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92 of 93 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History as it should be written.
The conflict between Ottoman Turkey and Christian Spain for mastery of the Mediterranean basin had a huge influence on the development of the modern world, yet is probably not something you know very much about, even if you studied history at school. Roger Crowley deals with the key period of this struggle during the 16th Century in a page-turner of a narrative peopled...
Published on 5 Jun 2008 by Michael Edwards

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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great story
Crowley does an extraordinary job putting together three extraordinary stories that marked the 16th Century in the Mediterranean: The siege of Rhodes, the siege of Malta, and the Battle of Lepanto. These stories, especially that of the siege of Malta, makes the book read like a novel, most enthralling and nail biting.

Although Crowley has written a very...
Published on 21 Oct 2008 by Borja Echegaray Aguirrezabal


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Empires of the Sea, 19 July 2013
An interesting analysis of a conflict usually ignored in northern Europe as it is believed to have had no impact on our history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A roller coaster ride!, 13 May 2013
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D. Heaney (edinburgh scotland) - See all my reviews
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This is a non stop page turner. Historically accurate but written in a, for me, "Boys Own" rip roaring way. Very gripping and left me with a lot of "what if?" questions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valletta, 21 Dec 2012
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Possibly the most enjoyable book I have ever read. A real page turner. Compelling. Must be the best author on this period of history, Roger Crowley, writes with verve and intelligence. I never thought he could surpass his previous book on Constantinople but I think he has. Truly brilliant writing. Excellent.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A ripping read, 31 Jan 2009
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B. Alonso "balo" (spain) - See all my reviews
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This book was a pleasure to read and very informative.It's battle scenarios are very well written.I missed several metro/underground stops due to being so immersed in this book.A real page turner that charts tensions between Christian and Christian and Muslim worlds.The story of the Maltese knights stands out as does the battle of Lepanto.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!, 23 April 2010
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J. L. Stewart (Hull. U.K.) - See all my reviews
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I read a book about the battle of Lepanto earlier last year , so i was in two minds whether to go over the same ground again with a longer perspective. Wow! What an incredible series of events and amazing narrative!I literally could not put this book down. I read it twice to put in perspective the details that i had missed in the first reading. I have implored a friend to read this through, even though he said the subject matter was something, he knew little about. I cannot recommend this book more highly. I will be waiting for the author's next work with great anticipaton.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The tide turns for the West, 8 Jan 2010
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N. Brown (UK) - See all my reviews
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I am sure that there can't be many people from the UK that haven't at one time in their lives taken a holiday to one of the Baleric Islands. I remember myself reading during one trip to Mallorca that `villages tended to be built away from the coast because of frequent pirate attack'. Our image of pirates is now whitewashed by the efforts of Hollywood but the true horror of the Barbary pirates' rape of these islands is shockingly conveyed in the opening chapters of this fine book. Hard to believe now these holiday destinations were at the front line of a 16th century corsair assault.

These Islamic freebooters, operating at arms-length control by the Ottoman Empire spread terror across the Christian coastal communities of the Mediterranean. Whole islands could be carted off into appalling slavery, women and children included. The Hapsburg and Papal efforts to counter-attack were feeble indeed, not helped by the division and self-interest of Western powers of the time. Time and again the Ottomans were able to pick off their targets aided by alliances of convenience with France and Venice.

In what is strongest and central core of the story, the middle chapters tell the story of the Ottoman siege of Malta in 1565. If Hollywood really is looking for a great story then this has everything. Here the author excels himself with a pacey and emotionally engaging account of this famous siege.

In the final chapters, the book moves onto recount the events around the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. For once the Christian West was united in a Holy League and the fleet was headed by a young and charismatic leader who was looking to get to grips with the enemy rather than avoid contact as had been past practice. The result was a victory that heralded the end of Turkish supremacy in the Mediterranean.

As other reviewers have said, this is how narrative history should be written. Whilst it might lack the detail and research that more serious scholars might wish for, here is history told for the casual reader in a way which anyone who enjoys a great story can get their teeth into. This is a book I've recommended to people who don't normally read non-fiction as the narrative is so compelling. In addition, there are important lessons here for the present day about the need for western unity in the face of a renewed challenge from militant Islam.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable, 13 July 2008
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Allen Brown - See all my reviews
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Some of the great thrillers are impossible to put down - you want to know what happens to the characters and what great plot twist is coming next - even if you sometimes know the hero will survive somehow. But that's fiction, this isn't. Roger Crowley writes about this extraordinary period of European history with the same pace and energy as the best fiction writers and his real-life characters provide him with just as many plot twists and just as many amazing heroes.

You may know a bit about the 16th Century - Henry VIII and his wives, Luther, Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare, the Gregorian calendar, Cortés and Drake, but this is a whole new story played out on the fringes of our school-taught history.

It's completely riveting. Don't read ahead but the siege of Malta is an incredibly story of bravery, ingenuity and simple brute force.

If you enjoy history or even if you just enjoy a good old-fashioned thriller, treat yourself to this book.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling history!, 6 Oct 2009
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Cathy (Halifax, West Yorkshire UK) - See all my reviews
This is Roger Crowley's second history of the Ottoman assault on Europe and is just as good as "Constantinople". This chapter covers the story from the defeat of the Knights of St John at Rhodes to Don Juan's success at the Battle of Lepanto, including Barbarossa's part in the white slave trade. As with Constantinople, it is his descriptions of the sieges, this time of Rhodes and Malta that are most compelling. Roger Crowley writes very well; the language is lively and he creates a terrific sense of suspense; my 16 year old son was also gripped! At the same time, this is not a dramatic reconstruction and you feel you are getting properly researched history from primary sources.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good, 28 Dec 2009
Excellent history book, very readable and well laid out. I had a misgiving at the beginning when Crowley said that Oruch Barbarossa was a slave working on the battlements at Rhodes in 1522 (page 18), for him to then mention that Oruch appeared "abruptly" on the shores of Maghreb in 1512 and was killed circa 1517. but this was easily forgiven as the book gathered pace, content and flow.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the muezzin's call from the vatican...?, 26 Mar 2009
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This is a brilliantly written story of the long contest between the Turk and Catholic Europe for control (or just safety) of the Mediterranean. The med is quite big, so I was dreading another book where every other paragraph begins "Meanwhile" as the focus continually shifts. I need not have worried. Crowley concentrates firmly on the basic conflict, and tells the story with remarkable brio.

The story begins with the loss of Rhodes by the Knights of St John, an event characterised by considerable bad faith and bloody savagery on both sides, which sets the tone for the rest of the conflict. Its centrepiece is the siege of Malta, real edge-of-the-seat stuff even if you know the result. (Malta was saved, but only just.) It climaxes with the battle of Lepanto, which Crowley rightly calls a close-run thing, which could have resulted in the collapse of Italy and Spain if it had gone the other way.

Crowley takes a humane view of the motivations and excesses of both sides. In his view it was the scale of carnage that led to the petering out of the conflict; loss of manpower enfeebled both sides to the point of an uneasy but durable truce. Perhaps he could have said more about ship design, about financial pressures on both sides, about the waning (perhaps?) of religious zeal, but these are mere quibbles.

The reader will be entranced by the appalling courage and bloodthirstyness of the age. Slave raiding, it seems, had as its principal purpose the recruitment of manpower to man the oars of the galleys. Death rates in battle were phenomenally high (nowhere matched until 1916). What made them do it? Why did they stop? (Selim built a new fleet in only two years after the losses of Lepanto.)

Slaving continued for another two centuries. If the first duty of the modern state is to protect its citizens, we must conclude that this was not an age of modernity. Psychologically also, the actors are far removed from us. Even the Europeans in this book seem like exotics, which only adds to the excitement.

Highly recommended, both as history and a fascinating read.
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