Monday, April 28, 2014

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday--PROJECT XCALIBUR by Greg Pace

PROJECT XCALIBUR by Greg Pace (Putnam 2013)

What It's About: (from the book jacket)
Ben has been an underdog his whole life. But when he meets Merlin—theMerlin—the wizard delivers devastating news: a vicious band of aliens are approaching, and Ben could be the champion Earth desperately needs.  
Soon Ben joins the Round Table Reboot, where legendary heroes are training a new generation to battle the deadly threat. They have a secret weapon: X-Calibur. But this time X-Calibur is not a sword -- it's a spaceship -- and only the right kid can awaken its powers.  All Ben has ever wanted is to be a hero…but is it in the stars for him? 

Opening Lines: "I had motor oil in my eyes and it stung."

What I liked: The opening line(s), for a start. I mean, you're immediately thinking, "who is this, and why does he have motor oil in his eyes? The next paragraph gives us a great insight into Ben. "Luckily I knew the underside of a pickup truck like the back of my hand, so finishing the oil change filter with my eyes closed was no biggie."

So much is accomplished in just three sentences: questions raised, the character's mechanical skill, and the pitch perfect middle grade language of "no biggie."

2) I am a big fan of Arthurian legend, and Greg Pace does a masterful job of bringing Arthur into the modern age. The new "knights" fly prototypes of an alien space ship, and there is a ton of action.

3) Ben grows as a character who is unsure of himself, and why he's been chosen (he is a tad klutzy, as we find out in an opening rope-climbing in the gym scene). At the end, he feels he has earned his place among the fighters. After all, he's the one who has just gone toe-to-toe with the alien Dredmore.

All in all, this is a high-paced middle grade action adventure, with a lot of humor and heart. I sped through it, and I'm sure the target audience would too.

I got the chance to ask Greg Pace a few of my traditional Middle Grade Mafioso questions:

Hi Greg, it was a pleasure reading Project XCalibur. I'd love to know a bit more about you.

1) Who are your favorite (middle grade) writers?

I have huge respect for the handful of writers that really changed the game and took middle grade from "books for kids" to books that pretty much anyone can enjoy.  Writers like J.K. Rowling or Rick Riordan. Basically, the heavyweights.My reading tastes are all over the place in terms of authors and genres, though. One week I might read Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the next I'll read anything by Stephen King.  

2) What's on your nightstand now?Innocence, by Dean Koontz.

3) Pick a favorite scene from PROJECT X-CALIBUR, and say why you like it

One of my favorite scenes is when Merlin brings Ben into his hidden office at the Round Table Reboot HQ. I love the fact that Merlin's inner sanctum includes bookcases and tables made of wood, while the rest of HQ is strictly steel. He talks about the idea that wood "remembers,"  that it holds onto the blood, sweat and tears of the people who have used it, while steel is impersonal and impenetrable. I think the scene perfectly sums up Merlin's insecurities about his place in a modern world.

4) Fill in the blank: I'm really awesome at....

Thinking I can do anything I set my mind to. 
5) My favorite breakfast is...

Egg, bacon, and cheese biscuits from any fast food place (although I usually regret it afterward and rush to the gym to make amends).
6) If you could visit any place, where would it be?

Can I time travel? If so, I'd like to go pretty much anywhere in the past, a hundred years ago. It would be awesome to be the only one who really knows what the future holds! 

Time travel?! You got me hooked. Thanks so much for stopping by Middle Grade Mafioso today, Greg.

About the Author, (from the book jacket): Greg Pace has been a lifelong creativity junkie. From drawing and putting together models of classic movie monsters, to playing guitar in an Atlanta-based heavy metal band, to performing stand-up comedy throughout Los Angeles and selling movie scripts to Hollywood, Greg's life has often been his very own action-adventure. But it's his love of horror, sci-fi, and his number one passion--writing--that makes this first book so satisfying and exciting for him. Greg currently lives in Los Angeles.


  1. That's such an intriguing first line. I love stories about underdogs and Merlin.

  2. I think the cover alone will pull readers in for a closer look. Thanks for the insightful interview, too.

  3. Sounds like a great twist on the Arthurian legend!

  4. Yes. Reading about motor oil being in his eyes would definitely make me take notice. I like that touch. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Sheri at Writer's Alley

    Home of Rebel Writer CREED 2014
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  5. Thanks, Michael. I really appreciate the review! Your blog is awesome.

  6. This sounds intriguing--love the Arthurian legend meets space feel! Thanks for featuring it!

  7. Great opening. I love the Arthurian legends, so will definitely have to check this out. Thanks for the review and interview.

  8. Wow! Any book with a "Round Table Reboot" has to be fun. And "X-Calibur" being a spaceship shows even more imagination. I love when MG books delve into Arthurian legend (i.e. THE EIGHTH DAY) and this one sounds perfect.


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