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  • THE EXTINCTION GAMBIT

The Extinction Gambit

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Cover Blurb
Kingsley Ward is in dire trouble. Instead of thrilling the audience with his death-defying escapology, his first performance ends in disaster when his hidden wolfish nature bursts free. That same night, his father is abducted and his home ransacked.

To find Dr Ward and redeem himself, Kingsley braves the Demimonde, the mysterious world that exists alongside our own. He is soon the target of two warring factions: immortal magicians whose diabolical plans will create mayhem at the 1908 London Olympics, and the last Neanderthals, whose vengeance will wipe out humankind.

Kingsley needs help. The famous author Rudyard Kipling -will assist, but why is he so interested in Kingsley? Evadne Stephens, juggler and weaponsmith, is a Demimonde expert but what does her mercurial nature conceal?

Bizarre plots. Sinister magic.

The extraordinary is about to happen.

Michael Pryor says
In short, The Extinction Gambit is a historical/fantasy/adventure/comedy/thriller/romance. After finishing The Laws of Magic series, I realised that I’m drawn to worlds that combine old-fashioned manners with a sense of being on the brink of new and boundless futures. I enjoy the friction this creates and the possibilities it throws up. I like moving from stateliness and decorum to the wild and bizarre. I like dignity running headlong into the outlandish. This era gives me a chance to explore this, and to explore the sort of people who can move between these two worlds.

I’m also fascinated by capable people. People who have outrageous skills and abilities are the gold nuggets in the river bed of human history. They take chances, they dream dreams, they imagine things that eventually benefit us all. They are the outliers, but they are also us.

The Extinction Gambit begins
Kingsley Ward’s wolfishness was a problem. If it weren’t the howling, it was the occasional desire to bite boorish people, which was rarely acceptable, no matter how boorish the boor.

If 1908 were going to be a good year, however, he would have to maintain his control when it was his turn to walk onto the stage of the Alexandra Theatre.

He stood in the wings while his nerves did their best to share their discomfort with the rest of his body. Keeping to the shadows, he waited for the tenor (‘Lloyd Evans, the Welsh Wonder’) to finish a heartrending — and stomach-turning — rendition of ‘Nellie Dean’. Kingsley understood that nervousness was natural prior to a professional debut. Of course, it was made worse by the possibility of his wild self breaking loose in the middle of the performance.

Which would certainly emphasise the ‘variety’ component of this variety show, Kingsley decided.

His left knee gave a tentative tremor.

The Alexandra Theatre in Aldershot wasn’t his first choice of venue, but he was prepared to accept that seventeen-year-old novice performers were very much like beggars — choosiness shouldn’t be part of their professional entitlements.

He took a deep breath and held out his hands. Steady enough, and his knee had decided it was up for the job, too. He brushed the lapels of his tailcoat and straight¬ened his starched collar for possibly the three thousandth time.

Kingsley was pleased that, so far, the audience had been good-humoured. They had particularly enjoyed the performing dog troupe (‘Taine’s Tip-Top Terriers!’). Mr Bernadetti, the stage manager, had admitted in a moment of weakness that the week-long booking looked like being a solid earner.

Kingsley had found Mr Bernadetti to be the most relentlessly gloomy person he’d ever encountered. ‘Not a disaster’ was the highest praise Kingsley had ever heard pass the man’s lips. ‘Appalling’, ‘dreadful’ and ‘sod-awful’ were the standard descriptions of the acts Bernadetti shepherded around a country that would never appreciate his genius. This genius, from Kingsley’s observation, was composed of an ability to browbeat theatre owners, a propensity to organise extremely frugal travel arrangements, and a resistance to suggestion so awesome that, if properly harnessed, it could armour battleships.

The tenor reached for a high note, quickly revised his estimation of his own ability and settled for something on an altogether more achievable shelf, sliding about a little before he nailed it down. Kingsley guessed that the cheeky grin was meant to suggest that the effect was deliberate.

Kingsley took another deep breath and momentarily wondered why he was subjecting himself to this ordeal. Money wasn’t a spur. His foster father wouldn’t actually allow him to starve, even if he disapproved of Kingsley’s abandoning his studies. The lure of fame wasn’t strong, either, as Kingsley could quite comfortably live without being recognised on the street.

Was it simply the fulfilment of years of practice? Since his introduction to the world of magic, Kingsley had devoted much of his time to developing his skills. He was prepared to admit that he’d gone about it in a way that even he would have called obsessive in someone else.

Kingsley’s fingers twitched. Flourish, cut, drop, produce. Fan, waterfall, palm, display. Repeat. Repeat again.

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