Ronald L. Smith on the Young Prince T'Challa's Latest Adventure in 'Black Panther: Spellbound'
The highly anticipated sequel to 'Black Panther: The Young Prince' is out now!
T'Challa, the young prince of Wakanda, returns to America in the middle grade sequel to Black Panther: The Young Prince, Black Panther: Spellbound, from Coretta Scott King award-winning author Ronald L. Smith, out now everywhere books are sold!
In Black Panther: Spellbound, thirteen-year-old T’Challa can’t wait to go back to America to visit his friends Sheila and Zeke, who are staying with Sheila’s grandmother in Beaumont, a small Alabama town, over their summer break. He’s thrilled to be on vacation away from his duties as the Prince of Wakanda for a few weeks, and he’s taking full advantage of his access to the amazing food and the South’s rich history. But as T’Challa continues to explore the town, he finds that a man who goes by the ordinary name of 'Bob' happens to be everywhere he is—and T’Challa begins to think it’s no coincidence.
When residents of the town begin flocking to Bob’s strange message, and a prominent citizen disappears, the Young Prince has no choice but to intervene. T’Challa and his friends start to do their own sleuthing, and before long, the three teens find themselves caught in a plot involving a rare ancient book and man who’s not as he seems. Swept up in a fight against an unexpected and evil villain, T’Challa, Sheila, and Zeke must band together to save the people of Beaumont... before it’s too late.
Marvel.com had the opportunity to speak with author Ronald L. Smith on T'Challa's spellbinding adventure!
Marvel.com: How long after Black Panther: The Young Prince does Black Panther: Spellbound take place?
Ronald L. Smith: About a year, give or take.
Marvel.com: How much has T’Challa changed and/or grown in that time period?
Ronald L. Smith: A lot. He’s already been through the weird and supernatural events that went down in Chicago, so he knows that as the son of the Black Panther, he can be a target. Also, he is more aware of his fate: that he will one day take the throne.
Marvel.com: The events of The Young Prince clued T’Challa in to the supernatural threats that exist in the world. Will T’Challa heed his father, the King of Wakanda’s words, “You are a representative of your nation. Use the wisdom and judgment you have been taught. Do not let me down,” as well as taking every precaution to not utilize his Panther suit?
Ronald L. Smith: Ha, we’ll have to see. He respects his father deeply and is always wondering what his father would do if he were in the same situation T’Challa might find himself in. He’s sometimes unsure of himself. He wants to do what’s best for everyone: his friends, his parents, sometimes at risk to his own well-being. But he also knows he has a powerful weapon with the suit, so he thinks hard about when and if he uses it. Of course, his friend Zeke wants him to wear it all the time.
Marvel.com: In The Young Prince, the story was set in Chicago, a place you’ve lived for over a decade. Spellbound finds T’Challa and his friends in Alabama. What takes him here?
Ronald L. Smith: Summer vacation. I really wanted him to be back in the States again. There’s so much he hasn’t experienced. I know the south well, so I thought it would be a good place to set the book. Plus, it’s so different from Wakanda: the food, slang and way of life. Also, it’s a good opportunity to talk a little about the Civil Rights Movement, of which Alabama was the epicenter.
Marvel.com: What I love from your first book, and now Spellbound, is T’Challa learning more about his environment through local food. How does this enhance the story?
Ronald L. Smith: Well, I love to eat, and food is a tradition in the south. You can't leave someone’s house without them “making a plate” for you to go, or sitting down with some sweet tea. Food is love, right? It’s more about sitting down and communicating with friends and family. The food is just an excuse! Like all writers, I want readers to see, taste and smell the scenes I’m writing. Food allows us to do that in abundance.
Marvel.com: Your writing innately addresses race relations and injustices in America. Moving from Wakanda to Chicago to now Alabama, what topics did you want to explore knowing that young readers are your intended audience?
Ronald L. Smith: Fiction allows young readers to experience life outside of their own set of circumstances. A novel is different from a textbook or a lecture from a teacher. If I can get kids to learn a little about history through the lens of a novel, and without lecturing, I think it’s a good thing. It’s important to remember that young readers are smart and well-informed. Shying away from these topics would be a mistake, especially in a setting such as Alabama, where so much history, pain, and triumphs were made in the fight for civil rights.
Marvel.com: T’Challa wants nothing more than a fun summer adventure with his friends. However, a new character in the book presents a few roadblocks for that plan. What can you tell us about Bob and Rising Souls, and the challenges they present to T’Challa?
Ronald L. Smith: Bob is more than what he seems, and when T’Challa, Sheila and Zeke discover who he really is, well, things take a turn for the worse. He has an agenda and will stop at nothing to achieve it!
Marvel.com: Anything else you’d like to tease?
Ronald L. Smith: I just hope kids and adults like the books. It’s been an honor and pleasure to write them!
Black Panther: Spellbound is now on shelves, everywhere books are sold!
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