Book Review: The Tournament by Matthew Reilly
The Tournament by Matthew Reilly
Set in 1546, this is the fictional story of Queen Elizabeth I as a thirteen-year-old girl, long before she became queen, who goes on a journey with an English delegation to the glittering city of Constantinople. Suleimann the Magnificent, the feared Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, has issued an invitation to a chess tournament to every king in Europe.
The English delegation is led by Bess’s teacher, Roger Ascham, and his friend Mr Giles is selected as the best English chess player. But what starts out as a simple chess tournament becomes something much more when a guest is murdered on the opening night, and Ascham is ordered to find the killer.
This is a page-turning historical thriller that is written from the young Bess’ eyes, and through her innocence we see barbaric deaths, diplomatic treachery and depravity, all of which helps mould her opinions and view of the world, and it shows her awakening to the sexual power politics of the day. It also possibly explains why she famously never married, and how she became the successful monarch she was. This is a wonderful book, with a great sense of place, some insights into the clash between Muslim and the Western world, and the game of chess becomes the perfect metaphorical vehicle for the real life games at play.