Friday, 16 September 2011
Blog Tour: Review of The Last Seal by Richard Denning
(Standard disclaimer: Received in exchange for a fair and honest review.)
In 1380 the warlock Stephen Blake released the demon Dantalion from the Abyss, only for his nemesis Cornelius Silver to banish him straight away. Dantalion has nursed his wounds for nearly 300 years – and in 1666, descendants of the original pair clash as he aims to return to the world, and burn down London by starting the Great Fire. While the fire rages around London, and Dantalion’s followers try to break the seals which hold him in the Abyss, four unlikely heroes join forces to stop them from being destroyed – and to save the world.
The main characters, those four heroes, are a schoolboy called Ben from the renowned Westminster School, and a young thief, Freya. They’re helped by a bookseller Gabriel, who’s one of the secret society that Silver belonged to, and Dr Tobias Janssen, who thirsts for revenge on Dantalion’s latest would-be-releaser, Artemas. The opposition, along with various disposable henchmen, consists of Dantalion, Artemas, and Matthias, a crazed preacher.
It’s a fairly small cast in many ways, although there are plenty of minor parts, but that works well because the characters are all really well developed, particularly Ben, who it quickly becomes clear has a murky past. Denning does a fantastic job of drawing out the background behind his main protagonist, and the camaraderie that builds up between he, Freya, Gabriel and Tobias.
When I first got my hands on it last year in hardback, this was the second of Richard Denning's books that I read and while I've since also really enjoyed Yesterday's Treasures, the follow-up to the excellent Tomorrow's Guardian, this is definitely my favourite of his works. As with his other books, there's fast and furious action, great dialogue - the revision since the hardback has notably improved this - and the characterisation is particularly strong in this one. Denning also has a real thirst for historical knowledge and this certainly shines through in his books, with his descriptions of London in 1666 making you feel as if you were in the middle of the raging fire. It’s the kind of book which I can see lots of parents and teachers buying for children to get them more interested in history – I think some young readers might pick up a lot about the 1660’s as they read it. There’s also some interesting cameos from real historical figures, including Charles II, Samuel Pepys, and Richard Busby, the real headmaster of Westminster at this time. All of them are vividly realized in extremely short appearances.
Tantalisingly, this is now being marketed as book one of the Praesidium series - I'll definitely be on board for book 2! Oh, and before that, it looks like we're getting the third in the author's excellent Hourglass Institute series next year - happy times indeed for fans of historical fiction.
For more about The Last Seal, check out the rest of Richard's fantastic blog tour - details here.