Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

Once and Future

Author: Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy
Series: Once and Future duology #1
Reviewer: Renee


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.

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This inclusive retelling of King Arthur is sassy, entertaining, funny, stressful, exciting, heartbreaking, and really all the feelings. I loved Ari from the beginning. The other characters were hit or miss for me. It’s a little hard to keep track of everybody since several characters are introduced early on and Merlin tries to associate them with their original Arthur personality (e.g., Lancelot but nobody in the group is named Lancelot). The characters stick together for most of the story so you do get to know them all better eventually.

The internal and external conflicts keep the action going so it was difficult to put this book down. The characters always seem to under some sort of threat so it keeps the plot moving along.

I enjoyed how Ari’s story unfolded. She doesn’t recall her past and you gradually learn it throughout the book with her. I love how she does what she feels is right and she’ll do whatever it takes to protect the people she cares about, even if it means sacrificing herself or something she cares about.

I wish Ari and Kay’s mothers had more of an active role. They seemed to only be present as a means of motivation for Kay and Ari, or to keep them in check. They are there and not there at the same time.

Overall, I loved this book and can’t wait for the conclusion in The Sword in the Stars in 2020.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale

Author: Katherine Arden
Series: Winternight Trilogy #1
Reviewer: Inopinion


This book is the first in a series centered around a girl in a Russian family. This book starts just prior to her birth and continues to her later adolescence. During this time perior, there is a shift in the village away from traditional beliefs that include sprites and demons to the orthodox teachings of the Russian church. Vasya and her step-mother both possess the abliity to see the old spirits. To one, it’s a comfort, to the other a sign of madness. Vasya is brought into conflict with her step-mother, the priest, and the spirit world as the old ways are abandoned and the natural balance is upset. Throw in a supernatural sibling rivalry, and you have a collision of worlds centered in the rural Russian forest.

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Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

I want to start with a recognition: many people like this book and go on to love the series. Every reader has at least one type of book that just falls short of their preferences and becomes a chore to read. This is one of those books for me. So, I will focus on the areas that made this a difficult read for me in hopes that others that feel the same may make a more informed choice.

Issue one: What’s the point?

I cannot stress how much detail is stuffed in this book. From the scenery, to the characters, the court, and the folklore, there is so much to get through. Unfortunately, most of that detail seems to be setup for book two because a lot of it has no bearing on anything in book one. The further I read, the more it became apparent that I was storing away details like a squirrel for a winter many months away.

Issue two: So much talk, but where’s the action?

Aside from a couple scenes in the later part of the book, there isn’t a lot of actual physical action that takes place. This book is mostly about making character connections whether that’s between the human characters or the humans and the spirit world. This requires a lot of conversation and observations, but not much action. I think there were opportunities where the same goal could have been achieved but in less of a stagnant, shut-in sort of way.

Issue three: What’s her name again?

Russian is a supremely confusing language, at least if I use this book as my guide. Every character has several variations of their names used by varying members of their families. It does make it difficult to understand if they’re being patronizing, kind, or formal without an explanation. And, it’s just not easy to keep track of all the characters, at least it wasn’t for me.

But what about the story?

Removed from the chore of actually reading the book, I can see the story for what it is and even appreciate the layers and nuance that the author provides. I will give the story it’s due: the ending finally pushed the pace from crawl to sprint. The ground covered in the last few chapters was immensely entertaining and engaging. And I greatly appreciated the ending of this portion of the story as a great set up for a far-reaching and epic adventure. I just don’t think I’ll be following along, at least not any time soon.

Appeal: This book would appeal to YA readers who are fans of darker themes and intricate character relationships. If you liked other fairytale retellings like the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyers, or Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, then you may also like this series for the incorporation of folklore. For adult fantasy readers, think more along the lines of The Night Circus than The Way of Kings. These comparisons are not made to say this book is similar, just that it may carry some of the same appealing qualities.

Books in this series

A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

A Curse so Dark and Lonely

Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Series: Cursebreakers #1
Reviewer: Marlou


Fall in love, break the curse.

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Fall in love, break the curse.

We’ve got ourselves a main character with cerebral palsy! We’ve got ourselves a cursed prince! We’ve got ourselves some good banter! And last but not least we’ve got ourselves a relationship that actually builds up properly! YAY!

Okay fangirling aside, this book was lovely. The only reason I gave it four stars is because it’s not my kind of book. This year I’ve been reading some retellings and I’ve noticed that I never give more than 4 stars for them simply because I don’t like to know the ending before I even begin with the book.

A Curse so Dark and Lonely is a spectacular Beauty and the Beast retelling (way better than ACOTAR if you’d judge that book as a retelling, which I didn’t so you’ll find a higher rating for ACOTAR, don’t judge me 🙂 ). I started the book not knowing how many pages it was. I received the e-arc from Netgalley and read this book because I’d been putting off the books I got from Netgalley which isn’t fair. Finding out that this book is 500 or so pages was hilarious. It did not feel like 500 pages at all. I flew through the pages of this book so that means the writing was excellent!

Harper is freaking amazing. Bluffing her way through Emberfall and impressing everyone who meets her. Gosh, I love her.

Rhen is so great, too. I thought he was way too manipulative at first, but now I quite like him.

Scary Grey was a nice addition as well. Loyal to a fault, yet also not afraid to have his own opinion, do things his own way.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.