I’ve been a fan of Michael Pryor’s ever since I first picked up Blaze of Glory, the first book in his Laws of Magic series. I was captured by the old-style covers and as soon as I started reading I was transported to a world very similar to ours. The series was full of magic, politics, intrigue, espionage and brilliantly witty characters. When I found out that Michael had started a new series I was eager to delve into his new story and meet new characters. His new series is called The Extraordinaires and the first book, The Extinction Gambit, introduces us to a shadowy London where dark creatures lurk just below the surface.
Kingsley Ward knows nothing of his parents. His foster father, Dr Ward, refuses to tell him how he came to be looking after Kingsley. On the night that he is to make his professional debut on stage with his death-defying escapology, his performance ends in disaster. Kingsley has a wolfish nature that bursts free at the most inappropriate times, especially in the middle of his performance in front of hundreds of people. A strange albino girl called Evadne comes to his rescue and takes him back to his foster father’s house, only to find his father is missing, the house keeper has been murdered, and two abnormally large, very ugly men are ransacking Dr Ward’s library. Kingsley has no idea who these men or what they have done to Dr Ward. Evadne takes Kingsley to her secret hideaway and explains that she is part of the Demimonde, the ‘world of the dispossessed and the fugitive, of outlaws, thieves and cutthroats, of the lost and abandoned, of the strange and uncanny.’ Through alternate chapters Michael Pryor introduces us to other members of the Demimonde: Jabez Soames, the human inside the Demimonde who wheels and deals and knows just how to bargain with the various groups in the Demimonde; the True Humans or Neanderthals (depending on whether you’re one of them or not) who want to wipe out the Invaders (Homo sapiens) by travelling back in time and killing them; and the Immortals, a group of immortal sorcerers who need to inhabit the bodies of children to live the longest. As the story progresses the paths of these various groups cross and it’s up to Kingsley and Evadne to disrupt their plans before it’s too late.
Michael Pryor has once again created a story filled with action, suspense, mystery and fantastic characters. I loved the idea of this group of shady characters lurking underneath London and having a group of Neanderthals that didn’t die out is brilliant. The Immortals at first sounded a little like vampires, but I think they’re far creepier. There’s also a slight hint of the Frankenstein story creeping into this story, as the Immortals create their minions, the Spawn, from their own body parts that they cut off. Like Aubrey in The Laws of Magic, Kingsley is a fantastic character who is intelligent and witty. At first I thought Kingsley’s wolfish nature might be hinting at him being a werewolf, but the true is much more exciting, and is linked with Rudyard Kipling who is also a minor character. Evadne is a girl who can look after herself (and Kingsley at times) and is also incredibly intelligent. There is a sense that there are many layers of Evadne that Kingsley, and the reader, hasn’t been introduced to yet. The Extinction Gambit is the perfect book for anyone who likes their supernatural/fantasy stories without the gushy romance. I can’t wait to see what Michael Pryor has in store for Kingsley and Evadne next.