Once and Future by Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta
Since I first read The Once and Future King by T.H. White years ago when I was a teen, I have been fascinated by the King Arthur myth, including the central character of Merlin. So when I heard that a new retelling of the mythology was being published, and the King Arthur would be a young woman, I was already sold. But the book is even more mind-blowing than you can imagine. First of all, take the genre: set in the future, it’s a sci-fi thriller, with notes of magical realism and high adventure. Then, the gender explorations are wonderful: Ari Helix, our reluctant new reincarnation of King Arthur, is a lesbian teen, a Middle Eastern immigrant of sorts. Her knights of the roundtable include such a diversity of characters, not to mention Merlin himself, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager. As one reader confided, “Readers of all sexualities, genders, orientations and melanin will find themselves represented here, and in a way that is not ‘about’ being ace or fluid or straight or whatever–that’s just one aspect of the character that is basically as mundane and routine as having brown eyes or being taller than everyone else.”
If course, there is a monumental quest at the heart of the tale: Ari and her community must defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind. Readers will be caught up in this quest, thanks to the witty writing and complex characters, not to mention the humor and compassion at the heart of the tale. Highly recommended!