Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full of intrigue and action - an epic, 11 Mar. 2007
This review is from: The Religion (Hardcover)
"The Religion" takes the reader back to the summer of 1565 as the Ottoman Turks are laying siege to Malta. Only the Knights Hospitallers - who call themselves 'The Religion' - stand in the way of their ambition to take the island and pave the way for the conquest of the western Mediterranean. Caught in the midst of this conflict is the Lady Carla, searching for the son she has not seen since the day of his birth, and the hero of the piece, Mattias Tannhauser, an adventurer, trader and rogue she recruits to assist her in this seemingly impossible task. At the same time they are being purused by the scheming Inquisitor Ludovico Ludovici. As the father of Carla's child he is intent first and foremost on foiling Tannhauser and finding the boy for his own purposes, but he has another goal too: to infiltrate and subvert The Religion itself, and ultimately to bring it under the control of Rome.

This is an epic tale with tremendous vision, a combination of romance and intrigue and action that never lets up its pace. The language is beautiful throughout and almost poetic at times, the dialogue in particular being especially well crafted, archaic without being cliched. The main characters are all well-rounded and it is easy to identify and sympathise with them despite their faults - even in the case of the twisted Ludovico. Most importantly, Willocks really makes you feel as if you were there during that long, hot, gruelling summer. He has clearly researched the period thoroughly and has a fantastic eye for detail, such that all his locations are brought to life.

At the same time there is no denying that it is an extremely violent book, and indeed Willocks seems to take delight in his graphic descriptions of the full and bloody horrors of war in the 1500s. Unfortunately this seems to be responsible for the book's lukewarm reception by many reviewers in the broadsheets. But while the violence might not be to everyone's taste, there is far more to this book than that and if you can see beyond it you will find that this is a truly brilliant piece of writing.

By all measures "The Religion" is an excellent book - gripping, thrilling and immersive. It undoubtedly ranks as one of my all-time favourites.
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