Who is ready for some queer King Arthur?
Well if you aren’t then this may not be the review for you.
I picked up the first book in this duology Once & Future in July of last year and, while I applauded how wonderfully queer it was, I wasn’t crazy about the writing – fast forward half a year or so and I found myself picking up the sequel. But would Sword in the Stars live up to my expectations?
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…
I’ll start by saying that I still think this concept is incredibly cool, I love the idea of incredibly queer Arthur’s popping up in the ‘cycle’ (a story idea I think we’ve all encountered at this point) and a lot of the different strands of this story are very interesting. I liked the Lancelot/Arthur/Guinevere exploration in this book, I thought that Merlin looking into his own curse was a great plot point – I didn’t even mind the time travel which I thought would annoy the heck out of me, actually it kind of works with everything this book was trying to do.
But oh boy was this book trying to do a lot.
That was my biggest takeaway in pretty much every facet of this story – why was this a duology? There was so much ground to cover, so many different aspects to take in, a whole host of characters who deserved their own storylines – the fact that this book crammed all of that in made everything feel rushed – there was no space to develop the writing from book one because the whole book is spent desperately trying to fit in the fifteen different storylines and ideas. On their own, each of them could make for a fascinating book that really delves into the representation of various identities – but all put together it just didn’t work for me.
This played out most significantly towards the ending, which felt like the big ending of a trilogy had been squeezed into twenty pages – it was frustrating and more than that it just felt odd!
I think it’s worth noting, for those that don’t enjoy reading such things, that this book has a pregnancy plotline – for me it’s not that I can’t read pregnancy plotlines I just find it alienates me from characters (being pregnant is not a personal aspiration). Some may quite like this storyline, some might find aspects of it difficult – I just think it’s worth mentioning that it is there.
Overall, I wanted to love this book, and I think if it had been three (or even four) books following the story from different perspectives I would have done, but this book has no space to breathe which just leads to it falling a little flat.
I don’t want to diminish the work the authors have done in bringing a book that celebrates so many different identities into the world – I think it’s admirable and the representation was wonderful – I just wanted more from the execution of these books. I’ll look forward to seeing what comes next now this duology is at a close.
My rating: 3/5 stars
I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Sword in the Stars is out April 7th!
What say you? What are your thoughts on this duology? Let me know in the comments below!