From Publishers Weekly
The Ottoman Empire's vicious 1565 assault on the island fortresses of Malta, and the vigorous defense of the island by the Knights of St. John, a military religious order dedicated to preserving Christendom from the Muslims, serves as the backdrop for Ball's second historical epic (his first novel, Empires of Sand, chronicled France's efforts to expand its North African empire in the 1870s). Amid bloody land and sea battles, four protagonists struggle to survive in a world of disease, brutality and religious persecution. Nico, a young Maltese boy, is captured by Algerian corsairs in a pirate raid and taken to North Africa, where he serves as a slave to a shipbuilder. To save his life, he converts to Islam and becomes captain of one of the sultan's war galleys. Maria, Nico's sister, vows to find and rescue her brother, but priests, knights and her own desire for revenge thwart her plans. Christien Luc de Vries is an unwilling Knight of St. John who prefers studying medicine and surgery to butchering Muslims. Father Giulio Salvago is an Inquisitor determined to stamp out heresy through torture and fear, but whose own guilt over past sins torments him. All four characters confront lies, broken vows and unexpected twists in their efforts to vanquish their enemies and save themselves during the massive Turkish siege of Malta. Ball's bold, gruesome descriptions convincingly evoke the savagery of this 16th-century religious war and the treachery and zealotry of Muslim and Christian authorities alike.
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Cultures clash and fates converge during the siege of Malta in 1565. Kidnapped by Algerian slavers as a young boy, Nico Borg holds out hope that the Order of the Knights of St. John, sworn to protect his native Malta from Muslim and Jewish infidels, will one day rescue him. When that does not happen, Nico becomes increasingly torn between his Christian roots and his Muslim lifestyle. After witnessing her brother's abduction, Maria Borg is more determined than ever to escape from a life of poverty and despair. Though pledged to the Knights of Saint John as an infant, Christien Luc de Vries longs to defy his father's wishes and ignore his distinguished pedigree as the son of a count. These three lives intersect as a furious battle is waged for Malta, a barren outpost prized for its strategic location as a crossroads between the East and the West. Ball brings the tail end of the Crusades to life in a substantial piece of historical fiction that sizzles with action, romance, and drama. Margaret FlanaganCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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