Monday, December 8, 2014

Michael J. Bowler - Once Upon a Time in America - Review & Giveaway

About the Book

With Lance leading the way, the Knights of the Round Table have set out to convince the American people that amending the Constitution to protect children is right and just and long overdue. As the team travels from state to state, they are met with acceptance, indifference, and even hostility. But Lance’s popularity and mystique as The Boy Who Came Back, coupled with his innate charm, gradually sway more and more of the populace, not to mention state legislators, to their cause.

The journey becomes a rite of passage that propels the young people into adulthood, and solidifies Lance’s status as an iconic and influential figure.

But he’s uneasy. He knows Arthur is hiding something from him, something that will bring him great sadness. After The Excalibur Incident in Las Vegas, Lance becomes more and more certain that the future is one he won’t like, despite his stunning success at winning over some of the most intractable states.

Then comes the attack, sudden and brutal.

Now the Round Table is in disarray, and Lance must confront a cold-blooded killer who’s luring him into an obvious trap. But if he refuses the challenge, more loved ones will die, and everything he’s fought for will die with them. Surrounded by the diverse young knights who have become his family, Lance sets out to battle his enemy with the knowledge deep in his heart that only one of them will survive. Is this the end of the Round Table?

The Knight Cycle concludes…

My Review

Self absorption—the danger of living in a world full of Facebook status updates, Instagram selfies and tweet after tweet about me, myself and I.

Lance Pendragon knows a little something about that—being the most famous boy in the world and the adopted son of the legendary King Arthur—but he takes a different path. He doesn't use his notoriety to promote himself, instead he works to obtain social justice for others, seeking to give all American children their own Bill of Rights. However, he's not just about lobbying Congressmen or schmoozing with the President, Lance relishes mingling with the ordinary people he meets along the campaign trail from chain restaurants to hotel lobbies, passing out New Camelot stickers and bobbleheads to the eager, young fans who cross his path, inspiring them by the good example he sets.

Lance's popularity stems from the public latching on to him as the figurehead they're so desperately seeking in this day and age. Even his fellow knights look up to him, urging him to keep walking the straight and narrow, one of them begging him, "You're too good, Lance. I need you to stay that way. Please." Lance is the role model people are craving, a person they can genuinely admire. Yet their devotion requires that he "stay pure and unsullied…to be a hero." By taking up the mantle, Lance agrees to a sort of death to self when he responds to their plea of, "You're our king. There's no you anymore. There's only us."

Lance's purpose in life is no longer about individual accolades, it's about advancing the greater good. Author Michael J. Bowler makes an excellent case in comparing the knights' group effort toward bettering the community versus personal academic achievement. Bowler makes the argument that "[the knights] accomplished so much more than winning a scholarship because [their] deeds were aimed at helping others, not [themselves]." He theorizes that students don't want to be limited to spitting out memorized facts on standardized tests simply to get into a good college, they want to be challenged in the classroom and outside of it.

Arthur's followers shoulder each other's burdens, and share each other's pain. They are teenagers dealing with a lot of outside pressures amid a slew of temptations that could easily get them in trouble. Arthur teaches them to be there for each other and to lighten the personal struggles that each and every one of them is dealing with. Lance and Dakota are recovering alcoholics and they watch out for each other, making sure they don't fall off the wagon when things get tough. That sense of camaraderie is what binds the knights together and makes them strong. They can only "carry the world" when they lift up each other.

This selflessness in action is the way Lance looks out for his younger adopted brother, Chris. Lance will never put his own needs above those of his little brother. He doesn't shirk his duty, instead he gladly takes on the responsibility. Lance always puts Chris first. In the final pages of the book, Lance has a choice. He can either gratify his own desires, or he could be there for Chris at a time when his little brother needs him the most. What Lance does provides a telling glimpse into the character of the man he's become on this crusade.

Bowler's much anticipated conclusion is bittersweet, yet full of resonance. There's a scene where all of the characters get to let loose and enjoy each other's company, after making it through quite a harrowing ordeal in Washington, D.C. Bowler describes it thus: "At times like this with everyone just having fun, we're all exactly what God had in mind when he made us—human." It's a fitting sentiment for saying goodbye to these characters, and getting a chance to see them happy and fulfilled. Bowler drives home that time is fleeting and only one thing matters—the people who fill up the days and hours of a person's life. As King Arthur shares with Lance, "You have been the greatest gift I ever received, and you will live on in my heart for eternity." Bowler succeeds in heralding how love endures when a person's heart is truly given to another, expecting nothing in return, through the compelling guise of Camelot.


Once Upon a Time in America can be purchased at:
Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Prices/Formats: $4.99 ebook, $14.95 paperback
Pages: 328
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Release: November 12, 2014
Publisher: self-published
ISBN: 9780990871101
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

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Thanks, Nicole, for your stunning review. I got choked up reading it. You're awesome. :)

    1. I'm right there with you, Michael. It's sad to see these characters go.

  2. If this series ever catches on, they will be back! Already have an outline. :)

  3. i like the cover and the story
    thx u for hosting :)

    1. I hope you get a chance to check this series out, Nurmawati. I know you'll enjoy it :)

  4. The cover and excerpt sounds cool!