It’s exciting to begin a new series. It’s like taking a first step through a secret door leading to places unknown with tantalising prospect of adventure awaiting. The release of ‘The Extinction Gambit’, the first book of ‘The Extraordinaires’, is just like that.
I also have a strange sensation that comes from leaving a series behind. In May 2011, ‘Hour of Need’ – the last book of ‘The Laws of Magic’ – was published. I’d worked on this series for more than eight years, and having it finally coming to an end was most peculiar. I’d lived with those characters for a long time, after all. I’d worked with them, I’d known their hopes, their dreams, their fears – and they’d been very patient with me as I subjected them to the bizarre, the dangerous and the embarrassing. Waving goodbye to them was sad. It was as if they were leaving home, going off and having more adventures and I wouldn’t be there to write about them.
And so, to ‘The Extinction Gambit’. Like ‘The Laws of Magic’, this new series is set in a world that is delightfully old-fashioned. It’s a world of manners and decorum, of society and class, of being dreadfully proper – and of some of the most stylish clothes you’re ever likely to see. Top hats anyone? Gorgeous lace? Silk capes and gloves?
Unlike ‘The Laws of Magic’, ‘The Extinction Gambit’ isn’t set in an alternative Edwardian world. It’s set fairly and squarely in London in 1908 – the time of the first London Olympic Games. The Olympics form the backdrop to a dizzying adventure that mostly takes place in the Demimonde, mysterious world that lies side by side with the ordinary world. The Demimonde is a world of magic, of lost legends and of sinister plots, of inhabitants who are startling, shadowy and highly unpredictable.
The main characters in ‘The Extinction Gambit’ are Kingsley Ward and Evadne Stephens. Kingsley is a young man, seventeen years old, who has decided to put his studies to one side and pursue a life in the theatre. He has always had a dream to be a stage magician. More than that, he wants to be an escapologist, one of that special breed of magician who escapes from handcuffs, from locked trunks, from straitjackets suspended over a pit of crocodiles. At his first ever professional engagement he meets Evadne Stephens, an astonishingly beautiful, outstandingly talented juggler, who also happens to be an albino and an inventor who delights in building frighteningly lethal weapons and other machines of destruction. She also makes an excellent cup of tea.
When Kingsley’s foster father is abducted, Kingsley hurries to find him. Evadne insists on coming along and soon proves her worth as they plunge into the Demimonde. They flee through drains, tunnels and along London’s long lost underground rivers. They battle ancient magic and strange devices. They encounter the last surviving Neanderthals who are fanatically determined to wipe out the human race. They are assaulted by a trio of immortal magicians who want Kingsley as part of their plan to enslave the world. They are assisted by a famous author who seems to have an agenda of his own.
None of this was what Kingsley had been imagining when he stepped onto the stage of the Alexandra Theatre, and it’s made more difficult for him as he constantly has to struggle with a side of him that is wild, uncontrollable and undeniably wolfish. This is only natural, of course, since he was raised by wolves as a young child.
In short, ‘The Extinction Gambit’ is a helter-skelter fantasy comedy adventure with sandwiches, at the appropriate time.
I’ve had a wonderful time writing ‘The Extinction Gambit’. As usual, I’ve had to undertake mountains of research, but this is almost as much fun as writing the actual story. I’ve uncovered surprising details about the underground geography of London, about the organisation of the Olympic Games and about the nature of Homo Neanderthalis. Much of this didn’t end up in the book, but nothing is ever wasted. After all, we have another two books to come in the series!