Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Camelot or Soap Opera

Children of the Knight by Michael J. Bowler
Lance was just about to be killed when a legendary myth saved him.  A king on horseback appeared out of nowhere and saved the day.  The city is Los Angeles, and gangs rule.  Lance is a skateboarder who wants to skate free of entanglements with any homies, hoods, and/or gangs. 

With a little hesitation, Lance does go off with his savior, and the story begins.  The king really is King Arthur from Camelot.  He has comeback because all that he stands for is needed very badly in this place, in this time.  Los Angeles is overrun with gangs of kids—unwanted kids.  They are ignored, abused, and used.

One by one, the children are recruited and trained to be knights.  They learn discipline, kindness, order, honor, community, and love.  The children are starved for attention and discipline with love.  Arthur loves them all, especially Lance, who is reminiscent of Lancelot.

There’s also Jenny, the romantic interest for Arthur.  Jenny is an adult, who helps Arthur.  Jenny is reminiscent of Guinevere. 

It’s begins as a wonderful story.  These “children of the knight,” are transformed into a formidable crusade against evil.  They clean up Los Angeles.  Even the drug lords who held fiefdom in the city are conquered.

At first, I thought the story comparable to  C.S. Lewis’ and J. R. R. Tolkien’s.  It’s a children’s fantasy story, like the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings, and even Harry Potter. But the moral depth is tenuous.  I applaud the code of equality for all, regardless of race, sex, and sexual orientation.  But I think the focus on sexual attraction distracted from the main theme.

The idea of Camelot is what interested me.  I was intrigued by the training and order.  My curiosity was piqued by what the “children of the knight” were being trained for.  Then in walked Reyna. 
Reyna is a beautiful, yet narcissistic girl.  I knew she’d be trouble.  She isn’t really.  But she represented the introduction a love interest, which I took to being a distraction from the construction of Camelot.  To me, the theme was the making of Camelot, and everything else was a diversion.
So I skipped all the parts about Reyna.

Soon I was skipping the parts dealing with Mark and Jack.  I flipped through Mark and Lance, then Mark and Jack, and Mark and Arthur, and (Good Grief!) Jennie and Arthur.   Then I realized that I was skipping too much.  I had to go back and force myself to read everything.

Now I realize that there was more than one theme going on in the story.  I thought Children of Knight’s theme was a fantasy about children building a new Camelot. I was so hoping this story would soar above Narnia.  I was disappointed.  I wish Arthur or Jennie had taught these kids the concept of “courtly love.”  Then we’d be done with all the teen angst and sexual identity confusion.

Another theme most of the children exhibited was “Father hunger.”  The kids latched onto Arthur like hungry babes rooting around for milk.  And no one knew how to communicate.  No one would talk to the person they should.  I’d say this was another theme. Some people find it hard to verbally express love, so it’s not surprising that kids, who had been basically ignored, would find it hard to be open emotionally. 

King Arthur did manage to teach the children the importance of community. Before becoming knights, the kids looked after themselves, only.  They did what was best for themselves, and to hell with everyone else.  Arthur taught them to do the right thing, not the easiest.  I just wish we readers didn’t have to plow through the anguish of teen sexual identity problems.

I suppose if you’re writing for teens then you have to cater to their concerns.  Maybe teens think that suffering through the anguish of unspoken feelings is admirable.  Maybe the author just wanted to sell his book and scattered the story with as many themes that he thought would appeal to the largest audience possible. 

Whatever.  I just wish the Children of the Knight had built a Camelot that epitomized justice, honor, duty, faithfulness, charity, wisdom, prudence, generosity, self-control, fortitude, temperance, and chastity.

Yeah, I wanted a fantasy world.  Oh wait…Children of the Knight was supposed to be an urban fantasy. 

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