Sunday, August 30, 2015

Who Succeeded King Arthur?


When I began researching King Arthur and the Dark Ages for Book 2: The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, I had a pretty hazy view of Arthur based on popular fiction and movies. I was astounded to find so much material, some more fiction than fact, on this enigmatic figure. As the facts around Arthur solidified and merged with real history, I then began wondering who came after Arthur. We know he died at the Battle of Camlann, but history and Britain did not disappear into a black hole after that. Even though Arthur was no more, someone else must have continued in his role of leader. Someone did.

There has been much speculation as to who took Arthur’s place after the battle of Camlann. Geoffrey of Monmouth (circa 1100-1155) says: He handed the crown of Britain over to his cousin Constantine, the son of Cador Duke of Cornwall.’

Modern historians are not convinced of Geoffrey’s reliability as an historian. Sadly Geoffrey did not let the facts stand in the way of a good story. He could almost be called one of the earliest novelists. William of Newburgh, who wrote around 1190, said: “ is quite clear that everything this man wrote about Arthur and his successors, or indeed about his predecessors from Vortigern onwards, was made up, partly by himself and partly by others." Ouch! Harsh words indeed! Given Geoffrey’s tendency to elaborate on the Arthurian legends, one might wonder if this anecdote of handing over the crown to Constantine was another literary invention.

Cador (Latin: Cadorius) was a legendary Duke of Cornwall, known chiefly through Geoffrey of Monmouth's pseudo-historical History of the Kings of Britain, but he is mentioned in a manuscript called Vita Sanctus Carantoci written circa 1100 (‘The Life of St Carantoc’). Cador is said to be King Arthur's relative (a cousin?), though the details of their kinship is usually left unspecified. Cador was the historical son of a Dumnonian king named Gerren Llyngesoc, and succeeded him as monarch. Traditionally Cador was a good friend of Arthur; they even ruled together says the Vita Sanctus. According to literary tradition, the two fought together many times against the Saxons and other enemies. At the famous Siege of Mount Badon, Cador commanded the British contingent that chased the invaders back to their boats at Thanet.

Cador appears in The Dream of Rhonabwy, a medieval romance. In it, Cador hands Arthur's sword Caledfwlch (Excalibur) to the king, and when the story's protagonist Rhonabwy asks who he is, his guide Iddawg replies that he is ‘Cadwr Earl of Cornwall, the man whose task it is to arm the king on the day of battle and conflict.’ Cador probably died at the beginning of the 6th century. Traditionally this was at the Battle of Camlann (AD 537), after which he was buried in the Condolden (or Cadon) Barrow near Camelford in Cerniw, Wales.

Constantine III (c.AD 520—576), the son of Cador, was a legendary king of the Britons, as recounted by Geoffrey of Monmouth. Constantine also fought in the Battle of Camlann and was apparently one of the few survivors. Arthur, about to be taken to Avalon, passed the crown to him. Constantine continued to have trouble from the Saxons and from the two sons of Mordred, who were Melehan and Melou. He eventually subdued his enemies, however, and chased Mordred's sons into churches where he murdered them. Constantine reigned only four years before being struck down, apparently by God’s vengeance. He was buried at Stonehenge beside the body of Uther Pendragon.

Constantine’s brother ought to have reigned next, but Constantine’s nephew Aurelius Conan attacked him, imprisoned him, and slew his two sons.  Though mostly forgotten in later continental romances, the British retained some knowledge of Constantine. He appears, for example, in the Alliterative Morte Arthure and Malory's Morte d'Arthur as Arthur's cousin and successor.

Facts are unclear after that, and for me this indicates that no one had the leadership and charisma of Arthur to unite people, to repel the enemy, and to create the kingdom that perhaps Arthur envisaged.

The Search for the Stone of Excalibur is Book Two in The Chronicles of the Stone. If you’re looking for more adventures, then please visit The Quest Books, where Cheryl Carpinello, Wendy Leighton-Porter and I have teamed up to offer readers an array of exciting quests. Sign up for our monthly newsletter with exciting exclusive material and get your choice of any e-book on the site FREE!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Book Review: Sons of the Sphinx

Prepare yourself for an incredible adventure in ancient Egypt when you pick up Sons of the Sphinx by Cheryl Carpinello. The story starts with a prophecy that sets the tone for magic, mystery, and mayhem in places. Rosa, 15, has an unusual gift she inherited from her grandmother: she hears the dead. Maybe it would be easier if she could see them and tell them to go away properly, and not have to put up with an annoying interruption in her maths test. Of course it is all Nana’s fault because once Nana told Rosa and a friend about the spirits that visited her, life was never quite the same. At age 15, when all you want to do is fit in and be accepted, that’s not the kind of thing guaranteed to win friends and influence people. The really scary part comes when, from only being a voice, the young pharaoh Tutankhamun appears large as life in Rosa’s bedroom, telling her he needs her to help in a vital mission. How much better can it get? Tut tells Rosa that part of his one true love, Ankhesenamun, is now contained within Rosa, and he needs to take Rosa along with him to find her burial place so they can be united. The problem is this mission must be fulfilled within seven days and Rosa’s parents, who’ve gone to a movie, will be back by midnight. But that’s not a problem as Tut explains what a time wrap is to the bemused Rosa. However, hurtling back to the ancient past isn’t going to be an easy ride. Danger, magic, evil and the possibility that Rosa might not be able to return home dog their footsteps.

 What a story as Cheryl Carpinello displays her expertise as both a writer and an educator in her incredibly detailed portrayal of life in ancient Egypt. Readers will feel the sun’s heat, smell the perfumes and spices, taste the food, touch the artefacts, and bask in the glory of Egypt’s past. Threaded through the non stop action and adventure, the author drops in the right kind of historical information in bite sized pieces, painting a portrait of the ancient past, the story behind the rulers and their people, their relationships, and their choices, both good and bad. I really enjoyed the portrayal of Rosa as a typical teenager with the issues, problems, angst, crushes, and awkwardness of her age. The dialogue is spot on with the nuances and colloquialisms that will appeal to the intended target market. I also enjoyed Rosa’s often sarcastic inner monologue as she deals with sand, heat, sunburn and a lot of discomfort, not having had 3000 years to rack up the right kind of experience with these matters. For me, the most compelling part of this intriguing adventure is the subtle lessons Rosa learns that are contained in the story: the value of life, the value of love, trusting your instincts, trusting in friendship, finding the courage within, and finding self belief. I think teens will just love every aspect of this well written, mesmerising tale.

 If you’re looking for more adventures, then please visit The Quest Books, where Cheryl Carpinello, Wendy Leighton-Porter and I have teamed up to offer readers an array of exciting quests. Sign up for our monthly newsletter with updates and exclusive material and get your choice of any e-book on the site FREE!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Book Review: The Shadow of Camelot

Another adventure unfolds as twins Jemima and Joe, Charlie (best friend and neighbour) and Max, their talking (yes, talking!) Tonkinese cat, embark on yet another adventure in The Shadow of Camelot. The twins have still not found their missing parents, trapped somewhere in the past, and have been on five amazing adventures so far with the help of an ancient magical book and the key to open it – kept safely on a chain around Jemima’s neck. They always get hints and clues to their parents’ whereabouts and hope that the next adventure will be the one to restore their mother and father. In the meantime, they live with their studious Uncle Richard, who is a Professor of Archaeology at London University and doesn’t suspect a thing.

The magic begins with the Prologue, and the wizard Merlin hard at work, trying to see if a prophecy will come true, and if he can summon help from the future. His assistant is a gorgeous black cat appropriately named Midnight. In the meantime, fast forward to the future where Joe catches a book as it falls off a shelf in Uncle Richard’s study. Is that a voice he hears calling for help …? It seems to come from between the pages of the book entitled King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Using Jemima’s key, the kids and Max (feeling as reluctant as ever about yet another foray into foreign climes) open their ancient book which had served as a portal before to the past and arrive … in Merlin’s cave. This adventure is definitely going to be different because magic is at work – they are needed for a very special purpose, actually Max (to his horror) seems to be the one who is needed the most, in order to fulfil a prophecy and assist Arthur in defeating his greatest foe.

Wendy Leighton-Porter has another winner in The Shadow of Camelot, Book 6 in her time travel fantasy adventure series Shadows From the Past. Reluctant hero Max deserves a very special mention. Some (cats) are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Max definitely experiences the latter. Although truly faint of heart, he reprises his role as a messenger of the gods, assuming the form of an ancient cat spirit, Cattus Britannicus, a role requiring a disguise as well. He is joined in this enterprise by Midnight, who assumes the suitably dramatic role of Felina Malina, and together they achieve the impossible. This was one of the funniest parts of the book. Max rises to the occasion and surprises everyone, including himself the most.

The author effectively recreates the court of Camelot, along with characters familiar to readers and fans of Arthuriana: various knights, including Sir Lancelot (with a truly hilarious French accent) who discovers that, since the twins share his name, they are related. He also gives some information about the twins’ parents. Other well known characters include Arthur himself, of course, Guinevere, and Arthur’s evil sister Morgana, who has her own villainous part to play. The story encompasses real events, places, and historical characters, adding to the fascinating story around Arthur and Camelot.

Arthurian fans will heave a huge sigh of relief to discover that Arthur’s initial choices of name for Excalibur were voted down. In fact, Wendy Leighton-Porter has put an entirely new spin on the origins of Excalibur that I found truly unique. The end notes also amplify the facts and the fiction about Arthur, the man, the king, and if he did exist. If you have been following the series, this will be another delightful adventure to enjoy with our young heroes and feline. This is an engaging read for the young and young at heart with action, adventure, feats of daring, time travel, magic, fun and lots of very clever ideas! Five stars!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How Much Do You Know About Ancient Egypt?

Readers who've been following my Middle Grade adventure books will know I love including history, geography and archaeology in my books and that requires a huge amount of research. Sadly, one can never put all that information into a story, but the writer needs to know all the facts about a location, a period in history, and sometimes a few famous people of the era if they're going to produce a well researched book.

One of my very first books as a child was Ancient Egypt, a Time Life series book. Can you believe it? From the link you can see it 's still in print! I loved this book; I loved everything I read about ancient Egypt. Maybe that's why it was so easy for me to start writing a book for kids after my trip there with my mom and my two nephews.
Mom, me (behind), "Adam" (green T-shirt), "Justin" (blue T-shirt)

Most people have, at some time or other, either studied ancient Egypt at school, or know stuff because of their own reading interests. Here's a quick quiz to test how much you know about ancient Egypt.

1.      Name the great river that runs through Egypt.

2.      Name the capital of Egypt.

3.      Name the process used to prepare the bodies for death in ancient Egypt.

4.      What is a Sarcophagus?

5.      What is the name of Egyptian writing?

6.      What did the ancient Egyptians write on?

7.      The people who did the writing had a special name or title?

8.      What is the name of the most famous pharaoh?

9.       Can you name one Egyptian god?

10.  What is Egypt most famous for?

11.  Name any three animals you’ll find in Egypt.

12.  What sort of environment will you find in Egypt?

13.  What is a scarab and what does it do?
I'd love to see how many readers get all the answers right so to add a little incentive, I'm giving away a few e-books to those who get all the answers right. You can put your answers in the comments box, or, if you're not keen on that, email me directly at - looking forward to hearing from you.
Book 1: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab and Book 2: The Search for the Stone of Excalibur are both available on Amazon and other book sites.