Richard Denning's The Last Seal was first published in 2010 by Mercia Books. The second edition was published in 2011. The Last Seal is the first book of The Praesidium Series.

Here's information about the author:

Richard Denning was born in Ilkeston in Derbyshire and lives in Sutton Coldfield in West Midlands, where he works as a General Practitioner. 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.

Click here to visit Richard Denning's official website.

Here's a full description of The Last Seal:

17th century London – two rival secret societies are caught in a battle that threatens to destroy the city and beyond. When a truant schoolboy, Ben, finds a scroll revealing the location of magical seals that binds a powerful demon beneath the city, he is thrown into the centre of a dangerous plot that leads to the Great Fire of 1666.

The Last Seal by Richard Denning: a Historical Fantasy Novel.

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.

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Richard Denning's The Last Seal is a fast-paced and compelling historical fantasy adventure for young adults. It's fundamentally a story about a struggle between two secret societies (Praesidium and Liberati) and a fight between good and evil, but it's also a story about the Great Fire of London, which destroyed parts of London in September 1666. The members of the Praesidium try to protect the city of London from an evil demon called Dantalion and the members of the Liberati try to free Dantalion.

The Last Seal has a diverse cast of characters. The main characters are Ben, Freya, Gabriel, Tobias and Artemas. Other characters include Matthias, Gymer and Dr. Busby.

Here's some information about the characters:

  • Ben, Freya, Gabriel and Tobias are the heroes of this book.
    • Ben is a truant schoolboy, who finds an old scroll and gets involved in an ancient struggle between two secret societies. His life changes dramatically when he reads the scroll and finds out new things about himself. He also has to battle against his own inner demons, because his parents died in a fire.
    • Freya is an orphaned thief, who runs into Ben and gets involved in the ancient struggle.
    • Gabriel is a bookseller and the only surviving member of the Praesidium. He begins to teach Ben new things. He also has secrets of his own and these secrets may cause him problems.
    • Tobias is a physician who wants to avenge the death of his father. He doesn't believe in the Praesidium and supernatural things, but he has to accept certain things.
    • When these four heroes meet and talk about things, they begin to fight against the Liberati. Their lives change quickly and they have to trust each other.
  • Artemas and Matthias are evil characters.
    • Artemas is a servant of the demon (Dantalion). Artemas is a man who wants to rule the world by releasing the demon (he tries to break the seals which hold the demon). He's a ruthless man and he'll do anything to get what he wants.
    • Matthias is a preacher and Artemas' helper. He's driven by blind faith in what he's doing and doesn't think about the consequences of his actions.
  • Gymer is a captain and works for the King. He thinks that Tobias and his friends (Ben, Freya and Gabriel) are Dutch spies and makes things difficult for them.
  • Dr. Busby is Ben's headmaster at Westminster School.

Because the demon, Dantalion, is also an important part of this book, here's information about him:

  • Dantalion is a demon who wants to rule the world. He was brought to London from another dimension by a warlock called Stephen Blake in 1380, but was almost immediately bound beneath the city by Cornelius Silver.

The characters were well realized individuals and the story was well structured. I was impressed by the fast moving plot – it was great that there was enough action to keep the story flowing fast forward.

It was interesting to read about Ben's problems, because he had problems accepting certain things. He tried to avoid facing the problems, but only managed to make things worse for himself. Freya was also an interesting character, because she was an orphaned girl who had to steal things in order to survive. I also enjoyed reading about Gabriel's problems and Artemas' evil schemes.

In my opinion Richard Denning wrote fluently about several different themes: friendship, temptation, sacrifice and duty. There was also a bit of humour, which lightened the atmosphere in a nice way.

I was amazed how well Richard Denning wrote about historical details. It was easy to see that he's interested in history, because he used historical settings as part of the story and wrote skillfully about the Great Fire of London (as some readers may know, the fire started at the bakery of Thomas Farriner and spread rapidly across the City of London, but in this book the fire was started by the Liberati and it was used to release the demon). His descriptions of the fire and its spreading were so vivid and realistic that it was easy to imagine how horrible the fire must have been and what people have done to stop it.

I wouldn't be surprised if younger readers became interested in history after reading The Last Seal, because it will probably make them want to know more about history.

Original cover artI enjoyed reading The Last Seal, because it was a traditional and well written YA fantasy book. At this moment there are too many YA fantasy books about vampires and other supernatural beings who fall in love with humans, so this kind of traditional YA fantasy feels refreshing and interesting (it's fun to read good and historically accurate fantasy books).

I can recommend The Last Seal to young adults, because it's an exciting and fast moving fantasy adventure. I think that teenage boys will like this book very much, because it's full of action and the characters find themselves in all kinds of predicaments. I'm sure that adult readers will also enjoy this book, because it's entertaining and enjoyable escapism for fantasy readers.

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