REVIEW: The Tournament

Author: Matthew Reilly

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Rating: ★★★★

Visit The Tournament’s goodreads page here

Publisher: Pan MacMillan Australia

Get your own copy from Book Depository, Amazon or directly from Pan Macmillan 


SYNOPSIS: 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 a series of barbaric murders take place, a more immediate goal might simply be staying alive…

Matthew Reilly is known for his futuristic action, but this novel is the complete opposite. He manages to write a gripping story without it hiding between the high-tech fighting; this proves the high amount of talent he has as an author. This story has as much slower pace and is highly mysterious rather than action, his usual genre.

The Tournament focuses on some very serious and adult themes and ideas, so mature audiences only for this novel.

The book is clearly based around a historic chess tournament, which sounded like a snooze fest to me, but people assured me that the story was fantastic and I needed to give it a go. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it and I’m glad I gave it a shot. The plot was beautifully written, which is what I expected coming from Reilly, and the themes and ideas were weaved in to make it a bit more interesting.

Considering its classes as Historical Fiction, which I usually stay far away from, I quite enjoyed it. I loved how Reilly done extensive research prior to writing the novel to make it as realistic as possible for a fictional game. I was highly interested in Princess Elizabeth’s story and how he could make his own unique twist on why she never chose to marry. The fact that a young girl with an innocent mind was thrown into a barbaric town by her tutor with murder, sex and an underground child slavery ring would have highly impacted the way she perceives men and the whole idea of marriage. I personally agree with Reilly’s idea and support his very controversial choice to include these very mature themes even though his audience consists of a younger age.

Roger Ascham, Elizabeth’s tutor, added a distinctive emotion to the story that made it so enjoyable. Due to his marvellous brain and logical thinking, he was able to solve the murder mysteries and done it with ease. It was interesting to see how Reilly was able to write such an in-depth mystery without using any modern-day technology, the only item used was man power and an intrigue from the English team. I feel as though Roger could have been developed more as a character, rather than Bessie’s tutor. I was really hoping to see him become more of an individual rather than a member of a partnership.

The inclusion of the sex and child slavery was a risky move, but the plot would have been lacking if he chose otherwise. The explicit sex scenes range from the second-hand retellings of a ‘gathering’ to the very detailed and clear explanations of images Elizabeth witnessed herself. Reilly chose to include these to state the horrible thing that were happening commonly in the 1500’s, and to share that sadly they are still happening today. I feel as though the paedophilic Christian group was very offensive decision, but it depends on how you perceive it. On one hand it clearly states that they took young children and used them to their advantages, whether they were slaves or used for sexual encounters, and I understand how one could take offence. Matthew Reilly chose to include this because events like these have highly impacted the world we live in today, and how we perceive the men that are linked to the ones depicted in the story.

‘Always pause before you criticise, and never unduly criticise one who has made an effort at something you yourself have not even attempted.’ Many people argue that this is Matthew Reilly’s weakest works, but I beg to differ. It is a genre that is out of his comfort zone and he done and exceptional job. It was a fantastic mystery that wasn’t lacking or slowing at any time during the novel. I highly recommend this to any mature readers, you will not be disappointed.


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