by Alexander Charalambides
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Release Date: June 11th 2017
Lance is a hero.
With his friend Megan, he does his best to survive high school in a world that doesn’t always make sense, and is almost never fair.
When their school receives a donation from an anonymous millionaire, Lance and Megan find themselves on an international field trip to England, where the two receive an irresistible call to a supernatural adventure that could change their destinies, and the destiny of the country, forever.
Together with three mysterious adults who all claim to be wizards, Lance must safe-guard the legendary Excalibur. Traveling into a strange parallel world and keeping his friends, new and old, safe from harm at the hands of a malevolent army of magical soldiers, Lance discovers the truth about heroism and the content of his character.
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About the Author
Alexander Charalambides was born in London and grew up in Berkshire.
He studied Creative Writing, and graduated from the Open University.
In 2008 he moved to the United States, and now lives in New Hampshire.
As a freelance writer Alexander enjoys storytelling just as much as editing and analysis, but often takes time off to enjoy wind surfing, do the sickest of motorcycle flips, wrestle with deadly animals and lie about his hobbies.
I was sent a e-copy of the book for the tour and this is my honest review.
Black Blade is a great story based of the legends of King Arthur, full of its own unique twists, magic and dark humor.
The characters are all great – they irritating at times, its well written, with the changes in point of view clear and easy to follow.
Its a little slow in places, but an overall good read.
Music is an extremely powerful tool for the imagination, it strengths atmosphere and preserves the author’s intent while still allowing the reader to freely imagine the details and texture the author choses to leave blank.
The said, Black Blade’s atmosphere, and therefore “imaginary” soundtrack is sort of set in stone. Since Black Blade is almost a comedy, you might expect me to have listened to all sorts of silly music (which is what I usually listen to), but this is where the “almost” is important. Black Blade’s characters are pretty over the top, sometimes absurd, but the plot and atmosphere are always serious and often sombre, so the comedy really comes from contrast rather than any specific action.
I can’t score the whole thing, but plenty of musical pieces went into building the atmosphere, and since the atmosphere really grew from John Boorman’s Excalibur, we’ll start there.
If you watch Excalibur (and I highly recommend you do) the soundtrack will stand out immediately, the key player being Wagner’s Siegfried’s Funeral March. It’s the keystone of the film’s atmosphere and Black Blade’s as well. In fact, I’m listening to it right now and feeling really proud of myself.
Obviously, though, playlists aren’t composed of a single song. I tried to diversify and ended up with a lot of classical stuff.
Most people know Night On Bald Mountain, which I think comes in louder and louder towards Black Blade’s end, and I always imagined the crowded breathing and clattering equipment of the Mason’s Guild accompanied by Prokofiev’s Dance Of The Knights.
I know, you probably think I’m boring. All posturing about authorial intent and atmosphere aside, I found that writing with these really old, forbidding pieces added something that I couldn’t find in more modern music, and lyrics were right out.
Maybe I’m just ignorant of the music I really needed since all I usually listen to are non-sense mashups and songs made of sampled dog barks.
MY DREAM CAST FOR BLACK BLADE
Books are amazing things because you don’t need to cast anyone. It’s one of the things that’s always stood out to me as important about the medium. Because of that, I don’t usually detail my characters or “cast” them, and when details about their personal appearances come up it’s always because they’re relevant to what’s happening in the story. I want to preserve the freedom of anyone to imagine any of my characters to be as much like or unlike them as they want.
That said, I understand why people like to talk about their “dream casts”. It’s a fantasy probably every author has shared at one point or another, sitting down and talking to a casting director about who they can get for the movie adaption, why you want who you want and why they’d be perfect.
Unfortunately, because of the approach I take to how characters look, and because I want my readers to have as much freedom as possible imagining them, I never “cast” anyone I write about, but I can talk about some influences particular performances have had on my decisions about those characters.
The clearest influence I can trace is for Lance, an adolescent malcontent and Black Blade’s “hero”. He whines, he judges, and he is a haver of wrong opinions. I’m sure you’re picturing him already, but I drew a lot on Shia Labeouf for this character, particularly his roles in all the Transformers movies. Please forgive me.
Next are the wizards (spoiler warning: there are wizards in this book), and they’re much harder to pin down to any specific actors. It’s essential that they are aloof, condescending (and in one case very angry), but I have a heard time narrowing their casting beyond the traditional stable of Very Serious British actors.
Last is Megan. Black Blade is driven by an obligation that forces the characters on a supernatural journey. If you think of the story of the book as the story of this quest, Megan is peripheral, or even irrelevant.
She’s really small, almost never confrontational, and almost never takes the initiative. She is (as far as I’m concerned) by far the most important character. Why haven’t I mentioned a cast yet, you might be asking?
The answer is the most important reason that we keep writing books: I’ve never seen an actress cast that would be appropriate for her, and there probably isn’t one for the simple reason that no executive or casting director would employ someone so “ordinary”.
We can write about whoever we want, people who could never be represented by any actor. Without that willingness to write about ugly, strange, ordinary people, we cripple ourselves creatively, so when you think about your “dream cast” while writing, please don’t forget that not all people are actors.
READ BLACK BLADE IF YOU LIKE…
I think writers are defined by what they take from their influences, and one of the great things about this is that there are no “conventions”. When I look at an author’s work and then read about their influences I can usually see what came from where but I’m always surprised by the whys and hows.
To be honest, this is a subject I could talk about all day, and the way books can be influenced and influence others faster and more fluidly than any other medium is why they’re so important. Obviously, though, I’m supposed to talk about my own influences, since, after all, those are the only ones I can be completely certain of. In fact, writing this post helped me realize some influences I’d completely overlooked.
The most important influences on any writer are the books that first interested him or her in writing, although not necessarily reading. I remember refusing to read anything other than non-fiction until I was press-ganged into enjoying Harry Potter, but I never really thought about story-telling or applying my own creativity until I discovered Cliff McNish’s Doomspell and Silver series. They really stood out to me for their imagination, concise communication with the reader and intelligently detailed worlds. Bot of them captured an atmosphere of mundane gloom, like something bad everyone knew would happen, was pointless to try to stop, and that more than anything else found its way into Black Blade.
I have to admit, for a long time I was coasting creatively. My storytelling ideas advanced, but technically speaking my writing wasn’t improving. That changed after I read Melvin Burgess’ Junk. The book’s influence extends beyond atmosphere, and even though in terms of plot it has almost no relation to Black Blade at all, it’s probably the work that had the biggest impact on my book for a very simple reason: Voice. Without Junk I never would would’ve worked on differentiating my voices, or realized how important narration can be for characterization.
By now we’re on to the visual stuff, the movies. This first one won’t really surprise you, but John Boorman’s 1981 Excalibur really defined for me the atmosphere I feel myth should have, and while Black Blade’s characters and world are very different, you’ll find the same sense of predestination and determination in both.
Lastly is the one I didn’t realize influenced me until I started to really think about atmosphere. Black Blade has mythic themes, sometimes mythic language and even mythic style over-acting and over-emotional characters, but I think what really formed the spine of my book comes from Jacob’s Ladder.
Black Blade isn’t even approaching that level of suspense or horror, but the journey through an abstract, shifting landscape that seems to represent parts of the characters, and shifting perspective traveling through past and future to give the audience a unique changing perspective is definitely something I learned from Jacob’s Ladder.
When I started out I was worried that this whole thing might sound derivative, but now I feel as confident as an author can. What is creativity except a long list of debts?
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