Book Title: So This Is Ever After
Author: F.T. Lukens
Release Date: March 29th, 2022
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBTQ+, Retellings, Romance
My rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Carry On meets Arthurian legend in this funny, subversive young adult fantasy about what happens after the chosen one wins the kingdom and has to get married to keep it…and to stay alive.
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.
As soon as I saw So This Is Ever After, I knew that I had to read it. The book was marketed as “Carry On meets Arthurian legend,” and if there’s one book people can name drop that will get me to read something, it’s Carry On. I will say, because of that comparison, I kind of assumed this would be an enemies to lovers story. I even read the synopsis, but clearly I wasn’t paying much attention, because that should have dissuaded that notion. However! I was so excited to find out that this was not an enemies to lovers but a friends to lovers story! If there’s one thing I enjoy more than the former trope, it’s the latter. I know that’s probably an unpopular opinion, but that’s how it is for me. So, imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that Arek had been secretly pining over Matt for a long time. And it was so obvious (to everyone but Arek that is) that Matt returned his feelings. I was sold instantly.
From the very beginning, it was clear that this group of characters was super chaotic (in the best way possible). We have Arek, “The Chosen One,” who’s kind of oblivious, a bit of a mess, but totally loveable. He adores his friends and would do anything for them. Then we have Matt, Arek’s best friend and the mage; Lila, the rogue who’s very clever, but you should also watch your pockets when she’s around or else she’ll steal your things; Bethany, the bard who is the only reason the group was able to get out of many of the messes they created; Sionna, the warrior who while she seemed stoic at times, could be really funny and sweet, but could also cut you down if need be; and then there’s Rion, the sarcastic and witty knight. This story would not have worked if it wasn’t for these characters, because while it is a love story between Arek and Matt, it’s also a story of friends and found family, of characters who are hurting, but work together to heal each other.
Throughout the course of the story, Arek must find someone to soul bond to, or else he’ll wither away despite having finally completed his prophecy. Because of this, he plans to try to woo all of his friends, and it was absolutely hysterical. Even though Matt was assisting him, nothing ever went right. If Arek tried to woo Sionna by trapping the two of them into a tower together to talk things out, he somehow ended up smacking his head and getting trapped with Matt. The universe was so clearly pointing Arek towards Matt and Matt towards Arek, but they were both so unaware of this that it was kind of painful at times. This was definitely what I would consider a slow burn, but it was done so well. Usually I prefer for the romantic leads to get together sooner, but this one didn’t feel unnecessarily drawn out. Arek and Matt’s hesitance felt authentic, and it made sense to me that neither would be willing to risk their friendship for only the possibility of more.
Additionally, I cannot praise the world-building and plot development enough. In terms of setting and world, it was actually rather simple, but I preferred that over a super complex world that would have taken chapters and chapters of set up, when that wasn’t even necessary here. Because this book wasn’t trying to be a high fantasy, and was just having some fun, it made sense for the world to be more simplistic. Still, there were enough details for me to grasp how the world functioned and what each person’s role was, and I really appreciated this. There were no needless paragraphs of info-dumps that would have me falling asleep. Instead, the pace was quick, fun, and fit the theme of the book so well. The plot was also great. I was a little worried in the beginning because I wasn’t sure how it was going to be drawn out over a whole book, but I shouldn’t have been nervous, because the way the events unfolded was spectacular and engaging.
If I had to find one thing about this book to complain about, it would have been the lack of a prologue describing their quest to fulfill the prophecy. As it happens, So This is Ever After opens right as Arek is gearing up to finish his adventure, and the rest of the book follows Arek and friends as they try to navigate this new and uncertain world without a prophecy to guide them any longer. There were a few mentions to the quest here and there throughout the story, but I would’ve liked just a little bit more. It sounded like it would have been so much fun to read about, so even if we’d gotten a really watered-down version in a prologue, I would’ve appreciated that. Still, this didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book. I was wary it would in the beginning, because so many characters already had an established relationship with Arek, and I was uncertain I’d be able to keep them all straight, but because each character had such a unique and sparkling personality, it was much easier to remember all of them than I thought it would be.
This book was just so much fun! It’s everything I love reading about in stories, and the cast of loveable and memorable characters really added to it. I devoured this book as quickly as I could. Every minute of my free time was spent reading So This Is Ever After because I was so desperate to learn how it ended. I’m so glad I picked this one up. In Deeper Waters, FT Luken’s first book, was not my favorite, but after reading the synopsis for this one and seeing that stunning cover, I knew I had to give it a chance, and I am so grateful I did.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest opinion!
Check out my last ARC Review: The Chosen One