The year is 1546. Europe lives in fear of the powerful Islamic empire to the East. Under its charismatic Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, it is an empire on the rise. It has defeated Christian fleets. It has conquered Christian cities. Then the Sultan sends out an invitation to every king in Europe: send forth your champion to compete in a tournament unlike any other.
We follow the English delegation, selected by King Henry VIII himself, to the glittering city of Constantinople, where the most amazing tournament ever staged will take place. But when the stakes are this high, not everyone plays fair, and for our team of plucky English heroes, winning may not be the primary goal.
As barbaric murders occur, a more immediate goal might simply be staying alive.
Read John Purcell's Review
Bestselling author Matthew Reilly is one of Australia's most reliable writers. Every couple of years he delivers his fans quality popular fiction and every couple of years he can be counted on to break Australian sales records. But till now, all of his successes, Ice Station, Seven Ancient Wonders, Temple, The Five Greatest Warriors, Scarecrow, to name just a few, have one thing in common, the breakneck speed of their narrative.
The Tournament is a departure for Reilly, gone is his trademark breakneck speed. Instead we find a narrative with gravitational pull. Enter The Tournament's orbit and you cannot escape, you must read on to the final page.
That said this book still jogs along. You don't get to where Reilly is without learning a trick or two. He has chosen a point in time, 1546. He has given us a narrator, Queen Elizabeth I, no less. He has booked a stage, a chess tournament in Constantinople held by Sulleiman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. And hired only the best talent to walk his boards, St Ignatius Loyola, Michelangelo, Ivan the Terrible, and a 13 year old Elizabeth Tudor, who is accompanied by her teacher, Roger Ascham, the real hero of the story, a Renaissance Sherlock Holmes.
Before the first page there is a warning from Matthew Reilly stating that this is most definitely an adult book with adult content. And what I think he means is that there is sex in it. Because sex was the only thing missing from his other books, all which contain violence aplenty. In The Tournament the sex is illustrative, designed to show the decadence of the Sultan's court and we, the readers, are observers only, never participants as is the case with erotic fiction. Any 15 year old with an iPhone has seen much, much worse. And besides, the sex and violence are the carrot which keeps us turning the pages. The Tournament is essentially a didactic tale, with lots of discussions about morality, religion, philosophy, history and politics. Ascham is the future queen's teacher and he is convinced that she must know of the world to rule it well. Matthew Reilly, a great fan of Star Wars, has created a pair to rival, Obe Wan and Luke Skywalker.
This is a book which will entertain thousands of Australian readers this summer holidays. It is not too heavy, not too light, just right.
About the Author
Matthew Reilly wrote his first book, Contest, in 1994 whilst attending the University of New South Wales. It was rejected by every major publishing company This caused Reilly to self-publish 1,000 copies using money borrowed from his family. Reilly went to a bookstore in Sydney and asked if he could place the copies on one of their book shelves. They accepted the offer . Very shortly after, the books had sold out and the owner of the bookstore called Reilly to order more books. One copy was read by Pan Macmillan, who immediately signed Reilly up to write Ice Station, which became an international bestseller. Since then, he has been published in over fifteen countries, including Norway, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, The Netherlands, South Africa, Japan and China.