England, 1546. A young Princess Elizabeth is surrounded by uncertainty. She is not currently in line for the throne, but remains a threat to her older sister and brother.
In the midst of this fevered atmosphere comes an unprecedented invitation from the Sultan in Constantinople. He seeks to assemble the finest chess players from the whole civilized world and pit them against each other.
Roger Ascham, Elizabeth’s teacher and mentor in the art of power and politics, is determined to keep her out of harm’s way and resolves to take Elizabeth with him when he travels to the glittering Ottoman capital for the tournament.
But once there, the two find more danger than they left behind. There’s a killer on the loose and a Catholic cardinal has already been found mutilated. Ascham is asked by the Sultan to investigate the murder. But as he and Elizabeth delve deeper, they find dark secrets, horrible crimes and unheard-of depravity. Things that mark the young princess for life and define the queen she will become.
(Synopsis from book cover from Orion Books in the UK)
Somehow this is the first book that I have read by Matthew Reilly, and I am definitely going to make sure that I continue to read his novels. Reilly is an amazing writer and the story just flows from one chapter to another making it so easy to just keep reading the book without setting it down.
I was so drawn into The Tournament by Reilly that I even kept reading it during my lunch break and planning period at school. It was very evident that Reilly did a lot of research before writing this book. He did a fantastic job of weaving in the historical information with his creation of the setting and additional information of the murder that takes places and all of the players involved.
I was also very surprised at how easily Reilly was able to weave in information about the game of chess and the strategies used during matches. I am not a person who knows chess or has even ever attempted to play the game, so the way Reilly put together the information made it extremely easy to understand while also tying in the history of the game of chess and how it evolved throughout the years.
As some of you may know, historical fiction is one of my absolute favorite genres to read and I am so glad that I read The Tournament. It took on an interesting perspective of seeing how Queen Elizabeth was influenced in her early years that would later affect the decision she would make as Queen of England. It is not often that we are able to explore the formative years of history’s kings and queens in such an interesting and exciting way. Reilly did a great job of balancing the knowledge that Aschem tried to impart on the young Elizabeth and the experiences that Elizabeth had on her own as she learned about other cultures and human behavior. This novel also presented some interesting theories as to how some of Elizabeth’s connections in her later years could have been formed during this great, unknown, history-making chess tournament held in Constantinople.
The Tournament is a definite must-read if you are a fan of historical fiction, the legend of Queen Elizabeth, and/or Matthew Reilly. I must make a disclaimer, that as far as I know (to this point), The Tournament has not yet been published in the United States. In fact, the copy of the novel I have was ordered from the UK. (Thank you internet…I might even be tempted to say I love you.)