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Saturday, June 30, 2007
Department of Book Reports 23 Nobody Ever Expects the Spanish Inquisition!
Posted by Tammy
The Religion is a big novel, bold and bloody. It may not suit all tastes, especially if you like your history lessons sanitized and sedately paced. Willocks peoples this book with larger than life characters. Matthias Tannhauser is introduced to us in the blood-bath seige of his boyhood village, his mother viciously raped and killed before his eyes. Taken up by the Sultan's victory party as a devshirme, a Christian boy gathered to become a janissary.
The story moves to later in Tannhauser's life, 1565 and the Suleiman Shah has vowed to take Malta. Tannhauser has achieved a comfortable life running a tavern in Sicily. When the Knights of Saint John, "the Religion" of the title, realize that the Ottoman forces are set to take back the Isle of Malta, and back-up re-inforcements will not be coming to their aid, they scheme to use the lovely Lady Carla to draw Tannhauser into the battle. Tannhauser has his own agenda in this battle and his sponsors will be used to those ends. Willocks resists drawing any parallels to today's wars, but as one character says "If we don't fight the Moslems in Malta we'll one day have to fight them in Paris,".
Lady Carla is searching for her bastard son, taken from her at his birth after she was seduced by the evil Inquisitor Ludovici, who is the father of that child. Her fey, and simple handmaiden Amparo becomes Tannhauser's bedmate, although he'd like to marry Lady Carla, not least of which for the title she holds. How to get this motley crew off the Island in the midst of battle becomes Tannhauser's mission, and to keep his beloved horse, Buraq from being taken away by either side.
Willocks is a writer who gives the smells and gore and muck of battle life on every page. This is a huge book at 627 pages, but it races along at a thriller's pace. And this is just the beginning, there will be two more volumes in this trilogy.
I thought Green River Rising was the best "prison novel" I have ever read, and Willocks has proved that was no fluke with this engrossing epic.
The Religion is available at Jackson Street Books, Seattle Mystery Bookshop and fine Independent Bookstores everywhere!
democommie™™™™®© was once again unable to help with this bookreport. We are glad that he survived his "stretching" on the rack of modern medicine, don't you think he looks taller now?