Imagine being a teenager and suddenly being entrusted with the greatest sword in history -- Excalibur. And you're somewhere in England, separated from your school field trip group, and you and your friend Megan are being shepherded around by three dodgy old wizards.Got it? Nothing out of the ordinary. Obviously.This is the super-excellent and fast-paced opening to Black Blade, the outstanding new YA thriller by talented storyteller Alexander Charalambides.
Lance and Megan are best friends, just trying to get through the school year, when a rich benefactor leaves a bequest with an odd condition. The school must send a contingent to the United Kingdom for "historical studies."
Seeking to escape the crushing boredom that is high school, the pair sign up and fly across the pond to the U.K. Then, while on a museum tour, they encounter a series of strange occurrences that
(1) leaves Lance with the storied sword
(2) puts them in peril by a black knight
(3) unites them in an unlikely quest with three wizards as guides: Agatha, Albrecht, and Reinhardt.
Their destination is deemed Avalon, but the journey is circuitous at best, taking them through an alternate-reality London humming with homeless people and rampant with sinister masked soldiers. And from there it only gets worse.
There's also a secret society called the Mason's Guild trying to take them down, although the reasons for this remain a bit obscure for quite a while. Nevertheless, Lance and Megan trudge on, fighting insidious forces on the one hand and trying to make sense of their doddering and crochety old escorts on the other.
(Hint: think Gandalf, Saruman and Radagast with a particularly bad case of arthritis, trying to shepherd two troublesome young Tooks in the middle of deepest, darkest Moria. Oh, and they would also be using the F- word. A lot.)
Anyway, in the midst of all the magical mayhem, a near-love scene breaks out between Lance and Megan, leaving both deeply confused. The moment culminates some delicious adolescent tension between the two that has been building since the beginning of the book, but it results in Lance's achingly vulnerable hero persona coming full to the front and Megan being whisked off somewhere by one of the more overprotective wizards.
All in all, this is an eminently well-written and intricately plotted read that will entertain you for hours as the teen twosome try to navigate the treacherous magical underworld into which they've been thrust. And the bickering wizards add a sometimes comic and often obscene layer of sophisticated characterization rarely found in YA fiction.
If you get lost somewhere in the middle of the narrative, hang on. The reason for the sometimes obscure flashbacks becomes stunningly clear as the story rolls like the proverbial juggernaut toward its explosive conclusion.
Five stars to Black Blade. It's a cunningly wrought tale of teenage angst set against a believable backdrop of Arthurian legend. - Publishers Daily Reviews
From the Back Cover
Join American teenagers Megan and Lance as they cross the Pond to do battle with wizards, supernatural soldiers and a secret society determined to -- what else -- take over the world.
Their unlikely quest is led by three comically grumpy and obscene old wizards who seem to get them into more trouble than they get them out of.
"This is an eminently well-written and intricately plotted read that will entertain you for hours,"
says Publishers Daily Reviews. "And, as the teen twosome try to navigate the treacherous magical underworld into which they've been thrust, you will be transported with them into a modern-day take on the Arthurian legend."
Lance even comes into possession of the storied blade Excalibur -- which comes in mighty handy as the evil forces converge on them.
In addition to the well-paced adventure that unfolds before your wide eyes, the bickering old wizards add a sometimes hilarious and often R-rated layer of "sophisticated characterization rarely found in YA fiction today,"
according to the review.
So be ready to pull an all-nighter as you near the end of this five-star teen adventure. It will definitely keep you up far past your bedtime.