The Last Seal by Richard Denning
|The Last Seal by Richard Denning
|Reviewer: Robert James
|Summary: Pacy and enjoyable fantasy set during the Great Fire of London. Definitely recommended to teenage boys, including reluctant readers.
|Date: March 2010
|Publisher: Mercia Books
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.
I love reading books set in Tudor and Stuart times and this is definitely realistic (at least apart from the demon stirring things up, at least.) 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.
One of the few drawbacks is some of the language used – while most of the dialogue sounds really good, there are a couple of jarring moments – notably Freya’s repeated use of the words Oh poop, and two different characters saying I guess, both of which seem far too Americanised for England in the 17th century – still, small points indeed.
This is the second book by Richard Denning I’ve read, following the equally enjoyable Tomorrow’s Guardian. Like that one, this is fast and furious, with the action strong all the way through, and it’s if anything slightly stronger on characterisation. While Denning’s website states the book is for older teenagers and adults, there’s little here that would stop young teenagers – and maybe even 10 – 12 year olds – from liking this, apart from a couple of moderately scary passages.
Further reading suggestion: For more historical fantasy aimed at younger teenagers, try Kate Forsyth’s The Gypsy Crown, set just a short while prior to this book during Cromwell’s reign as Lord Protector.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Seal by Richard Denning at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Seal by Richard Denning at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.