A few weeks ago, I finished what is probably the best book that I have read all year... maybe in the last few years. The book was: The Religion, by Tom Willocks.
This book takes place in 1565, when "The Grand Turk" , also known as Suleiman The Magnificent, ruler of the Ottoman Empire, had decided that to ensure the spread of Islam, the Knights of St. John, also known as The Knights Hospitaller, must be dislodged from the Mediterranean Island of Malta.
As this historically true event played out, the fictitious Captain Mattias Tannhauser, a European-born former Janissary soldier in the army of the Sultan, is convinced to bring a high-born Maltese Contessa, Lady Carla, to the island, despite the siege, to find her 12 year old bastard son... a son sired by one Brother Luvodico, a highly-placed Priest of the Inquisition.
What Tannhauser doesn't realize is that his reputation as a military commander has proceeded him, and he has been duped into going to the island so that he can give good military advice to the Grandmaster of the Knights of St. John, Jean De La Valette, to help them withstand the siege.
Predictably, Tannhauser is able to spirit Lady Carla, and her son, Orlandu, off of Malta, but not before falling in love with Carla, and killing Luvodico.
The plot of the book isn't exceptionally intricate, which is appropriate, since this book is and adventure, not a mystery. There are several factors here that make this book and exceptionally good one: The first (for me) is that the subject matter, the religious-military orders of the era, between the 12th and 17th centuries, is an area of particular interest to me. The second is that the author has really done his homework here, in that he not only was able to place this important battle in the right time and place, but he was able to describe that motives and actions of the characters in proper cultural terms. The third important thing for me was the description of 16th century combat and siege warfare. Willocks doesn't gloss over the unholy brutality of personal combat, and the gruesome wounds caused by the weapons of the day.
If you have an interest in history, you will enjoy this book. If you have an interest in grand adventure, you will enjoy this book. If you have an interest in some of the skulduggery of the 16th century Church you'll really like this book.
This book has it all: Violence, history, intrigue, and sex... and it's well-written!
What's not to like?
If you read it, please tell me what you think.