Saturday, December 07, 2013

Review time - The Tournament by Matthew Reilly

I am big fan of masala racy action mystery thriller entertainer novels. Whew!! Is that a genre or a potpourri of genres? Well, its all one and the same for one Mr. Matthew Reilly. In all his novels that I've read so far, his heroes are all powerful one man armies, armed with all hitech gadgets that would collectively put Bond and XXX to shame and also there is not a thing under the world wide web that they wouldn't know or recall at a moments notice to help in their quest to save America which in other words is the world. I am a big fan of his Jack West series of 7 ancient wonders, 6 sacred stones and 5 great warriors. His other series involving Scarecrow are mostly B grade action flick stories. He also has to his credit some lone ranger series in the form of Hover car racer, Contest and few more.

Irrespective of the lead characters one aspect that is common across all his novels is the pace of the story and the factual fictitious blend that he manages to keep pace along with the breakneck speed at which the situations travel. Especially in his Jack West series, the way he mixes historical references and information about erstwhile world's wonders and mixes them in contemporary situations made an interesting read. Its against this backdrop comes his latest addition, The Tournament.

The reason for the 2 paragraph build up for Matt is to bring out the glaring difference in the setup of this novel. Tournament is based on Elizabethan era and is probably the slowest story he has ever attempted. It takes its own sweet time to take off but never really reaches any heights. It traces an incident that shapes the life of Queen Elizabeth 1, the virgin queen, when she was in her pre teens. Tournament additionally has a Sherlokian murder mystery investigation inter woven on it. The title in itself is a reference to the chess tourney involving Grandmasters from across the world, called for by the Ottoman emperor, with obvious hidden agenda. The politics behind the games mimics the show of strength reasons for which countries fall head over heels in organizing such events, just to showcase their spending might. More often than not, its always the opening and closing ceremonies that take the center stage rather than the event itself. The same applies here as well. Matt takes his own sweet time to describe the travel and preparation of the British GM and the focus never really reaches Elizabeth till halfway into the book. Though the base setup is about a chess tournament, barring a fleeting references to how different chess pieces took their present form, it never really touches the core. It was more like a bystander's view of chess, more of a disinterested tone. The historical aspect of the story also veers more towards the immoral activities taking place on the Sultan's rule, ala Arabian nights but is not even a shade of the same class. The author spends a good deal of amount describing the carnal exploits of the young queen's friend, dedicates a whole bunch of chapters towards the not too celibate nature of the gay priests of the erstwhile holy order. In the premise of justifying Elizabeth's vow to celibacy and having remained a virgin throughout her life, the author goes overboard and the murder investigation looses track, which is the only saving grace of the otherwise mokka novel, with flashes of profiling brilliance by the tutor detective, but that too very few and far in between.

Gils verdict: I would never recommend the book to anyone. Not worth even if downloaded for free  :)

1 comment:

Ramesh said...

Wow that is one scathing review.

But you must pardon the slow pace - after all in Her Majesty's land they all drink beer and talk endlessly, but move very slowly .......