Matthew Reilly is a block-busting Australian author known for his larger than life, action-adventure novels, like Ice Station and Temple, however his latest offering, The Tournament, is a little different.
Set in 1546, The Tournament is the story of young Bess (future Queen Elizabeth I) who flees the plague with her tutor Roger Ascham, to travel across Europe to Constantinople to attend a chess tournament. The tournament is being hosted by Suleiman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Lands of the Ottomans in order to determine the chess champion of the known world.
Dignitaries and chess players from all empires are in attendance and what takes place on this journey will have repercussions for Bess for the rest of her life. They may even shape her beliefs and impact her rule when she ascends the throne.
The Tournament reads like a medieval murder mystery, of which I've read plenty and tend to enjoy. I love reading fictional accounts of the life of Elizabeth I and this is the first I've read that focusses purely on her life as a youngster in her formative years.
This is also the first book I've ever come across that contains a warning at the beginning. In the warning (written by the author himself), Reilly recommends that this book be read by mature readers [only] as it contains subject matter of an adult nature.
In a time where sex sells and near naked bodies appear in advertisements, music and television everywhere, I admire Reilly for his firm beliefs about what is acceptable - and what is not - for young readers. The adult content mentioned is of a sexual nature, and involves sexual practices of the day not unfamiliar to historical fiction set in this time period, but I just can't help but respect Reilly for his stance. More authors should do the same.
If you love chess you'll love The Tournament, but even someone as unfamiliar with the game as myself was not lost (or bored) by the game commentary. Essentially a crime novel, The Tournament kept me engaged and was a great read.
My rating = ***
If you enjoy a good medieval murder mystery, check out the Hugh Corbett series by Paul Doherty (I've read all 17 of them) or Dark Fire by C.J. Sansom.
Click here to buy your own copy of The Tournament from Boomerang Books; which is where my copy came from :)