Book Review | The Once and Future Queen: Secrets of the Starcrossed by Clara O’Connor

About the Book

In a world where the Roman Empire never fell, two starcrossed lovers fight to ignite the spark of rebellion…

Londinium, the last stronghold of the Romans left in Britannia, remains in a delicate state of peace with the ancient kingdoms that surround it. As the only daughter of a powerful merchant, Cassandra is betrothed to Marcus, the most eligible bachelor in the city.

But then she meets Devyn, the boy with the strange midnight eyes searching for a girl with magic in her blood.

A boy who will make her believe in soulmates…

When a mysterious sickness starts to leech the life from citizens with Celtic power lying dormant in their veins, the imperial council sets their schemes in motion. And so Cassandra must make a choice: the Code or Chaos, science or sorcery, Marcus or Devyn?

Goodreads’ Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Imagine the Roman Empire never fell – now, imagine how different the world would be today if it hadn’t. You can explore that unimaginable world in Clara O’Connor’s book The Once and Future Queen: Secrets of the Star Crossed.

What I Liked

I not only liked but truly loved the world-building in this story. It is my favorite part of the book as a whole. I found the concept to be intriguing and the creation well-thought-out and detailed. I could never imagine the complexities of a society that existed as long as this one would have. How it would have grown and changed over time.

I also think the premise is original and compelling. Even the title brings to mind such wonders as Arthurian legend, not to mention Greek and Roman mythology. The Roman society in the novel is corrupt and, perhaps, even cruel, and that is in keeping with how it once was as well.
The Briton society is enigmatic and full of wonder and magic. And, together, they have the makings of the rich and vibrant story to be told.

I liked that it ended in a cliffhanger, and I have never said those words before. I generally do not like cliff hangers, but I thought it worked for this story. It made me want to find out what happened next, even though I have some concerns about theme development and the story’s overall tone.

Lastly, I enjoyed the magic component. As a reader, one of my favorite aspects of fantasy stories is the inclusion of magic and how it is imagined. In this regard, The Once and Future Queen did not disappoint. The Roman’s reaction to magic is very telling and so crucial to the plot as a whole.

What I Wish

There are some areas that I wish had been different, though. The first thing that was problematic for me was the tone. It took me a while to figure out what was hitting me the wrong way, but finally, I realized. The tone is too light and even social. There are so many bad things going on, but the tone doesn’t reflect that. As a reader, I always felt up on the surface when I should have felt down underneath with the issue’s enormity.

The central theme that should go throughout the whole trilogy needed to be incorporated into the story better. The story is told in the first person from Cassandra’s perspective. Dev did not want to share with Cassandra who he thought she was and why that is important. And, since the story is in the first person through Cassandra’s point of view, I, like Cassandra, didn’t understand why it is essential to get her back to Briton and what will happen if he doesn’t. This impacted my reading of the story immensely. Other themes are handled very well, like family, destiny, marriage, to name a few, but I never knew why this story is so important, and I needed to understand why this story is essential and what’s at stake.

To Read or Not to Read

If you are looking for a fantasy story set in a creative and new world, this is a story that will whet your appetite for more.

6 Replies to “Book Review | The Once and Future Queen: Secrets of the Starcrossed by Clara O’Connor”

  1. It’s interesting that you didn’t mind it ending on a cliff-hanger. Like you, I’m sometimes okay with that, especially if I read the author regularly, but most times I want a wrap.
    I like the nod to Arthurian Legend in this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m wondering if it’s more than a nod and it will be revealed in one of the two remaining books. Calling it The Once and Future Queen is definitely reminiscent of The Once and Future King 🧐

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I get what you mean about the tone. Years ago, I read a book set in a world where Hitler never died, but I wound up DNFing it. Something just didn’t sit right. The Roman Empire not falling is an interesting premise – lots of research. Great review, Tessa!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And the author definitely did her research! The world building is so detailed and fascinating. I didn’t even realize how much I notice or am impacted by tone until this book. But definitely important ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

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