It has come to my attention that it is Friday and I have accomplished exactly zero of the things I set out to do this week.
Did I sleep a lot? Yes, yes I did. Did I do anything that could even be percieved as productive even if you squint really hard? Nope. Not at all. Which I’m confident I’ll come to regret that in the coming weeks, but for now I’m going to bask in my own laziness from break and not think about it … too much.
*Biggest thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with an eARC to read and review honestly*
Book: So This is Ever After
Author: F.T. Lukens
Expected publication: March 29th 2022 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
violence, gore, decapitation, blood
Arek hadn’t thought much about what would happen after he completed the prophecy that said he was destined to save the Kingdom of Ere from its evil ruler. So now that he’s finally managed to (somewhat clumsily) behead the evil king (turns out magical swords yanked from bogs don’t come pre-sharpened), he and his rag-tag group of quest companions are at a bit of a loss for what to do next.
As a temporary safeguard, Arek’s best friend and mage, Matt, convinces him to assume the throne until the true heir can be rescued from her tower. Except that she’s dead. Now Arek is stuck as king, a role that comes with a magical catch: choose a spouse by your eighteenth birthday, or wither away into nothing.
With his eighteenth birthday only three months away, and only Matt in on the secret, Arek embarks on a desperate bid to find a spouse to save his life—starting with his quest companions. But his attempts at wooing his friends go painfully and hilariously wrong…until he discovers that love might have been in front of him all along. (from Goodreads)
It all starts with a beheading.
A solid slice and dice moment with the sword, and yep, the quest is over. Woo!! Saving the realm and all that jazz. That seems like the cue for the “and they lived happily ever after,” right? Wellll not so much. Things don’t exactly end there, especially after Arek puts the crown on his head to declare himself temporarily the king — as a joke, of course — only to discover he magically bound himself to the position until he dies.
Huh. So *This* Is Ever After, then?
This book is unexpectedly bold in the best way possible. It is definitely a bit weird, it never takes itself too seriously, but it manages to be everything it claims (as per the legally binding claims that are the synopsis) to be and more. As I’m sure you picked up based on my dramatics above, the book picks up after the quest, after the prophecy, and after your typical YA plotline shenanigans. Which is a choice. A fabulous choice.
Because the story starts where it does, you end up with pre-established relationships and history that feels so familiar already, allowing the story to just go. There’s no sitting around waiting for bucketfuls of infodumping or worldbuilding to fall into your lap, instead the story starts with a bang and it never slows down for a minute.
Also helping with the fast pace is the light writing and humor harnessed throughout the book. There’s personality, style, and, dare I say, zazz in every single line. F.T. Lukens manages to take everything that I personally love about contemporary writing and incorporate it into a quirky romantic fantasy that is just so. much. fun.
And yes, I would definitely categorize this one more as a romantic fantasy than just plain ole fantasy because the plot is very centered around romance. Even still, that’s not to say that there is no magic or sword fighting with a giant octopus along the way. There’s a healthy mix of both adventure and romance that works so seamlessly.
Even with romance at the helm of this one, it never feels overtly slow or winding. That might also be due to the whole oops-you-fade-into-dust-if-you-don’t-bind-souls-or-whatever thing going on as well. Turns out, the everlooming promise of death sure does keep the plot a’ moving. The whole death thing acts as one of the driving factors throughout the book, so while there are lots of fun romantic antics, they never feel slow or without purpose or stakes.
Okey doke, it is officially time to talk about the romance itself. Seriously, I wouldn’t be doing this review justice if I didn’t talk about the romance. First up, there is so much mutual pining going on it makes me physically want to throw something. In a good way. Of course, with this mutual pining comes oh-so-much mutual obliviousness that makes you wanna take both the characters, shake them and scream at them, “We know you like each other. Just talk about your feelings, you giant idiots.”
Ah yes, this is friends-to-lovers romance at its finest. Oh! And did I mention there is banter? Yep. There is lots of that as well.
The fun banter and dynamics between characters isn’t solely concentrated on romance, no, it exists between the whole group of characters. From the get-go it is established that this sorta ragtag group of questers had really grown to care about each other throughout their journey. As the book progresses, we see each of the characters get their moment of development, which honestly is quite the feat given that we only get one perspective throughout the entirety of the book. The entire group is fun and a bit weird, but it makes for the perfect found family.
I literally do not have any complaints about this novel. So This Is Ever After is weird and fun and I liked reading it. It contains so many fun romance tropes, lots of casual queer repersentation, and a take on Aurthurian legend that you most certainly haven’t seen before. It is a great story that accomplishes everything it set out to do, but above all it is just a blast to read.
Are you a fan of retellings of Arthurian legend? What are some of your favorite twists? Are you planning on reading this one??