Review: “Children of the Knight” by Michael J. Bowler

children-of-the-knightTitle: “Children of the Knight.”

Series: The Knight Cycle (Book I)

Author: Michael J. Bowler

Genre: Urban Fantasy (Young Adult)

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 344 pages

 

Blurb:

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 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. 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 the 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.

Review

Once in a while, a gem of a book comes along that somehow got by everyone, and that’s definitely the case with Children of the Knight by award winning author, Michael J. Bowler. Children of the Knight is a gritty urban fantasy for young and old readers alike. The novel’s main fantasy element involves Merlin magically bringing a bemused King Arthur to modern day Los Angeles for a new mission—save the thousands of neglected and outcast children of that fallen city. Los Angeles, of course, could just as well be any city in America, the context serving as a symbol for modern Western civilization and how it treats the “least of thee.” But choosing LA was an intriguing and clever metaphor for Medieval England, where warring tribes once brought chaos to the old world, just as ruthless gangs infest and destroy LA today. How does one resolve this problem? The solution can only be found in how the legendary King Arthur solved it back then. A light is needed to show people the way, and King Arthur serves that function as he is tasked with convincing gangs of children and other outcasts to unite and fight a much larger enemy.

And it is through these children that the true heart of the novel is revealed. Filled with wonderfully likeable and realistic characters, all of whom have some kind of “flaw” that makes them unwanted, these societal rejects manage to do what adults never could—put their differences aside, accept each other, and in the process, unite for a greater cause.

In a novel that realistically and sometimes uncomfortably displays societal failures like run-away drug abuse, child molestation, indifferent adults, contempt for gays and lesbians, economic injustice, dispirited teachers and cops, and corrupt politicians, the novel threatens to overwhelm the reader with a sense of fatalism. But Bowler manages to instill a sense of empowerment instead and hope is the books ultimate tone. This optimism shines through when these rejects come to accept the challenge laid down by King Arthur and decide to join his quest.

Bowler himself has dedicated his life to helping such outcasts, and his novel is a constant reminder that no child deserves to be written off. This book (and series) deserves to get a lot more attention than it has, and I hope it catches on. Kids need to know the central message of this book—that they aren’t failures unless they internalize and perpetuate the flawed society they inherited.  It is society, after all, that has failed to provide these kids with a vision of love, acceptance, and hope.

It’s probably unfair to put the responsibility for changing society onto a bunch of children, something that adults, with all their knowledge, education, and power, have failed to do. But alas, the dream lives on only in those still capable of dreaming. Or as Bowler puts it so beautifully in his book: “Once upon a time in the City of Angels, the children did lead, and the people hope.” And the veiled message of this book, in my opinion, isn’t really to get kids to rise up and change the world. Rather it’s to shame adults for not having already done that.

Children of the Knight is Book 1 of a five part series. I can’t wait to check out the others.

Jay Jordan Hawke is the award winning author of the Two-Spirit Chronicles, which includes: Pukawiss the Outcast, A Scout is Brave, and Onwaachige the Dreamer. He is an avid sci-fi fan. His first love was Star Wars, but alas, he married Star Trek. Learn more about Jay Hawke at www.jayjordanhawke.com.

Harmony Ink Press–LGBTQ+ Young Adult Fiction.

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