Blaze of GloryBlaze of Glory – Michael Pryor

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Cover Blurb
There’s a magical and political storm brewing – and Aubrey Fitzwilliam is making sure he’s right in the centre of it …

Aubrey Fitzwilliam is the son of a prominent ex-prime minister. He’s also brilliant at magic, but he’s stuck at boarding school. At least he has his best friend, George, there to back him up. George would follow Aubrey anywhere – and with Aubrey’s talent for thinking up daring schemes that will get them both into trouble, that’s no easy thing to do.

At a weekend shooting party at Prince Albert’s country estate, the boys find themselves in a hotbed of political intrigue. They discover a golem, a magical creature built to perform one task: to kill Prince Albert. Aubrey and George are hailed as heroes for foiling the attempt on the prince’s’ life – but who sent the golem, and why? Aubrey is far too curious to let the authorities handle this one, and he and George start investigating …

Michael Pryor Says
I’ve been intrigued by the link between history and fantasy for a long time. History is a rich resource for any fantasy writer, as well as being immensely interesting in its own right. I wanted to write a fantasy in a setting that was more up to date than the standard quasi-medieval fantasy world, and the time just before World War 1 began to beckon. In many ways it was the beginning of what we call the modern world, which means it was also the end of a previous time. Such a transition period is a potentially rich one for a writer, with clashes of culture and changing circumstances providing a fertile ground to explore much about what makes us what we are. The period immediately before the Great War was full of promise, but also dread with the political situation on the continent a constant sore.

But I didn’t want to write a historical novel. I didn’t want to be straitjacketed by the actual events if they didn’t suit my narrative purpose. So using a writer’s prerogative, I made a fantasy world that is remarkably close to our own in the years leading up to 1914, with a few tweaks and adjustments. Magic is a part of this world, but it’s a time where the magicians are trying to treat magic as a science, with a rational, rigorous approach. Here’s where my love of the history of science stood me in good stead, for I was able to use the advances in the development of the scientific method as a parallel for what’s happening to magic in Blaze of Glory.

On top of all this, I wanted a character who was a hero. Intelligent, brave, adroit, but with a flaw or two. Aubrey Fitzwilliam grew from this. Brilliant, confident, but also self-doubting and prone to making errors of judgment, he’s a contradiction which, I hope, makes him all the more human.

This is a book where I did more than my usual amount of research. I read many stories written at the time, for little incidental details of dress and background, including all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes tales. I bought books on politics, shotgun hunting, arts and crafts, and studied many, many photographs from the Edwardian era for specifics of clothes, hats, shoes and facial hair – of which there was a startling array.

I loved writing Blaze of Glory , and I hope you enjoy reading it.

Blaze of Glory begins
Aubrey Fitzwilliam hated being dead. it made things much harder than they needed to be.

‘When you’re quite ready, Fitzwilliam! We haven’t got all day!’ bawled the pimply-faced Warrant Officer. Aubrey stood up straighter and glanced at him. The WO was Atkins, a fellow sixth-former, a newcomer to Stonelea School. He had an Adam’s apple that made him look as if he’d swallowed a melon and he was taking great pleasure in his small position of authority. ‘Two laps of the Hummocks, full pack.’ Atkins paused to gloat. ‘Lovely weather for it, cadet, if you enjoy heatstroke.’

Aubrey said nothing. He lifted his chin, stiffened his back and stared straight ahead to study the rounded hills of the Hummocks. The pounded earth trail he had to follow wound its way up and down through the sparse growth of the training course. Heat haze made the air ripple over the farthest reaches, obscuring the fence that separated the training course from the school playing fields.

Two miles, more or less. His task was to complete the circuit twice, at the double – in early afternoon heat that had already sent the tennis players from the courts and the birds to drowsiness in the trees around the fence line.

Before his accident, Aubrey knew he would have completed the challenge without difficulty, even though, at the age of seventeen when many others were filling out and taking on their adult strength, he was still slight. He had pale skin, black hair and dark-brown – almost black – eyes, and he looked frail, a poet rather than an athlete. But he’d always managed to surprise people with his determination in running, boxing, or games. Boys much larger than him had learned that provoking skinny Aubrey to fight could be a poor idea. He could drag himself over broken glass if he set his mind to it.

But since the disastrous magical experiment, things were different. Balanced on the edge of true death as he was, physical strain – even emotional strain – could tip him over. He only kept the semblance of a normal existence by a combination of arcane spells and strength of mind. If his magic failed, it would be the end for him.

I’ll just have to make sure I don’t let that happen , he thought. He adjusted his shoulders.

‘Step lively, now!’ Atkins said. ‘The clock’s running! Don’t keep us waiting! Remember, no magical assistance!’

Aubrey set off, grinding his teeth. Steady on , he told himself. He was probably bullied by his older brothers. And sisters.