The Tournament by Matthew Reilly

I have had Matthew Reilly on my reading list for such a long time that when ‘The Tournament’ was released, I grabbed my copy. Apparently it is quite different from his usual novels. I loved it and I hope that I love some of his other novels as much.

The book is set in 1546 with the two main characters being the 13 year old future Queen Elizabeth I and her brilliant teacher Roger Ascham. At the time there was a lot of tension between the Christian European countries and the Islamic Ottoman Empire.

The Sultan – Suleiman sends an invitation to each King in Europe to send their best chess player to compete in a tournament in Constantinople. King Henry VIII sends Gilbert Giles, a close friend of Roger Ascham’s, so Ascham takes the young Elizabeth on a secret trip to the East as part of her education.

Apart from the general hostilities between East and West, there is a lot going on in the background. Different groups are posturing for dominance, the church is up to its usual activities and various people are jumping into bed together.

When a visiting Cardinal is found murdered, Suleiman asks Roger Ascham to investigate. He must tread carefully, because insulting the Sultan could cost him his life. The murder investigation is dangerous and exciting, with more murders following closely behind. The chess tournament takes a bit of a back seat through the rest of the story as Ascham and Elizabeth work to determine the murderer and avoid being murdered themselves.


I loved this book. The sumptuous palace and surroundings of the Sultan were so well described that I could almost see them. There were some excellent characters as well, many of them real characters from history – Queen Elizabeth I, Roger Ascham, Suleiman, Ivan the terrible, St Ignatius and Michaelangelo (who created the chess sets). The sex was a bit explicit and unfortunately this has stopped me from recommending the book to my school age children. The book was as enjoyable as ‘The Name of the Rose’ (which I hope to re-read soon) but a lot easier to understand.

I’m hoping to read many more Matthew Reilly books – the next on my list is ‘Ice Station’ and as a local, I also hope to attend one of his book signings.


Book Published 2013


See a full list of books by Matthew Reilly

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