Thank you for inviting me on to Everybookhasasoul. This guest post is
one of a series celebrating
the release of my historical fantasy novel, The
Last Seal. which is set during the Great Fire of London in 1666.
The idea of this post is to look at writing historical fantasy novels.
Historical fantasy is a genre of fiction
which blends a recognisable historical setting with elements found in fantasy
works. This might include mythical creatures, sorcery and magic, gods, the
occult and supernatural events. It may be divided further into two main
A) Sometimes the premise is that the
events are occurring in OUR world, with more or less an accurate version of
history, but with the addition of these fantasy elements.
B) Or they are set in parallel worlds,
alternate histories or even entirely separate words whose history bears some
resemblance to ours.
They can all be seen as somewhat
different to fantasy novels where the events occur in a world whose history is
really quite different to our own (For Example Lord of the Rings) or true historical
novels in which there the are no fantasy elements at all.
I guess I should try to
explain why I
enjoy these type of books. I am a fan of historical fiction such as the Sharpe series by Bernard
Cornwell and the Eagles novels by Simon Scarrow. However I also enjoy fantasy as
well. I devoured The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings as a child and then
became a Terry Pratchett fan when I discovered The Colour of Magic at the age
of 18 in university and went on to read any fantasy I could get my hands on
including the Belgariad by David Eddings and most of the works of Raymond Feist
Now, I have to deal with gritty reality
in the day job – I am a family doctor – and so get my fair share of takes about
divorce, drugs, abuse and work problems. Thus when I am at home I never watch
or read stories about real life dramas if I can avoid it. Give me a good bit of
escapism any day. But I really enjoy it when fantasy takes place at least
partially in our world, where there is that tantalizing thought that maybe that
wardrobe in your house really does lead to another world. 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.
are reasons, other than the fact that this is the type of genre I enjoy, for
mixing in a little fantasy in my history and those reasons flow from the
history itself. This period of history was associated with several elements
that could be exploited into a good story.
we have internal political issues in England. The English Civil War had ended
only 15 years before and the country had no King for a decade. Although Charles
II had returned in 1660 there were many in the country who opposed the
Restoration. Indeed some would be willing to go as far as assassination
attempts. It was a time of plots and conspiracies against the monarch who
responded by setting up a network of spies.
differences STILL rumbled on. We have the puritans at one extreme who wished to
do away with state religion, bishops and any icons or ceremony in church and
those whose aim was to make England Catholic once more. There were fears about
what the extremists on both sides would do to bring about their aims.
England was embroiled in a war against both France and Holland and this created
an atmosphere of great distrust of foreigners and the assumption by many that
they were only in London to stir up trouble.
we have the superstitions that were
prevalent at the time. This was a period when people were still tried and hung
for witchcraft. People believed in magic and demons and were afraid of it all.
Omens abounded and were seen as predicting the end of the world. Thus the very
year – 1666 was seen as containing the ‘ number of the beast’ – 666. There were
lunar eclipses and a solar eclipse that year and comets were in the sky the
year or two before. A famous astrologer had even predicted a plague followed by
So then all that together
provides a mighty stew of elements just asking for being made into a novel.
Furthermore I just felt that that adding an element of fantasy was actually quite
in fitting with the times. 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. What if there was a demon
trapped under the city and the battle between those who wish to free it and
those who wish to defeat it started the fire?
made that decision I then had to look at what part of the book should be
historical and what was going to be fantasy. I elected to make the book follow
the 5 days of the fire. This gave a pace to it and as part of the plot was
connected with the destruction of certain magical seals around the city that
bound the demon, then the real historical pattern of the fire and its rate of
spread would be a natural way to track the progress of the various parties in
the book. They would have to dodge the fire and work out ways to avoid it. I
therefore wanted the fire to be as real as possible and I put quite a bit of
time into researching London in 1666, the fire and what happened.
wanted magic in the book to have a fairly original feel to it and so decided
that the use of sorcery was linked to the use of words that were buried in the
many languages of man and were fragments of the old demonic language that man
heard when fighting against the demons in ancient times.
wanted magic and demons to be powerful BUT ordinary humans armed with pistols
and swords still to have a role to play and so blended in cavaliers, musketeers, a pistol totting doctor and a knife wielding thief with the sorcerers
So I hope you would like to
read The Last Seal and enjoy the history and the adventure set against the
Great Fire of London in 1666.