Thursday, October 30, 2014

Michael J. Bowler - And The Children Shall Lead - Review & Giveaway

About the Book

The campaign to save California’s children was only the beginning. Now King Arthur and his Round Table of teenaged knights set their sights on fixing something even bigger – the entire country. How? By targeting America’s most sacred document – The Constitution.

Native American teens Kai and Dakota, despite harboring secrets of their own, join the team, and swear undying loyalty to Lance. They carry the hope of their people that the crusade will better the lives of Indian children, who are the most neglected by government. This new campaign will take the young people to The White House, the halls of Congress, and beyond in their quest to change the prevailing opinion that children are property, rather than human beings in their own right.

But an unseen nemesis stalks Lance and Arthur, and ratchets up the attacks on New Camelot, promising to kill them and destroy all that the king has put in place. Lance, Ricky, Kai, and Dakota become the enemy’s favorite targets, and barely escape with their lives on more than one occasion. Who is this mysterious stalker, and what is the motive for these attacks? Lance has no idea, especially since he’s never intentionally hurt anyone.

“You were right, little boy, death is coming for you, but slowly, and only after it takes out the people you love.” That chilling promise haunts Lance, but also strengthens his determination to protect the people he loves at all costs. Or die trying.

The Knight Cycle Continues…

My Review

There's something to be said about a continuing series with a revolving cast of characters.

It never gets old.

It always stays fresh.

That's what makes Michael J. Bowler's THE KNIGHT CYCLE—an anthology of five, full length, YA novels—something truly special.

As a modern day version of King Arthur's Round Table, teenage knights come and go—literally live and die—but the heart of the story remains the same. The saga revolves around the plight of Lance and his journey into adulthood, but it's so much more than that. It's about the people he meets along the way, and how they shape his perspective on what it means to lead such a diverse group of individuals.

This time around, Lance is introduced to two Native American boys, Dakota and Kai, when they crash New Camelot's Thanksgiving dinner. They turn up unexpectedly after leaving the reservation determined to let Lance know how their rights are being violated, hoping he can help them put an end to the rampant pattern of abuse afflicting their people. Children are being taken away by the government and sold to white families. Non-native adults are committing heinous criminal acts against native children, but under current law are unable to be prosecuted under their jurisdiction. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, without even bringing into question the lack of internet access to the outside world, the flagrant alcoholism pandemic to Native culture and the lack of opportunities available to young men like Dakota and Kai once they reach the age of eighteen.

And the two new recruits couldn't be more different, personality wise.

Dakota is dubbed 'Sir Cloudy Boy' because of his recalcitrant attitude. He doesn't talk much and he often keeps to himself. He's harboring a lot of guilt for the mistakes he made in his past which caused him to become estranged from his mother. He wants above all else to be known as a warrior, someone who's dependable and strong, but he's going through quite an identity crisis in terms of the person he is on the inside versus the image he's trying to project to the outside world. He doesn't think the two match up and it's causing him a lot of grief because he can find no peace due to the inner turmoil raging inside of him.

Kai is affectionally knighted as 'Sir Laughs A Lot' because of his sunny, lighthearted disposition. He's the raging optimist to Dakota's gloomy pessimist. But he's not simply a one-dimensional contrast to Dakota's more developed backstory, he's the shining example of a boy with a healthy, positive self-image. He's okay with himself, and he's not afraid to show it. While Dakota grapples with his identity as a man, Kai does not come across nearly as tortured. He comes of age with grace and dignity without making it into the painful, agonizing process that Dakota puts himself through.

In a way, they're echoes of Lance and Ricky, the emo boy versus the tenderhearted guy. Lance battles his problem with alcohol addiction, as does Dakota, whenever they're in danger of reliving past trauma. Ricky and Kai play more of a supporting role to these troubled youth, but only because they've faced the same demons themselves and have come out better and stronger on the other side. They teach Lance and Dakota that love can light their way out of the darkness too. They don't have to let their pasts define them.

Bowler does a commendable job of weaving these new faces into his ongoing narrative thread. He's not a fan of labels but he broadens the scope of his story by branching out to all different races and nationalities, encompassing everybody as the story goes on. All ethnic groups, ages and genders are represented from Latinos (Lance, Ricky and Esteban) to Native Americans (Dakota and Kai) to African Americans (Justin and Brooks) to Asians (Techie) to Caucasians (Chris) to women (Reyna and Jenny) to middle age and older (Arthur and Merlin). Bowler leaves no one out. Anyone who picks up this series will be able to relate to one or more of the characters. They're all human, and they all make mistakes, but they do so together, as a unit, as a family, and that's what makes Bowler's take on adolescent angst stand out from all the rest—it's inclusive. Everyone's welcome at the Round Table.


And The Children Shall Lead can be purchased at:
Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Prices/Formats: $4.99 ebook, $14.95 paperback
Pages: 302
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Release: September 25, 2014
Publisher: self-published
ISBN: 9780990306368
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

About the Author

Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author of seven novels––A Boy and His Dragon, A Matter of Time (Silver Medalist from Reader’s Favorite), and The Knight Cycle, comprised of five books: Children of the Knight (Gold Award Winner in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards), Running Through A Dark Place, There Is No Fear, And The Children Shall Lead, and Once Upon A Time In America.

His horror screenplay, “Healer,” was a Semi-Finalist, and his urban fantasy script, “Like A Hero,” was a Finalist in the Shriekfest Film Festival and Screenplay Competition.

He grew up in San Rafael, California, and majored in English and Theatre at Santa Clara University. He went on to earn 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 eight 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 is currently at work on a horror/suspense novel based on his screenplay, “Healer.”

Links to connect with Michael:
Web Site
Blog Tour Site

About the Giveaway

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  1. Wow, thanks so much, Nicole, for another amazing review! You're awesome!

    1. You're more than welcome, Michael! I can't wait for the last book because I know you're gonna bring it home big time :)

  2. Extremely important topic about which to write a book. Thanks for covering this.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you get a chance to read Michael's series!