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Glendale author mixes past, present in ‘Quest’

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The Quest for Excalibur, a new novel by Glendale author Angela LoCascio, puts a new twist on the old legend, cleverly mixing the present figure with the past, as the principle character finds herself magically transported back in time to the kingdom of Camelot.

The novel served as a kind of therapy of sorts for LoCascio, 44, whose son John, 13, suffers from the same affliction as the main character's, son, Joseph.

“My writing is my sanity; everything in the beginning chapters is true to fact in what happened in my life,” she told Qguide.

LoCascio, previously a beautician, said she got her inspiration for this, her first novel which was released last month, from an NBC miniseries, Merlin. “My teacher at William Bryant High School taught me about the legend of Arthur, and it’s been a passion of mine ever since,,” she said.

She brings a wealth of knowledge to the retelling of the Arthurian legend, “La Morte d' Arthur,” and recounts elements of the fable that have already transpired throughout her story, so that young readers who may be less familiar with the particulars of the legend are brought up to date.

Like Arianna, LoCascio has a daughter, Andrea, 15, and a son, John, 13, who has Tourette’s syndrome, a brain disorder usually marked by uncontrollable verbal outbursts, nervous tics, and hyperactivity. Keeping in mind there were actually two Excaliburs in Sir Thomas Mallory's voluminous fable — one pulled out of the stone by Arthur in his youth, and the other presented to Arthur, as Merlin prophesied, by Vivian, the lady of the lake — LoCascio takes advantage of this often forgotten fact, altering circumstances to fit her own version.

In her story, Arianna goes to present-day Westminster, England with her family for a much needed rest, ordered by her doctor following a small stroke resulting from the daily pressures of dealing with family life, particularly caring for her son, Joseph, who, like the author’s son John, 13, suffers from Tourette’s syndrome.

During a tour of the Westminster countryside, home to the Arthurian legend by horseback, Arianna, who, like the author, is already an avid fan of the legend, reads more about it in a book sitting by Merlin's Pond, the fabled lake where Excalibur came from, while Edmund, her guide, returns to the riding lodge to retrieve a forgotten lunch basket. While waiting for him, Arianna inadvertently unearths Excalibur from the ground.

Why was the sword not in the lake? “The reader can interpret it two ways,” LoCascio said. “The land dried, or, if you want to become one of faith, maybe Excalibur hid herself in the ground."

When he returns, Edmund suggests a quest to find the sword’s rightful new owner, reminding Arianna that the sword always belongs to someone. Arianna doesn’t know it, but the quest will take place not in the present, but in the past.

While riding through the forest, the two are magically transported back to Camelot, where she is taken to King Arthur’s court by his guards. Later she meets an 18-year -old Galahad, son of Lancelot, and not yet a knight. Arthur — who is raising Galahad like his own son following the deaths of the young man's parents, Sir Lancelot and Lady Elaine — asks Arianna to look after the young man while he goes off to fight his final, ill-fated battle with his real son, the mad Mordred, at the City of Northern Lights.

Following Arthur's death, a new king must be found, and Arianna plays a key role in the quest. She also considers staying in what for her is a less stressful reality, free of the daily troubles of caring for her handicapped son.

Although LoCascio has never been to England, she hopes to go some day. She said her father recently went there, visited the Library of Glastonbury and gave a copy of her book to them, which they accepted.

“They only accept books that are about the land and/or the legend. If they feel the book is true to the facts, they will accept it," she said, adding she was very flattered that they did.

LoCascio said although there is no Merlin's Pond, she heard there is a Merlin's Cave.

She said Arianna is the right one for the quest because of her purity of heart. “She is the one who has been searching all her life for a meaning to her life,” she said. “Due to the fact that she’s had so many struggles, especially with her son, she has always felt her life had no meaning, and her faith has waned. Excalibur has become a symbol of her struggles and faith.”

LoCascio said a sequel to “Quest for Excalibur” is in the works, and she has already started on a second draft. It will be called “Excalibur and the Holy Grail” and should be out in the spring.

“It’s Arianna's spiritual continuation into her journey,” LoCascio said. “My daughter is so happy for me, and my son, he feels like he’s the king of the world at this point," LoCascio said.

Her son John “had a lot to struggle with, many troubles, and Excalibur has become my weapon in helping him cut them down,” she said.

Reach Qguide writer Daniel Arimborgo by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 139.

Posted 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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