Monday, January 6, 2014

Michael J. Bowler - Children of the Knight - Review and Giveaway

About the Book

According to legend, King Arthur is supposed to return when Britain needs him most. So why does a man claiming to be the once and future king suddenly appear in modern-day Los Angeles?

This charismatic young Arthur creates a new Camelot within the City of Angels to lead a crusade of unwanted kids against an adult society that discards and ignores them. Under his banner of equality, every needy child is welcome, regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, or gang affiliation.

With the help of his amazing First Knight, homeless fourteen-year-old Lance, Arthur transforms this ragtag band of rejected children and teens into a well-trained army—the Children of the Knight––where even gay boys and gangsters work side by side. Through his intervention, they win the hearts and minds of the populace at large, and gain a truer understanding of themselves and their worth to society. But seeking more rights for kids pits Arthur and his children squarely against the rich, the influential, and the self-satisfied politicians who want nothing more than to maintain the status quo.

Can right truly overcome might? Arthur’s hopeful young knights are about to find out, and the City of Angels will never be the same.

The Knight Cycle begins . . .

My Review

Memorable, heartbreaking, endearing - the cast of characters in this modern day retelling of the King Arthur legend brings a twenty-first century consciousness to a classic stalwart of the Western literary canon. King Arthur is back fighting drug dealers and urban blight with a new and improved Round Table of worthy knights in training. This time around Arthur surrounds himself with an assortment of troubled California teens plucked from the seedy streets around Hollywood and Vine. They're a multi-cultural lot - white, black, Latino, Asian. They encompass all sexual orientations - gay, straight, bi. They include both genders - male, female. Arthur embraces America's melting pot, and he doesn't discriminate. His main focus is to ensure the human rights of a neglected population of children, no matter what they look like or who they choose to love. The book is gritty and real, but has the courage to imagine such a lofty ideal where might equals right, and these characters represent the hope of achieving such a glorious ambition, even if for now it's confined to the page.

Arthur. He's naive, but in the best sense. He puts his heart and soul into the crusade of helping these children take back their lives and save themselves from a corrupt system that doesn't care about them. But at times, he gets too caught up in the mission, placing the welfare of the many above the needs of the one. He doesn't show any of his charges special treatment in order not to show any favoritism, but that turns out to be a fatal mistake. He leads the children on a quest to clean up their city, but they need more guidance than he's sometimes able to provide. He's clueless about a lot of things and not just cell phones and television cameras.

Lance. He's an extraordinarily beautiful Latino boy - picture Ricky Martin in his Menudo days. Raped by his foster father at a young age, he's sexually confused. He doesn't know if he's attracted to boys or girls or both. These conflicting feelings make him question his worthiness. He doesn't think he's good enough to be loved, even though he has the purest heart of the bunch. His inferiority complex runs deep. So much goes unsaid in his relationships with Arthur and the other knights, until nearly the very end. He's a reluctant leader, but he becomes a dependable, solid presence in the midst of the oncoming political storm. He's a pretty rad skateboarder too.

Mark. He's a delicate junkie whose blue eyes are as unending as the sea. His parents kicked him out when they found out he was gay and never looked back. He's forced to survive on the street, selling his body to older men until Arthur gives him another option. Due to this unexpected kindness, he develops unrequited feelings for the king that lead to a catastrophic misunderstanding.

Jack. He's the black musclebound quarterback who was outed and disgraced. He's watched over Mark, falling in love with him at first sight. But when the attraction isn't reciprocated, he's left to wallow in despair and anger until he's thrown into Lance's path. It sets up an uncomfortable love triangle where admitting the truth is avoided at all costs.

Reyna. She's the phenomenal archer of the group, modeling herself after Katniss Everdeen in the HUNGER GAMES. She's one of the few girls, serving as a knight. She also comes from a wealthy family, but instead of it being a plus, she's virtually ignored and paid off to be seen and not heard by her callous parents. She's just as lonely and abandoned as the kids Arthur picks up off the street.

Esteban. The Latino hustler is one of the key players in the drug running in his barrio. By turning him, King Arthur scores a major victory in drawing gang members to his side. He falls hard for Reyna's beauty and no nonsense attitude, but has to adjust to taking orders from a pretty boy like Lance. He only backs down after Lance bests him physically during a sword fight.

Jenny. She is Lance's high school English teacher who doesn't know if she loves the kids she teaches anymore. She's at a critical tipping point when she meets Arthur. He challenges her to rediscover her true passion for her calling while at the same time kindling a fire between them. She doesn't necessarily approve of Arthur yanking her students out of school to go on their charitable endeavors, but eventually realizes that he's teaching them more worthwhile lessons than the rigid lesson plans she's forced to comply with.

And these are just a few of the standout characters in a novel that's chock full of them. As a reader, it's hard not to care about these kids. Author Michael J. Bowler has an extensive background in reaching out to troubled youth, both inside and outside of prison. His personal experiences no doubt enrich his storytelling abilities, peopling his novel with characters that make an impression. His talent for making the reader care about children that are marginalized and forgotten is to be commended, and might even foster some positive action in communities across the country, hopefully fostering the new Camelot he envisions.


Children of the Knight can be purchased at:

Prices/Formats: $6.99 ebook, $17.99 paperback
Pages: 344
ISBN: 9781623806552
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Release: June 20, 2013
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

About the Author

Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author of three novels - A Boy and His Dragon, A Matter of Time, and Children of the Knight - who grew up in San Rafael, California.

He majored in English and Theatre at Santa Clara University and earned a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and another master's in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills.

He partnered with two friends as producer, writer, and/or director on several ultra-low-budget horror films, including “Fatal Images,” “Club Dead,” and “Things II,” the reviews of which are much more fun than the actual movies.

He taught high school in Hawthorne, California for twenty-five years, both in general education and to students with learning disabilities, in subjects ranging from English and Strength Training to Algebra, Biology, and Yearbook.

He has also been a volunteer Big Brother to seven different boys with the Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters program and a thirty-year volunteer within the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles. He is a passionate advocate for the fair treatment of children and teens in California, something that is sorely lacking in this state. He has been honored as Probation Volunteer of the Year, YMCA Volunteer of the Year, California Big Brother of the Year, and 2000 National Big Brother of the Year. The “National” honor allowed he and three of his Little Brothers to visit the White House and meet the president in the Oval Office.

He has already completed the two continuations of Children of the Knight that complete the trilogy - Running Through A Dark Place & And The Children Shall Lead. Both will likely be released in 2014.

Links to connect with Michael:
Web Site
Blog Tour Site

About the Giveaway

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  1. Connie, thanks for the review! Glad you enjoyed it :)

  2. Thanks, Connie, for your heartfelt and humbling review. You're very kind. I did find it curious that you saw Jack as African-American when in fact he's a Caucasian kid from Idaho. I suppose anyone else who saw him that way will be surprised when his white parents turn up in the sequel. He was adopted, but he did come from Idaho. Ha! Thanks again so much! Oh, and Happy New Year.

    1. Oops! Sorry, Michael! I kept seeing him as an African American boy in my mind!

    2. That's okay. He is one of only three Caucasian kids in the story, but other readers have told me they pictured him as black. Must be the football thing. :)