I always wondered if I would ever be able to find an entertaining LGBTQ+ story that would immerse me into a land of swords, magic and prophecies. Lo and behold, the young adult fantasy novel So This is Ever After by F.T. Lukens has arrived to fill the void. Lukens has also written The Rules and Regulations For Mediating Myths & Magic, which has won awards like 2017 IPBA Benjamin Franklin Gold Award and the 2017 Bisexual Book Award for Speculative Fiction. In So This is Ever After, as well as in their other works, Lukens pens unconventional tales of might, magic, and sarcasm that are sure to entertain you.
Arek is the kingdom’s chosen savior, the one who will end the tyranny of the evil king Barthly. A wizard of questionable origins has gifted Arek with a scroll detailing a weighty prophecy that Arek, along with a band of allies, would one day save the kingdom. With his best friend Matt, who just happens to be the Mage listed within the prophecy, they set out on a quest to find the allies that have been foretold within the scroll and finally save the kingdom. Here’s where this story is different from all other “chosen one” stories, So This is Ever After actually begins with Arek and his band of allies storming the castle and ungracefully lobbing the head off the evil king. What you believe is the whole story, is actually just the beginning.
The real story begins after the kingdom has been saved, when Arek places the crown of the defeated evil king upon his own head and assumes the role of King. Arek finds himself at the mercy of ancient magic laws that forcefully bind his fate, and his very life, to the throne. As king,he wants to begin his reign with an era of peace. But soon, Arek finds saving the kingdom was a lot easier than ruling one. Governing a whole kingdom is pretty difficult, and something a young man from a tiny village knows nothing about. Further complicating matters for him, the magic laws that tie him to the throne have a startling requirement: Arek must find himself someone to marry or “soulbond” with.
The characters in So This is Ever After are the real gem of the story. Arek is definitely a bit of an ass, but an endearing ass. Matt on the other hand, is a snarky mage and quick to throw a few quips Arek’s way. His band of allies who are now more family than allies forced together through prophetic fate decide to stay by Arek’s side. Sionna, a level-headed warrior, is the group’s voice of reason. Rion is the straight-as-an-arrow knight who may be too kind for Arek’s group of misfits. Lila is the fae rogue with a habit of making things go missing. Lastly, we have Bethany, the charming bard who is able to stand on equal ground with Matt’s snark. This rag-tag group of friends are capable of drawing you in with their banter and keep you further entertained with their shenanigans.
So This is Ever After reads more like a modern interpretation of other Arthurian-esque stories. The dialogue felt like a bunch of teens from 2022 sassing and joking around with each other and I thoroughly enjoyed that. Another important aspect was the inclusiveness; The story stayed away from coming-out tropes and coming to terms with gender and sexuality. It was refreshing to read a story where no one questioned someone’s identity. Arek’s pansexuality was never once in question and only ever addressed through Arek’s own thoughts and statements on how he found other characters attractive.
Lukens does a phenomenal job creating an engaging and hilarious group of characters that were able to stand on their own with such a wide cast. If you are a fan of will-they-won’t-they romances and looking for an inclusive cast of characters you’ll want to read So This is Ever After.
So This is Ever After by F.T. Lukens is published by Margaret K. Elderberry Books and is available for purchase now at your local independent bookstore or wherever fine books are sold.