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VINE VOICEon 11 June 2007
I read this book with a copy of Christopher Hibberts aclaimed 1565,Siege of Malta in tandem.

It is obviously a very brutal,albeit romantic,novel from Willocks.That is his style.

It is also very accurate indeed.....I would say....historically faultless.

Willocks has written a book here that honours both the Christian and Moslem peoples of the day,even if he has ittle time for their religious leaders.He also encompasses a very adult romantic theme in the sheer carnage of war that fits in better than I would have imagined.

All in all this is a brutal,romantic,realistic,passionate book.

Mattias Tannhauser is one of the best realised characters in historical fiction.

I now have much affinity with nightingales and roses.....read the book.
5 people found this helpful
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on 12 June 2010

Dive in head first and lose yourself in this wonderful
historical romp.

An historically critical event ( the siege of Malta) I'd never heard about
before but in retrospect of enormous significance. Perhaps
the battle of Stalingrad of the middle ages.

Willocks is a tremendously talented writer and he
has a fabulous command of the english language. His prose
just zings off the page and whilst flowery is also entirely
believable. His characterization of the main characters
both the goodies and the baddies is ace.

It could have done with being about a 100 pages shorter and
Willocks is slightly too obsessed with excrement but you won't
read a more enjoyable book all year!
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on 28 March 2008
OK, this is a great book no doubt about that. Strong story, great action, in fact it comes across a bit like a Wilbur smith novel, only written by his evil twin brother on acid. I am a fan of historical novels and I thought my all time favourite "Gates of fire" by Pressfield was high on the blood and guts score, but Willock's book makes that seem written by enid Blyton in comparison.
Why not 5 stars ?...two things
1) Parts of the novel tend to drift on just a bit too long.
2) Why oh why are there no maps to go with the text. If ever a book is crying out for maps to help orientate the reader its this one.

Apart from that can't wait for the film. deserves treatment a la "300"
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on 7 March 2009
i must admit that i was steered on to this story of 'The Great Siege of Malta' by reviews i read on Amazon UK....what a story.....it gathers you up in its arms and carries you along following the life of a mercenary ....and you care about the characters....the book is one of that genre that you cannot put down....you are involved and need to know the outcome....
not of the siege but the main characters.....love ,honour,slaughter,epic battles,treachery,bravery,friendship.....all is here.....some books remain in your mind forever...this is one of those....willocks ranks with bernard cornwell in gripping your attention and entertaining....SUPERB SUPERB>>>The Religion
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on 15 January 2011
A truly wonderful book. Those of a more nervous disposition may baulk at the extreme and graphic violence. However, the Siege of Malta was brutal and Willocks evokes its savagery well. Nor, indeed,
is this book about military heroes or great empires. They simply serve as a back drop, a counterpoint to the books true Heroine, Ampora.

This book challenges and defeats our societies view on what is truly noble and heroic.

If Ampora's love, dignity and bravery do not move you to tears then you must have a heart of stone.

I could not recommend this book more.
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on 23 May 2007
Well something for everyone here. Emotion, romance, blood, guts, war and religion (of course).

Well written, well researched and well thought out piece of writing. The characters are very reader friendly one comes to empathise with them greatly during the unfurling of the story and whilst there are only a few twists and turns of the plot it gallops along at such a pace that I didn't notice. Be very careful if you have anything else to do other than read though, I didn't realise quite how fast time was going by while I was absolutely engrossed.
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on 23 August 2011
The mysterious countess Lady Carla La Penautier seeks passage to Malta, the land of her birth, in search of the boy she bore as a young girl out of wedlock, a boy spirited away from her even as she was sent away to an unhappy marriage in France to an old and declining nobleman. It's the eve of the impending Ottoman invasion of Malta to seize that small island south of Italy from the Knights of St. John, the Hospitallers of Crusader fame, who have established their own independent state in the Mediterranean. The knights, stalwart and fierce in battle, know they will be outnumbered by the Grand Turk's minions and desperately seek a means to augment their defenses and turn the odds in their own favor, even as the rest of Christian Europe looks on and Vatican intrigue and the excesses of the Inquisition divide the Hospitallers' potential saviors. Europe's greatest power, Hapsburg Spain, has turned its face from the coming contest, leaving the Hospitallers' Grand Master La Vallette to do what he must to save the seat of the Order's power.

Into this maelstrom of menace and uncertainty the soldier-adventurer Matthias Tannhauser is suddenly thrust as his path crosses, and not by his own design, with that of the Lady Carla. He is mesmerized by her allure -- and by the allure of her young ward and friend, the Spanish lass Amparo. Though Tannhauser has other plans he expects to pursue with his two closest friends and business partners, the machinations of the Hospitallers and the goals of a certain Fra Ludovico of the Inquisition ensure that all their paths will finally meet again at the Siege of Malta where all will be sorely and bloodily tested.

This is a massive tale of the grinding pressure a war can exert on those called upon to fight it. The prose is sometimes overly long in description and not infrequently forced as the author reaches for poetic heights. More, the endlessness of the siege that at last arrives (at the very moment of the arrival of Tannhauser's own small party) can be brutally deadening to read about. Tanhauser himself is soldier-of-fortune with few compunctions when it comes to killing an enemy but a heart of gold when it's needed. Nearly superhuman in his capacity for endurance and for fighting his way out of tough scrapes, and in the scope of his cleverness as he moves with apparent ease between Hospitaller and Turkish lines, Tannhauser, a former jannissary for the Sultan himself, is almost too accomplished to be believed. His survival, despite the deadliness and shrewdness of his enemies and the bloody environment in which he finds himself, is never in doubt. Nor is his capacity to discover and succour the Lady Carla's long lost son.

There are a great many coincidences here, perhaps too many to take seriously, but it is a novel and fiction after all, and so, because of the power of the author's imagery and the grudging commitment to the main characters the author successfully nurtures in his readers, we grow to care. I had moments where I wondered if I would continue to read about the interminable siege and its inhumanities and privations, but in the end I was won over by a desire to see how Tannhauser reconciles his passion for two women and how they reconcile theirs for him. And, of course, I wanted to see how the former Turkish Jannissary extricated himself from the web being spun by the Inquisitor Fra Ludovico. It was all fairly predictable but interesting nonetheless and the siege end and final confrontation did manage to surprise me in a satisfying way. I expected more from Ludovico and got less, which, in fact turned out to be even more than my original expectations in a moving denouement.

In sum this was worth reading and historically convincing if a little overwritten at times. And the characters, from La Vallette to Lady Carla to Starkey to Ludovico, and even to the lad over whom all the sturm und drang that brought our characters together was about, were interesting in their own right -- even if not entirely realistic at times. A good read, even if the ponderousness of it sometimes got the better of me.

Stuart W. Mirsky
author of The King of Vinland's Saga
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on 23 July 2014
This is a modern book about a time past. I would not make the comparison likely, but this is comparable to War & Peace in our modern age, with a little extra romance thrown in; which who would object to. The realism of the battle scenes is equal to Tolstoy. It does what only books can, transports you. Read it, recommend it and try not to be too horrified by it.
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on 23 October 2006
As a big fan of "Green River Rising" I was looking forward to this although a little apprehensive at the historical setting. But Tim Willocks has not disappointed and this is a terrific read - one of those books which allows you to paint vivid mental pictures of the action and really engages you with the characters despite their total detachment from our own times.

Willocks' research was obviously meticulous and unlike the warring factions in the tale, he takes no prisoners. As in Green River Rising, Willocks wastes no opportunity to evoke the reality of the violence, filth (do I sense an unhealthy obsession with defecation?!) men commit against each other.

Well worth a read - whether you like historical novels or not.
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on 3 September 2014
Absolutely riveting. An amazingly convincing portrayal of the grim and bloody siege. One of those books that you remember fondly even years after you've read it.
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