In later life, Elizabeth would rarely lose at chess. And on the far more dangerous chessboard of her life- at court in London and on the high seas against the House of Castille – she never lost.
I had visited a friend a few months ago and in due course of conversation she handed me The Tournament by Matthew Reilly. I love historical fiction and soon found myself borrowing the book to read.
The year is 1546 and the young Princess Elizabeth is third in line to the throne. After a sudden burst of plague in England, she is taken to Constantinople by her tutor Roger Ascham to attend a chess tournament hosted by the Sultan. What follows is an exciting tale of murder, mystery and above all, chess.
The balance between the two major plot-lines ties up beautifully and there isn’t a moment when the reader can loose focus. On one side, we have the chess tournament where players from around the world compete against each other for the title of the “best player in the world” and on the other, we have the investigation of the murder of a cardinal. All together it makes a brilliant historical thriller. The tournament scenes keep you at the edge of your seat and the whole investigation keeps you hoping our main characters make it out alive.
Though it starts a little slow, The Tournament gains pace as you progress through the pages and is guaranteed to keep you hooked until the last page.
My copy is 410 pages long and ends with a short interview with the author. It also has a map of the city of Constantinople and of the Sultan’s palace. It is an easy read for any type of reader. The book does contain some strong adult themes (sexual and abuse) so I wouldn’t recommend it for young readers as it may cause some distress.
So what is real? Did Princess Elizabeth really travel to the Ottoman Empire in her childhood? As far as being historically accurate, The Tournament is purely fiction. Apart from a few of the major historical characters mentioned in the book who did exist in the past, everything else is pure imagination and is meant for our enjoyment.
The Tournament is a great read and has introduced me to the works of Matthew Reilly. I can’t wait to read more.
About the Author
Matthew Reilly is an internationally bestselling author who’s books have been published in more than twenty languages and sold nearly five million copies worldwide. His works include Contest, Temple, Area 7 and Hover Car Racer among others.