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The Last Seal Paperback – 8 Sep 2012
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The Praesidum consists of Ben, Freya, Tobias, and Gabriel though only Gabriel knows the truth of what is happening. Ben is a schoolboy whose parents were killed in a fire before explaining his birthright to him. Freya is a streetwise thief who runs into Ben through chance and gets sucked into an adventure she could never have seen coming, and Tobias is a doctor whose father was killed by the Liberati in what he thinks of as a pointless struggle based on superstition.
The Liberati consists of Artemis and the men he has tricked into following him. The most important of those is Matthius, a disillusioned street preacher who believes they are freeing an Angel to clean the city of the taint of sin. Artemis has had the story of Dantalion passed down to him by his father and wishes to free the powerful demon in order to advance his own status in the new world that will be created. Everyone else is a tool to help him or an obstacle to be destroyed.
Dantalion is kept trapped by a series of magical seals set by Cornelius Silver, the founder of the Praesidum, that the current members strive to protect. Artemis however has learned the best way to destroy them is intense fire. Once all of the original seals are destroyed the last seal will be revealed and Dantalion can be summoned back to Earth.
The Last Seal is an interesting story and being set with a major historical event adds a bit of realism to the story. The magic system used by Richard is solid and well explained with a very nice glossary explaining the terms used in the spellcasting. Artemis served as a fairly standard bad guy whose only concern is his own well being. The character I most enjoyed was Freya, her streetwise ways and smart mouth really made her an asset to the dialogue of the group. Gabriel and Tobias were decent characters with good backstories, but I really never identified with them. Ben was a solid character dealing with the tragedy of his past and discovering more about himself and his family than he ever knew. He also has to battle his personal demons in order to come to terms with the events that are happening around him.
Overall the story was enjoyable, though I did find a few parts a little slow. This is a very good book for people who are looking for younger characters playing large roles and works well for a YA book. The descriptions of the devastation of a large fire are well done and the way the fire is spread adds a terrible element to the brutality of the event.
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.
I 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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