This is probably the best historical novel I have ever read, bringing to life the Ottoman Empire, the Knights of St John and the siege of Malta. All characters are realistic and engaging and I was always interested in what would happen to them. The parallel stories of the different characters (in Malta, Algiers, France, Istanbul) are brought together perfectly in the final Great Siege (described in all its brutality and drama), and even on the very last page (771) there is a unexpected little twist which adds an additional interest to the whole great story. As the early action moved from one character and place to another, I was always disappointed to leave that section, but was always immediately gripped by the episode which followed. I hope David Ball is writing another novel, for I will certainly buy it.
I love this book and also David Ball's other historical novel Empires of Sand. I think you can judge a good historical novel from the interest in generates in the period it is depicting. I was, until reading this, unaware of the historically significant siege of Malta. I was encouraged by this beautiful novel to find out more about Malta, the island's history and in particular the Knights who occupied and fortified the island. The story itself is the telling of the life and adventures of a brother and sister separated and brought up in two very different religious communities. And how, ultimately, they were became involved on different sides in an age old (and ongoing) sectarian war. I think to go into anymore detail would spoil the enjoyment of this fabulous novel. However, I was very interested to see a recent publication by Tim Willocks called The Religion. This novel covers the same events in history and I am encouraged to see it is receiving excellent reviews just like David Ball's Sword and the Scimitar. My only bone of contention with Mr. Ball is that he doesn't seem to have written much. The only other novel aside from Empires of Sand that I believe is from the same author is called China Run, but this seems quite a step away from the historical, romantic adventure story we have here.
First of all this book is very good and I couldn't put it down until the last page. It also covers the historical events of its time in a good and detailed way. Although in general it tries to be in equal distance from both sides (Christains(Order of St. John) and Muslims(Ottomans) of 16th century) by giving the good and bad aspects of both civilizations but when it comes to the human factor it is clearly biased against the Ottomans(or Turks, or Muslims. The distinction disappears throughout the book). There isn't even a single Ottoman with a good character in the book. All of them are portrayed as blood-thirsty savages, looking for sex, rape and profit. When it comes to Christians though, all the characters get a chance to show their good aspects even if they're worse than their Muslim counterparts. e.g. even the priest in the book, who rapes one of the female characters at the beginning of the book, gets portrayed as a -good- person at the end of the book. But I must give credit to the author for at least highlighting the fact that the Ottoman Empire was based on the values of talents of human beings but not their race.
This historical epic saga brings to life in vivid colours the 16th century and gives us an insight into the political and religious conflicts of the time, between the Islamic Ottoman Empire and Christian Europe, between the Knights and the Catholic Hierarchy in Rome and between Christianity and Judaism. All this is spun around the two main characters in the novel, Nico and Maria, Maltese brother and sister who are separated when young and whose destinies take them in vastly different directions only to meet again years later during the Great Siege of Malta. Besides its merits as a well-researched historical account of the turbulent 16th century, David Ball's epic novel is an action-filled adventure full of suspense, romance, cruelty, revenge and religious fanaticism. I have just read the paperback edition - all 774 pages - in four days! How I wished it was even longer. It's that good.
This a great book and should be a bestseller. If you like Malta you will love the history and intrigue of this book. It is on par with Wilbur Smiths books and is just as well written. Only work got in my way from putting the book down before i could finish. Buy it and enjoy the read going back into the 1500's and life on Malta and the high seas and what life was like then.
I absolutely adored this book and was very said when I had finished reading it as it had become my faithfull friend. The book is a real adventure story and spans three countries Algeria, France and Malta and features a set of characters from each country all of which become interlinked. Dont be put off by the physical size of the book its well worth persevering - I started reading it in hardback and went and bought a paperback version as it was easier to handle. The book has regular factual segments which reinforce the storyline and the individual characters of the book are all really well thought out. I would love to know if the author is planning a follow up to the book and if so I will be first in the queue to purchase it.