It is hot here and thunderstorms are brewing – which makes it the perfect time to escape into a story.
The Religion by Tim Willocks is a nice way to disappear for a while. The first of an expected trilogy, The Religion chronicles the escapades of Mattias Tannhauser, a truly resourceful man. He is set loose in sixteenth-century Malta, caught between two women, loyal friends, an Inquisitor, the Knights of Saint John the Baptist, an almost endless army of Turks, and a truly horrific stream of battles.
The pace of the story and its epic but uncomplicated plot suits the lazy feel of August very nicely – when almost all of us just want to watch the summer wind down. The story itself, a mix of historic romp and adventure, is flat-out hard-core battle re-imagined with a gloss of romantic vision, the stuff of Errol Flynn movies and the background material that makes the The Princess Bride possible. Despite the vivid descriptions of war and methods of the Inquisition, readers who enjoy titles that are big and juicy and like to retreat into a fully realized world should find that the wartime saga has much to offer.
If you enjoy it, try a read-alike suggestion and dip into the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon which shares the same weight of language and pacing but which offers more romance, the Richard Sharpe books by Bernard Cornwell which also recount in vivid detail the wartime adventures of a resourceful man, or Napoleon’s Pyramids by William Dietrich, a glorious historical adventure.
Another good August book to consider, and off on a different path than The Religion, is Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin. A fabulously told historic thriller, it offers a lovely counterbalance to Willocks as it mixes early CSI methods with well wrought characters and a story that is pitch perfect (and features a fabulous trial and cameo by a disgruntled king).