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Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Review : 'The Tournament' by Matthew Reilly

Matthew Reilly’s ‘The Tournament’ is a rather confusing novel. Set in 1603, it talks of a time when Queen Elizabeth was ruling over England and known as the golden age of the English, when this virgin queen was the most successful monarch. This book begins with her on her deathbed, talking of the time when she was sent away, with her teacher into the East. 

She was all of 13 years, and she found herself in Constantinople, with her teacher Roger Ascham, who thought that it might just do her good to travel far and wide, Giles Gilbert, the reason behind the whole trip, as he was a chess champion player and the trip was undertaken to watch him play at the chess tournament, Elsie, her much older companion, along with the Ponsonbys, her orthodox guides.

Why was it confusing? The novel spoke of a little too many things, all at once. We had the entire chess play to read about, chess is now seen in a different light, what with all the links, the chess pieces have to the kings, queens and the pawns, across the world’s Christian and Moslem kingdoms. 

Then, we had entire cities the bright and rich kingdom of Constantine, compared to the cold streets of England. Then, the entire murder mystery to digest, thanks to the Christian cardinal’s death and the Moslem sultan, asking Ascham to solve the cruel riddle. 

And of course, there was the rather ridiculous sounding Elsie and her sex escapades. Links are drawn to Elsie’s choices about sexual adventures, and the eventual Good Queen Bess deciding to stay off it.
The solving of the murder mystery was pretty good, and Roger Ascham comes off as the hero in how he solves it, how he chases down clues and eventually, the murderer. How he is helped in the entire system by Bess is not believable at all!

The discussions between Ascham, Gilbert and Michelangelo about the Moslem purdah system are interesting and definitely worth a read. The rich land’s underbelly is also something to read about. The Christian decadence, which comes up in the novel, is not written with a true hand.

For any book, all its material sounds true when it is at least believed by the author himself, but this seemed to be lacking. I have read only ‘Temple’, prior to this one.

Matthew Reilly did not come across as somebody who would write this novel. He should have come to better conclusions, as he did in ‘Temple’. And from whatever I have read about him in the past few days, I am fairly sure he is a far better writer who was more adept in the books, prior to this one.
So, here's wishing him all the best for his next one. :)

Author:  Matthew Reilly
Design: Sandy Gull, gogoGinko
Genre: Fiction/Thriller

Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN : 978-1-4091-3423-7
Price: Rs 599

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