18 October, 2018

#BookReview :: The Tournament by Matthew Reilly

England 1546.

As young Princess Elizabeth is in a dangerous position as her older siblings jostle for the throne.

Roger Ascham, Elizabeth's teacher and mentor, is determined to keep her safe. So when he receives an unusual invitation from the Sultan in Constantinople, asking him to take part in the greatest chess tournament the world has ever seen, he resolves to take the princess with him.

But death stalks the streets of the glittering Ottoman capital - a cardinal has been found mutilated. Ascham is asked to investigate, but as he and Elizabeth delve deeper, they uncover a secret that marks the young princess for life. And a darkness that defines the queen she will become.

Goodreads * Amazon

When a friend gifted me this book I knew I had to dive into it immediately since his book recommendations are usually on spot.

Set in the sixteenth Century, the book is about a chess tournament to be hosted in Constantinople. The sultan has invited a representative from different countries to participate in the Tournament. This is around the time there was a plague that was affecting the country. Roger Ascham, Elizabeth’s mentor, decides that this would an appropriate opportunity for the young royal to experience the world while staying away from the plague and the politics of the court. As such, with the King’s permission, they join the entourage of Gilbert Giles, the chess player representing England in the Tournament. But once they reach there, they find themselves embroiled in a murder mystery. Having heard of Roger Ascham’s prowess, the Sultan enlists his help in solving the mystery. But with bodies falling right and left, young Elizabeth could be in danger too. Will Roger Ascham be able to protect his ward and solve the murders at the same time?

As expected, I enjoyed this book thoroughly as it was very different from all the books that I have recently read. For instance, the book is set in the 16th century, long before forensic science was even thought of. So, the protagonist had to rely more on his own skills than forensic evidence. Then there's the fact that most of the characters are inspired by real life characters which called for a medley of facts and fiction. I did look up a few characters mentioned in the book, particularly Roger Ascham.

The character of Roger Ascham is probably one of the main reasons I liked the book so much. He is the mentor of young Elizabeth and through the course of the story we learn exactly how their relationship is. While Ascham believed in Elizabeth experiencing things for herself and helped guide her thought process, he was also very protective of her. He allowed Elizabeth to experience things that the people of the time would have thought scandalous for a woman to experience, yet maintained a level of security for her at all times. He encouraged independent thinking... Aside from his relationship with his ward, the way he investigates using common sense and attention to detail was also very admirable. I particularly liked him in a scene where he stands up and confronts a very influential man. It showed his confidence and courage.

Elizabeth herself turned out to be an interesting character. At thirteen, she is very logical and level headed. Encouraged by her mentor, she is also very curious about the world. The one thing that bothered me in the book, was the fact that since this was sort of coming of age novel for Elizabeth; the author brought in the sex element through her friend Elsie rather than through Elizabeth’s personal experience. The narrative got a bit dry and felt forced whether it was Elsie narrating her experience or whether it was Elizabeth witnessing her friend in the act.

The book also handles the topic of Child Sexual Abuse in a very matter of fact way, which I admit was slightly jarring for me. I am not sure if I am comfortable with where the book leaves it off at. 

The plot itself was simple enough for me to figure out the ‘mystery’ ahead of time. But that did not take away from the reading experience at all. There was a little action towards the end to spice things up.

Check out my post with LEO on our Blog BFF Musings

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