Blog Tour: Guest Post – The Last Seal by Richard Denning

Welcome back to Author Richard Denning

Bio:

Richard Denning was born in Ilkeston in Derbyshire and lives in Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands, UK, where he works as a General Practitioner (family doctor). He is married and has two children. He has always been fascinated by historical settings as well as horror and fantasy. Other than writing, his main interests are games of all types. He is the designer of a board game based on the Great Fire of London.

Also by Richard Denning:

Northern Crown Series
(Historical fiction)
1.The Amber Treasure
2.Child of Loki (Coming 2012)

Hourglass Institute Series
(Young Adult Science Fiction)
1.Tomorrow’s Guardian
2. Yesterday’s Treasures
3. Today’s Sacrifice (Coming 2012)

The Praesidium Series
(Historical Fantasy)
1.The Last Seal

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@RichardDenning

Gunpowder and Sorcery in 1666:
What to expect from The Last Seal
by Richard Denning


I am pleased to be a doing a guest post on I am a Reader not a Writer. I am a fan of historical fiction such as by Bernard Cornwell and Simon Scarrow. I also enjoy fantasy and I am a huge Terry Pratchett fan as well as having devoured The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, the Belgariad by David Eddings and most of the works of Raymond Feist for example. Lately I have enjoyed Helen Hollick’s Harold the King and her Pirate Trilogy and of course have read all the Harry Potter books.

So when I started writing it was only to be expected that I would write historical fiction or fantasy. In fact my first book was The Amber Treasure – a historical fiction set in 6th century Britain during the  struggles between the invading Anglo-Saxons and the Britons (who become the Welsh) all seen through the eyes of a teenager growing up in those chaotic years. That was pure historical with no fantasy in it at all but my next book was the time travel adventure Tomorrow’s Guardian. I decided to look at whether being able to travel in time was actually a gift and maybe not a curse. Tom (the main character) finds that being able to travel in time draws the attention of people who would wish to change history for their own ends. It gave me an ideal opportunity to visit periods I was interested in and have a fast moving adventure story going on but also look at fascinating issues about how small changes can have dramatic effects.
When I was writing Tomorrow’s Guardian I did a little research into The Great Fire of London of September 1666 and that episode appears briefly in this novel. In case you don’t know the Great Fire raged from September 2nd to 5th and destroyed the heart of the medieval city of London. Some 13,000 houses and hundreds of churches, guild houses, warehouses and historical buildings went up in smoke. 80,000 people were made homeless. Over on Richard’s Ramblings: http://news.richarddenning.co.uk/ I will be following the build up and events of the fire day by day over the next few days so drop by.
I had Tom visit the Great Fire and rescue a house maid in a brief dramatic episode. I felt, however, that it was such a dramatic and exciting subject that it would justify an entire novel set during the fire. Then I started reading around what beliefs and superstitions people had. I found about the widespread paranoia about foreign plots and conspiracies that people had at the time as well as their belief in magic being real. All that came together very quickly into a idea. I asked myself what if the fire was not just an accident, what if there really were secret societies involved and a supernatural explanation behind the great event.
I enjoy books where fantasy is blended with reality. I have to deal with gritty reality in the day job – I am a family doctor – so I really never watch or read stories about real life dramas if I can avoid it. Give me a good bit of escapism please! Thus I loved Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and Night Watch by  Sergei Lukyanenko – where fantastical events and creatures live alongside us. So it was that I decided to write a novel where the real historical background of 1666 and of the fire was the back drop to a story of sorcery, entombed demons and secret societies.
Thus this is the  idea behind The Last Seal. September 1666: a struggle between two secret societies threatens to destroy London. Three hundred years previously the Praesidum defeated and incarcerated a demon beneath the city. Now the Liberati aim to release it and gain its power for themselves. Meanwhile agents of the King are seeking four suspected foreign spies who are, in reality, disparate and unlikely heroes: GABRIEL, the sole remaining member of the Praesidum, crippled by his fear of failure; FREYA, a young thief orphaned by the Great Plague, driven by poverty and self-interest; TOBIAS, a cynical physician, obsessed by his desire for vengeance against the Liberati cavalier who killed his father, and finally and most vitally, BEN, a Westminster schoolboy, whose guilt over his parents’ death threatens to destroy him. Thrown together by chance when Ben finds an ancient scroll revealing the location of arcane seals that bind the demon beneath London, the story launches into a battle between the Liberati and Praesidium, a battle which takes place within the Great Fire of London. These four must overcome their personal problems and work together if they are to foil the plans of the Liberati, protect the city and gain the means to defeat the demon
So you can expect to read about battles with flintlock pistols, swords and muskets between secret societies. There will also be sorcery used by adepts who study lost writings opening to them the secrets of arcane powers. A great fire demon is the ultimate enemy, served by lesser demons called avatars. But this fantasy will occur against the historical background of London in 1666 with its markets and churches and trade houses, its thieves and vagabonds, its nobility and its celebrities. The Great Fire is reproduced and its progress becomes almost a ticking clock against which the progress of the plans of both the heroes and their enemy is tracked.
To hopefully whet your appetite, here is a brief snippet. The four heroes are trying to cross London Bridge but find that the fire has already destroyed it and  in fact they are now in great danger:

Dismayed, Ben surveyed the devastation. The fire must have surged down Fish Street while they slept, and now, as Freya had grimly pointed out, they were too late: it had cut off their means of passage to the south. He looked back at the billowing clouds of smoke, quick to realise why the fire had progressed only halfway across the bridge before dying down: the wind had changed direction and was now blowing strongly west and north, driving the fire away from the bridge and along Thames Street, through the small alleyways and passages, such as those Ben and his friends had come through just a few minutes before. What he also saw was that the fire, in its full terrifying fury, was already surging past them.
“Oh God!” Ben shrieked, as only yards away the flames drew level to where they stood, destroying forever the shanty town of the poor and breaking with avarice into the first of the great trade halls. Ben’s throat tightened with fear and panicking now he screamed, “My God, the fire is moving too fast, we’re going to get cut off!”
A determined look sprang into Freya’s face. She seized Ben by the elbow and pulled him back along the waterfront. “Bloody demon’s not won yet. Come on, we have to move fast!”
She shoved past Tobias and Gabriel, who were still gawping at the tidal wave of fire flooding past them, and shouted over her shoulder for them to follow. Tobias blinked and then tugged at Gabriel, who was rooted to the spot. “Gabriel, come ON!” he shouted.
They staggered back to the Fishmongers’ Hall. The front of the hall was stone: insulation for a time against the elemental force that was only yards away from them. They sheltered in its shadow, catching their breath for a moment.
“What do we do now?” Ben asked, his voice trembling. “We can’t cross the bridge.”

To read the first part of The Last Seal visit my website here: http://www.richarddenning.co.uk/thelastseal.html

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