy. 

This is an action-packed story that will grab readers, including adults (if they aren't homophobic). I would even say that those who like Tillie Waldon's On a Sunbeam will enjoy it, because, ya know, more lesbians in space. lol That said, imagine Star Trek of last century... when it was progressive and intersectional, but the underdogs. That's what this story is. 

I didn't know the difference between sic-fi and fantasy until I was 23 years old and teaching 10th grade English. We read a short story by Ray Bradbury from the textbook, and the intro to it included a bit on the difference between the two genres. Since then, I've been hyper-aware of the separation of the two-- as different as night and day. However, Once and Future is actually a blend of the two. Sci-fi: set in the future with advanced technology with space travel present. Fantasy: magic and wizards (well, singular... one wizard). 

Once and Future is the example we need of intersectional genre fiction. PLUS the regular use of "they" as a singular pronoun and beyond-the-binary with a third, "fluid." As such, give this to your readers who spend too much time on Tumblr reblogging all the social justice warrior posts.
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This book has everything I'm going for: great rep, it's a retelling (in space!), the plot sounds interesting... and I was really enjoying it. The plot does kind of bounce around, not really letting me have the chance to get connected to anything. It's just very abrupt and with so many characters, I'd like the chance to connect and get to know them more. However, I am really excited for the sequel, this was such a fun and interesting take on the Arthurian tale.
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It's King SPACE. Seriously, how can you not resist a queer, gender-flipped King Arthur retelling that's set...IN SPACE? Everything's better when it's IN SPACE. Highly recommend for anyone looking for a sci-fi LGBTQ twist on the old Arthurian story.
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I loved this fresh retelling of King Arthur from the opening pages! Merlin was my favorite, I loved his voice and sense of anachronistic humor. I also loved Ari, Val, Morgana, and Gwen in particular. I loved the futuristic setting, and the vast amount of diversity with regard to gender, sexuality, and race. There was a lot of humor but also heartache, especially with the Arthur cycles. I so loved the idea of the Arthur cycle and getting to learn more about it. I didn't realize it was a duology until late in the game so that was a surprise and the ending left me clamoring for more.
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I’d bet on saying that the legend of King Arthur is pretty widely known. So then what happens when you make the legend a reincarnation story where Arthur is tasked with uniting all of mankind under one banner, but somehow failing each time.

Except this time, Arthur has been reincarnated into the body of Ari, a young woman in the future, who pulls Excalibur out of an aged oak tree on what is now called Old Earth, and needs to defeat the tyrannical Mercer Company who has a monopoly on pretty much the entire galaxy and forces people to follow their laws and their rules lest they will cut you planet off from the rest of civilization with a barrier. And helping each Arthur on each quest is Merlin who has been progressively aging backwards with this cycle (#42) finding himself a teenager with a penchant of singing a pop song before conjuring his magic?

(Takes imaginary breath).

Well, you’d have Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy’s Once & Future.

If you can’t tell, the premise is attention grabbing. With all the retellings out there, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a gender-swapped retelling of the Arthurian legend in space. So right away it piqued my interest.

Once & Future has a lot going for it. First and foremost, the diversity and representation is fantastic. Capetta and McCarthy take all the stigmas that are still prevalent today, in regards to gender and identity, and make them a thing of the past. It doesn’t feel like something being forced or check-marked into the story either. It feels honest and refreshing and what we can only hope the world will embrace more in the present.

I also enjoyed how the ties formed between the original Arthurian Legend is utilized as a stepping stone for Ari’s story, but how she continues to subvert everything that Merlin has come to expect in each cycle. Most obvious being that this time Arthur is female. It’s these places that make the story the strongest and works the best. And if I’m being honest I feel like that’s the way it should be because, clearly, this cycle is different, this cycle has the potential to see all the steps through to the very end—to the uniting of humankind—it needed to be different from what’s already been.

However, when the story follows too closely the path set forth in the original Legend—calling out the Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot love triangle—is when it fell into too much melodrama for me. Granted no one has ever said that Arthurian Legend isn’t made of drama, but the problem is that everything felt rushed. I didn’t get to feel the heartbreak because in the blink of an eye we go from an intense attraction, complete with promising backstory, between Gwen and Ari to marriage to heartbreak. Merlin and one of Ari’s knights, Val, find themselves in a similar state of attraction, but I found their relationship a much better slow burn.

This is true for the friendships as well. I loved the interactions between a thoroughly futuristically modern Ari and a centuries old, sometimes stodgy Merlin. Set in his ways and secure in his tasks, Ari throws him for a loop and brings him out of his shell a bit. Ari starts the story off as a fugitive refugee and with Merlin’s influence becomes the face of a revolution. I wanted to see more of the build up from tentative associates to genuine friends.

Overall, Once & Future is an ambitious retelling, auspicious in scope and execution. The adventure clearly isn’t over for Ari and her knights, and I’m interested to see what they bring to the table next.
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DNF at 39%

I'm just going to come to the conclusion that the James Patterson presents books are not for me.

Granted, I didn't know this was one of his when I requested it from NetGalley, but when I saw it on the ARC I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. 

This feeling was erased a little bit in the beginning, where I was delighted by the fun retelling of Arthur, how the story warped and weaved to include a diverse cast of characters (non-binary rep, gay rep—gay Merlin!—different cultural backgrounds, etc.), illegal immigrants, climate change/resource stripping and unethical authoritarian capitalist monopolies. Oh, and Merlin is aging backwards and there's been a series of Arthur reincarnations, of which Ari is 42nd (a nice nod to Hitchhikers Guide).

But it returned as I went further in, which ultimately made me not want to continue...mostly because I just felt myself caring less and less for this cast and these people. I wasn't enthralled enough by the story to overlook what felt to me like a distinct lack of world-building in what should have been an incredible universe.

Speaking of universes, apparently there's a wide universe around, with lots of different planets and moons, but aside from the vague notion that Mercer has taken over everything and rules everything in an iron fist, there's not much world-building. There's no sense of space—of where these planets are located, of how the worlds fit together.

There's a sealed off planet called Ketchan, which is where Ari is from, and while I'm sure that more will be revealed later on in the story, it just felt so weird that an evil corporation like Mercer would just like Ari drift about and do whatever while they were waiting for her to do...something. Logically it made no sense. 

Gwen rules a planet that's based on a renaissance-faire theme its queen...but the rules of marriage and inheritance felt very contrived and artificial and having a seventeen year old talk about wanting babies right this second if not a little early felt...kinda icky. Plus, there's a lot of discussion of corsets and what corsets do to boobies, and...hard pass.

Additionally, the characters themselves felt one-dimensional and forced. Ari is...a mystery to be sure and I never really felt like I got into her head that much to see her decisions and what made her her. While I enjoyed her relationship with Kay, I just didn't feel compelled with her character. And Merlin was also interesting. I liked his fear of aging backwards, his attraction towards a certain person, and his determination to not get attached as he got attached, but overall I felt like that at 39% I should know a little more about why the hell he had this thing with Morgana and why the reincarnations were so important—and why defeating an evil was so important. The two story-lines—Arthur and Mercer—felt disjointed and the Arthur reincarnation storyline felt a little forced into the overall arc (which was weird since it was at the center of everything).

I think that this will appeal to a lot of readers, particularly those wanting LGBTQIA+ rep and POC rep (both things really, really impressed me with this story), but ultimately this didn't hold my attention enough for me to finish.

tl;dr: great start, intriguing premise, got bogged down in the middle and I lost interest.

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
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This book and I. I really wanted to enjoy it I mean a gender bent King Arthur retelling plus it takes place in the future. But I just felt very meh about it. I don't know if it's me or the book maybe both. 

What I loved. For one this book has an entirely almost queer cast with a F/F centered romance. And that the three galaxies that are featured have no sexism or gender specifying there people. You are what you are and you are loved for what you identify yourself with. You hardly ever see that in books let alone YA.. 
Loved that Arthur was a badass woman and that Merlin was pulling a Benjamin Button. 
I also really enjoyed the world building and how humanity is living amongst three galaxies. And how it still took moments from our own time period. Example Ari our MC is from the planet Kethcan where there is a  barricade being placed on Ari's planet so she is essentially a refugee. Sound familiar. 

What I didn't love was the comedy and it was just too much. The book had some serious action scenes and then huge moments where nothing happened and the plot just dragged. The humour I felt was awkward and misplaced and became too much it really took me out of the storytelling. It almost felt like the book was trying to be too many things at once and I think would have benefited without it or maybe toned down. Yes I have considered maybe this humour just isn't geared towards me. everything just felt so out of place. 

Overall I recommend this book for the amazing LGBTQ rep and fantastic world building and maybe if you love over the top humour.
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It's times like this when I really wish I'd never started leaving star ratings for books because it just doesn't adequately express all that I want to say. There were some moments of comedy gold in this book, and so much wonderful diversity and queerness, but, overall, I think I have to admit that this book was written in a particular style that has never been to my tastes.

I didn't realize this before reading, but Once & Future is that strange blend of sci-fi and comedy that some people seem to love-- think The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy but way more diverse and modern. I've never really "got" it. With important themes like illegal refugees and corporatocracy, I had wrongly assumed this book would feel more drama-and-politics-based.

The plot follows Ari, who is the 42nd reincarnation of King Arthur (42nd? Definite Douglas Adams vibe). We learn from Merlin - who is aging backwards - that the Arthurs are doomed to repeat the same cycle of Arthur obtaining Excalibur, Arthur falling into a doomed romance with Guinevere, and Morgana finally killing him. Ari is a bit different, though, and not just because she's a girl.

This reincarnation of Arthur takes place centuries into the future when Old Earth has been left behind and humanity is spread over three galaxies, all controlled by the evil corporate giant, Mercer. In this future, gender and sexuality are just not a big deal. The characters are boys, girls, "fluids", gay, bi, pan and literally no one gives a shit. It's freaking awesome. What's less awesome is the reach of Mercer, who have barricaded the entire Arab-settled planet of Ketchan-- Ari's home planet. Making Ari an illegal refugee.

It's actually very light and silly in parts, but not in the straight-up comedy way of, say, The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue. To me, it reads like it doesn't know what it wants to be. The book zips between a brewing revolution, revisiting tragedies of the past, and Merlin getting drunk and singing Katy Perry to himself as he lets off fireworks. It's funny, sure, but it doesn't seem to fit together with the rest of the book.

The pacing, too, is all over the place. At certain points, we are bombarded by an almost constant stream of action, which made it even more noticeable (and comparatively dull) when the pace slowed. I saw another person note that they thought the romance between Ari and Gwen felt forced, which I didn't, but I did think it felt rushed. They had so much chemistry in the early chapters that I was disappointed that the authors had them jumping into a political marriage, consummated off-page immediately (I swear queer girls never get sexy build-up 🤔) and that was pretty much that. It is also strange that what is set up as Ari's main motivation is more or less resolved just over halfway through the book.

I think I would have preferred Once & Future if it had picked one or the other. I would have been so ready for an action-packed sci-fi retelling of King Arthur that was about critiquing capitalism and defeating the all-powerful Mercer corporation. I also would have very much enjoyed a light fluffy romcom about drunk wizards and lots of queer romance. Having the two all mixed up together gave me a huge emotional disconnect.

Still, if sci-fi comedy is something that sounds appealing, you should definitely read this. While I did have some general complaints, a lot came down to personal taste. If unsure, one book I highly recommend is Capetta's The Brilliant Death.
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This book was received as an ARC from Little, Brown and Company - jimmy patterson in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.

One of my favorite tales of all time is King Arthur and the legend of Camelot and when I heard about this new rendition with a female lead heroine, I just had to jump at the chance and read this book. The main heroine is named Ari which is similar to Arthur so it does stay true to the tale. All of the legendary characters such as Merlin, Morgana and Lancelot return in the story but their roles are slightly smaller in this version with Ari being the main character focus throughout the book. I absolutely love the new rendition of this tale and I love even more that there is a female heroine involved and still with such action packed adventure, it will leave you wanting more. I really do hope this is a start of a new YA series.

We will consider adding this title to our YFantasy collection at the library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
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I wasn't a big fan of this title. I loved the concept and the first couple of pages really intrigued me, but by the time I got to page 60 I lost interest in the story. The plot just felt all over the place and I struggled with following the action, something I have not experienced with a YA book before. While I think it's important for books to feature representation, the multiple references to pronouns became old very fast. The use of LGBT characters felt very forced throughout what I read, which was only the first 60 pages because I just lost interest totally by then.  

While this book may not be for me, others may like it so I don't want to give it a totally bad review. The worlds McCarthy creates is stunning, fun and a dark critique on the path human beings are taking, but that's about all i enjoyed about this book.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the Little, Brown and Company for the E-Arc copy of this novel.
I enjoyed the thought behind this one. The re-imagining of the King Arthur myths and legend was something fresh. The science fiction twist made it more "today". The authors do a wonderful job on writing and keeping you engaged. Personally, I felt that it has a lot to offer for young adults who like Percy Jackson, myths, and adventure.
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Star Trek meet the Arthurian legends with a dash of today's social and political issues. The story is told in third person by both Ari and Merlin. Ari is the rash and impulsive reincarnation of King Arthur while Merlin is the slightly awkward magician that  keeps aging backwards through time. Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy weave together a space opera that is befitting of its royal status. Intwined with hope, the authors take on today's issues in a story filled with humor and overcoming heart break in this fun futuristic retelling of King Arthur.
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“…I admit, you are my favorite Arthur thus far. I honestly didn’t think my misguided brother with his antiquated beliefs would ever choose a girl.”

A fugitive refugee, Ari Helix has been running and hiding her whole life. When she accidentally crash lands on Old Earth and pulls a random sword from a gnarled, oak tree, everything changes. This isn’t just any, old sword, though. It’s Excalibur, and Ari is the 42nd incarnation of King Arthur of Camelot. Oh yeah, and for the first time, she’s a girl.

With every new Arthur comes the same old, er, younger Merlin. Each time he failed, and with every new Arthur, Merlin wakes up a bit younger. Right now, he’s a teenager, but if he and Ari can’t put an end to the cycle once in for all, Merlin may not wake up next time. It’s an easy task, right? Find Arthur. Train Arthur. Point them (first lady Arthur, what what?) to the nearest throne. Defeat the greatest evil and unite humanity. Psssh. Piece of cake. Except Merlin has failed 41 times, and nothing is old hat this go ’round.

I chose this book as my, “predicted 5-star read” of the #FFFebruary challenge. Let’s just say if I could give this book more than 5 stars, I’d be all over that. There are so many things I love about this book. Let’s begin.

The characters. I just want one of those Helvetica-type shirts that says “Ari & Merlin & Key & Gwen & Lam & Val & Jordan & Morgana.” I think I got them all I love how these characters are deeply steeped in legendary characters we all recognize but are completely their own selves, too. Heroes are just as troubled as you and me, and villains, well, they’re deeper than we give them credit for, aren’t they? It’s like a carefully-crafted puzzle. You know enough about them to think you’ve figured it out, but then, they surprise you. So many different races, genders, and sexualities are represented, but it doesn’t feel as if the authors are ticking off boxes, as these are just some of the traits of these rich characters and as my favorite clone once said, not the most important thing(s) about them. Representation matters. Always.

Ari is a headstrong, messy, beautiful human being. She’s felt like an outsider her whole life, but she will fight fiercely for her chosen family, and it’s hard not to love her. Watching her grow is a treat. Like Merlin, we go from fussing at her brash decisions to cheering her on as she matures into the leader that destiny dictates she become, “a girl they couldn’t control, who wouldn’t stop talking. That’s the scariest damn thing in the universe.” You. Betta. Preach.

The story. We all know King Arthur. I was a fan of that show a few years ago where John Hurt played the dragon (RIP), but this is Camelot like we’ve never seen it. It’s the future. There are spaceships, but the deep evil that can rest in the hearts of men is always the same, and over and over again, people need someone to rally behind, a hero with loyal friends to fight against oppression. The story, like life, is messy, because people are messy. You won’t find any one-dimensional heroes slaying dragons and saving damsels. These people love each other, and they hurt each other and lose each other and find each other again. They have to deal with their actions while the universe is kind of crashing down around them.

The wit. Y’all. The wit. I cried several times, but I chuckled throughout this entire book. Merlin has lived for SO LONG, and he has so many one-liners that are wasted on his new friends, because none of them remember Old Earth, but you know who does appreciate them? This gal right here, and you will too.

The only thing really left to say, is please pick this book up. If you like magic, historical (maybe) myths, feminist re-tellings, rich characterization, queer stories, or just plain, edge-of-your-seat adventure, give it a shot. My only complaint is that I cannot immediately jump into the next book. Seriously. In case you missed it before, 5 stars.

Also, one parting shot. From now on, whenever anyone asks me who I am or who I think I am, I’m replacing “I am Spartacus,” with, “King Fucking Arthur, that’s who!”
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Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy are HUGE voices in LGBT+ YA and looking at this book from a purely objective standpoint I can appreciate what they did here. This is a Sci-Fi book that incorporates multiple sexualities and gender identities into a story without relying on the "we're all oppressed" or "it's there but in a vague sense" tropes you see in the genre. This is a wide cast of characters with their own unique personalities on a spectrum of sexuality and gender identity and I really appreciated what they did and what this book can do for others. 

With that said, Once & Future was a disappointment to the point where it makes me physically sad to think about. This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019 and it let me down haaaaaard. And I can't necessarily point to one specific reason as to why. This is very much a "death by a thousand cuts" situation where there so many little things that just don't add up or work together that creates a lackluster story.

Once & Future is a gender bent King Arthur retelling in while Ari must defeat the evil Mercer corporation which basically runs no less then three galaxies. This book starts off strong, looking more like a conscious critique of capitalism and overspending before it flinches and creates a single figurehead for Ari to stop. It's odd that a book that specifically points out the uselessness of figureheads employs one so strongly throughout the story. It even ends with a sequel-baity ending that makes almost everything Ari and her knights a moot point. 

I think that's the main issue with Once & Future overall. It's starts out strong but fizzles out as the book progresses. As much as I hate to say it, this story isn't necessarily a new one. In fact, it's been told a lot of times before in Hunger Games, Divergent, All Rights Reserved and so on; the only difference is the surface level modifications. There's more diversity, an illegal citizen main character, and a cool mix of science and magic. But that doesn't make up for the fact that this is still a "girl inspires revolution" story. What makes this story new and exciting is less of A THING and more of a novelty. It's awesome to have a gay Merlin and a pansexual love triangle, but without a compelling story that keeps the reader's interest, the whole thing just starts to feel dull. A gay Merlin was one of the main reasons I wanted this book in my life and by the end I just couldn't bring myself to feel excited anymore. 

Additionally, it felt like the authors were constrained by the Arthurian elements rather then working with them. The love affair between Ari and Gwen felt like it was very much only in there because of the Guinevere/Arthur/Lancelot thing. The fact that Ari is King Arthur reincarnated is cool, but Ari BEING King Arthur doesn't have a bearing on the story. What Ari does can be done without the King Arthur elements. In fact you can honestly take out all the Arthurian stuff and still be left with a fairly coherent, if not bland, YA Dystopian. The fact that this is a King Arthur retelling is arbitrary at best and at worst an excuse to already have characters for Ari to rely on without needing to build a rapport with one another. 

Kay is her brother. Gwen is the love interest. Lam is a loyal knight. Jordan is another knight. Val is a third knight. All of these characters have a defined personality, but that personality is in a sense a variation on "loyal." That's what these characters are, loyal knights because they were "destined" to be like that because of the reincarnation thing. And boy did THAT get old. Merlin has done this conceivably 42 times and it all felt contrite. Why does it have to be reincarnation? Why does the story have to repeat? By the time the book ends there hasn't really been a change in the world or in the cycle. It's all set up for the sequel. I think that the authors wrote themselves into a corner with the reincarnation angle, because it meant they couldn't stray from a bare bones Arthurian plotline. And that sucks because I know these authors and they are better then this.

The writing was difficult too. The action would pick up, and then there would be an obvious lull, then pick up, then lull. The actions scenes seemed like they were the only tense or emotionally charged scenes in the entire book while the character introspection just felt...long. There's a whole plot about rescuing Kay and Ari's parents from a prison planet. It's built up through half the book, accomplished, and then the parents are dumped at a hospital until the dramatic conclusion. Ari's main motivation, accomplished and resolved with 40% of a book left. Because of that, Ari's actions and character for the rest of the book felt hollow because her reason for moving forward had been resolved. The authors tried to make Gwen and her people her new motivation, but it felt so forced because that's what their relationship felt like. They didn't feel natural and so their feelings didn't either. 

I wanted to love this. I wanted to sing it's praises from the rooftops. But I can't do that. I just can't. Once & Future just had too many issues. I'll still go forward with the sequel, because the Merlin/Ari dynamic is very well crafted and I am genuinely curious to see what happened to them, but I"ll be approaching it with far more caution then I did this.
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