Sword in the Stars by Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy
Rock the Boat, 2020. ISBN: 9781786077011.
(Age: 16+) Recommended. Although I have come to this sequel without having read Book 1 of the duology Once & Future, it is possible to pick up the threads of the story reasonably quickly. However, time-slipping back from future disasters and space-enabled power dramas, back into the world of Arthur and Merlin has its complications, especially as now Arthur is a woman (Ari), who is in a relationship with Gwen. Merlin has left behind his love interest from the future, and his magic must be used wisely to right some wrongs, but he is desperate to return to Val (also known as Percival). Time travel though must not unwrite the story and disturb the future too much, but it must give them the opportunity to return, restore and repair the rifts and despair that magic has woven into the future. The main characters, from Arthur to his Knights and his mage, are on the queer spectrum and so their return to the Middle Ages instantly creates social distress and conflict as they confront Binary gender expression and sexism from the Middle Ages, and yet they are all ready to fight for what they think is important and to remedy the magical cracks that have appeared in the future they have come from. There is excitement, magic, sword fights and adventure galore as Ari and Gwen confront Arthur and Old Merlin, and with young Merlin's help try to make a difference within the Myth of Arthur and his Knights.
This story is very different. Time travel would automatically make complications appear, but in combination with magic and a well-known myth set in a real period of history, the authors have skilfully made a captivating tale. The variations of gender, transgender or gender expression and gender pronouns do sometimes create some confusion for the reader, especially as characters may have more than one name as they transition from the future to the past or may have chosen a particular non-binary gender expression. I did sometimes need to re-read sentences to work out which character was referenced based on the gender pronoun used. (Ari was referred to as 'she' but was deemed to be a future representation of Arthur. This confusion may be a representation of the world of LGBTIQ and perhaps is only a problem for those of us who have a more binary background.) The story is exciting and twisted in plot, chronology and magical interpretations and teens who enjoy speculative fiction, mythology and gender-queer relationships will get a kick from this updated re-make of Arthurian legend.
Recommended for readers aged 16+ (Not recommended for younger readers.) Themes: LGBTIQ; Mythology - King Arthur and Merlin; Time travel; Magic; Learning from mistakes; Queer Romance.