Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Michael J. Bowler - Running Through a Dark Place - Review & Giveaway

About the Book

King Arthur and his extraordinary young Knights used ‘might’ for ‘right’ to create a new Camelot in the City of Angels. They rallied the populace around their cause, while simultaneously putting the detached politicians in check. But now they must move forward to even greater heights, despite what appears to be an insurmountable tragedy.

Their new goal is lofty: give equality to kids fourteen and older who are presently considered adults only when they break the law. Arthur’s crusade seeks to give them real rights such as voting, driving, trading high school for work, and sitting as jurors for their peers charged with criminal behavior.

Understanding that the adults of California will likely be against them, Arthur and his Knights must determine how best to win them over.

However, before the king can even contemplate these matters, he finds himself face to face with an ally from the past, one who proves that everything isn’t always what it seems – even life and death.

The Knight Cycle Continues…

My Review

Merlin's magic.
A referendum on lowering the voting age to fourteen.
A teen unsure of his sexuality.

That in a nutshell is the three-pronged plot of Michael J. Bowler's continuing urban fantasy drama. King Arthur pretty much sits on the back burner for this one, becoming more of a figurehead than the more in-depth reincarnation he took in book one. The narrative emphasis takes a decidedly GLBT shift and while kids seeking basic human rights against the adults who have them trapped in a flawed system is still a major theme, it's now more of an undercurrent. Just as the symbolism of the new Round Table only has passing mentions of YouTube knightings and wardrobe choices instead of melding into the primary focus it had in the first book.

Instead, Bowler takes a risk in shifting the bulk of his creative energies toward addressing the sexual awakening of his young male protagonist, Lance. What was subtly hinted at in the series debut is explored in much greater detail, some of it fairly graphic. There's a rather explicit scene of Lance at a party where he gets liquored up with vodka and proceeds to make out with a girl before proceeding to lock lips with a boy. Their grinding on the dance floor turns rather risqué, delving into R-rated territory.

I'm completely fine with Bowler providing readers, who might be going through a similar identity crisis, with the message that they are not alone, that their urgings and longings are normal, and that they shouldn't be made to feel ashamed of them. However, I did feel uncomfortable in reading the chapter where Lance comes home hungover and then crawls into bed with not just a boy his own age, but also a boy no older than seven. For me, that's skimming a very fine line.

Lance doesn't make any overtures toward the seven year old, but he does hold the hand of the other boy and lean into him while the three of them are snuggling in the same bed. I guess I wanted more scenes like Lance's birthday party, the knighting of a young boy with cancer and all of the holidays that made the orphaned children feel like they were a part of a real family. These overtly sexual parts could have easily been omitted because the novel is strong enough on its own.

Since Lance is a prior victim of sexual abuse himself, as a reader, I couldn't help feeling that his motivation was off. I thought he'd be more sensitive to such matters, not wanting to confuse an impressionable child when he's still so traumatized himself. Basic human contact is a mantra repeated throughout, and while I'm okay with boys holding hands and being affectionate, I don't feel that two teenagers should be engaging in such activity while sharing a bed with a seven year old, but that's just me. I'm sure Bowler's intent was innocent and loving, but for me it just came across the wrong way.

I admire Bowler for what he's trying to do with this series. It's bold. It's daring. It's never been done before. But I hope in future installments, he can trim the sexual innuendo a bit. His vision is unique and has too much potential to end up becoming nothing more a titillating tease.


Running Through a Dark Place can be purchased at:

Prices/Formats: $4.99 ebook, $15.95 paperback
Pages: 388
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Release: May 12, 2014
Publisher: self-published
ISBN: 9780990306306
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 written the four continuations of Children of the Knight that complete The Knight Cycle and all will be released in 2014.

He is currently at work on a new novel.

Links to connect with Michael:
Web Site
Blog Tour Site

About the Giveaway

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  1. Thanks Carol for taking the time to read and review Michael's book.

    1. Looking forward to seeing how this series continues.