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The Religion: A Novel Hardcover – May 15, 2007

133 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Tannhauser Trilogy Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Willocks, a novelist (Bad City Blues) and screenwriter (Sin), strikes gold with this epic account of the Turkish siege of Malta in 1565—the first of a planned trilogy featuring Mattias Tannhauser, the son of a Saxon blacksmith. Young Tannhauser is kidnapped by Muslim raiders and trained as a holy warrior before winning his release and settling in Sicily, where he becomes a prosperous arms dealer. His comfortable life is interrupted by the arrival of Contessa Carla La Penautier, a young widow who uses her considerable charms (and title) to recruit Tannhauser to help her find Orlandu, the bastard son she was forced to abandon at birth 12 years earlier. Arriving on Malta, where Carla believes her son is, Tannhauser and Carla get caught in the Turkish attack on the Christian enclave. Meanwhile, Orlandu's father, Ludovico Ludovici, a monk and feared inquisitor, has returned to Malta with hopes of bringing Malta under papal control. Tannhauser has to find Orlandu, unmask the scheming and unscrupulous Ludovici, survive vicious combat against the Turks, win Carla's heart and find a way to escape the "island of fanatics and fools." In Tannhauser, Willocks has created a dazzling hero whose debut will leave readers eager for the next installment. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

The first in a projected trilogy, The Religion stirred excitement in some critics and distaste in others. Tim Willocks writes with visual detail (he's a screenwriter), but he also appeals to the other senses, creating what the Chicago Sun-Times described as "a thick stew of smells, colors, and sounds." Some reviewers, however, criticized florid writing, shallow characters, and a clichéd plot. Others found Willocks's prose cinematic, his characters complicated, and the plot thrilling. Fans of swashbuckling adventures will enjoy this work and undoubtedly overlook the book's flaws. But the novel is not for the faint at heart: all reviewers mentioned the blood and gore in every battle scene.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 613 pages
  • Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books (May 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374248656
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374248659
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #606,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Bart King on July 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
THE RELIGION is intermittently salacious, frequently overwrought, and utterly bloody-handed.

It is, in short, a ripping good yarn.

The Booklist review above stating that "readers of unsubtle historical fiction will be hooked" cuts a bit close to the bone, but what redeems this story from being just another cheesy epic is Tim Willock's ability to memorably depict action, and his motley cast of characters. Is the book absolutely unbelievable? Yep. But like the unholy progeny of James Clavell and Robert E. Howard, Willock plunges into this story with so much gusto, it's almost impossible not to just pull in one's oars and get swept up in THE RELIGION's currents.

WARNING: The book's prologue is bereft of the humor that redeems much of the rest of the story, so don't judge the book on the introduction's merits alone. I nearly bailed out after reading it, but now I'm glad I did not.

WARNING II: Avert your gaze from the most unwholesome spectacle of the author's photo on the jacket sleeve.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on May 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In 1540 in the Fagaras Mountains of Hungary, Muslim scarlet horsemen abduct twelve year old Mattias Tannhauser, the son of Saxon metal-smiths. They train him as a holy warrior whose entrance to heaven is to die in combat. However, he eventually obtains his release and settles in Sicily where Mattias taking advantage of having solid feet in the competing religious camps becomes a successful arms broker.

In 1565 widow Contessa Carla La Penautier arrives in Sicily to hire Tannhauser to find her illegitimate twelve years old son Orlandu, whom she reluctantly abandoned at his birth due to uncaring pressure. Unable to resist her siren's call, Mattias agrees to go with Carla to Malta at a time that the Turkish Ottoman Suleiman the Magnificent declares a jihad to eradicate the affluent influential Knights Hospitaller of St. John, a monastic order based in Malta. On the disputed Mediterranean island, Mattias and Carla struggle to survive when the Turks begin their assault on the St. John knights. However, even more dangerous to the pair than the war is the arrival of dreaded Inquisition monk Ludovico Ludovici, working under order of Cardinal Michele Ghisleri, who deviously plans to bring Malta under papal rule after he takes care of a certain twelve year old indiscretion that he sired on a teenage Carla.

This is an exciting swashbuckling look at a real sixteenth century religious war mostly from the perspective of the dashing hero who is one of the few people who seems to understand both sides of the conflict. The story line is action-packed, but it is the cast who brings to life 1565 Malta as the prime triangle (Mattias, Carla and Ludovico) seem genuine and the combatants fighting in God's name appear real. Readers will appreciate this terrific historical holy war thriller that grips the audience from the opening kidnapping until the final confrontation with more to follow.

Harriet Klausner
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Ralph M. Hitchens on July 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Suspend just a bit of disbelief about the "over the top" hero and villain, sexual exploits in a hot tub in the midst of a horrific siege, maybe a few other things, but relax and enjoy a long and gripping narrative about one of the more interesting military episodes of the 16th century. The heroic defense of Malta by the Knights of Saint John deserves an epic retelling and Tim Willocks is up to the job. Take it to the beach or onto the plane, anywhere you can lose yourself for hours. Highly recommended for those who enjoy top-grade action-packed historical fiction -- think Flashman or Aubrey & Maturin.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By David S. Cutler on September 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
I am nearly at the end of narrating for the Library of Congress all 620 odd unabridged pages of this book by Tim Willocks, and what a bloody journey it has been. Whow! The great Siege of Malta in 1565--re-enacted in glorious technicolor as it were, down to the last defecation of the dead and dying. If it's blood and guts you wallow in, with a certain amount of sex (mostly in a barrel of brine), then this is the book for you. There are plenty of philosophical and religious meanderings, and description after description of the horrors of war--though I must say that in the half dozen set-piece battles in the book, it does not seem too repetitive: a mixture of Braveheart and Gladiator, and sometimes one thinks (especially in the dialogue) that Tim Willocks has hoped that Russell Crowe would play the part of his weird hero--Tannhauser, captured by the Turks as a child after the murders of his sisters,the (necrophiliac)rape of his dead mother, and the beheading of the rapists by a Turkish commander. All described, of course, in gory and precise anatomical detail. There are countless beheadings, and heads often explode in a bursts of gore as Tannhauser hits them with balls from his wheel-lock musket or his pistol (he is a wonderful shot with both--and, God, what a swordsman). Guts spill in coils from bellies, faces are shot away, pints of pus, excrement in abundance, congealed vomit, wounds that are always suppurating, eyes that are very often dark pools or stygian in the blackness of their depths, and members that are only too easily tumescent. Willocks is never at a loss for a simile or a metaphor or an adjective--he is pretty good at them all, actually.
It is almost operatic.
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