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The Religion, review by Marco Piva

The Religion is one of the best novels of love and war ever written. Willocks is a genius!

Title: The ReligionThe Religion
Author: Tim Willocks
Publisher: Vintage – Jonathan Cape (Random House Group)
Pages: 816
Price: £7.99 (Paperback)

Adventure, intrigues, love, death (in a considerable quantity), fanaticism, sex, poetry. In this book nothing is missing. Besides boredom, that is absolutely missing.

It’s not easy to find a book with such a strong magnetism, and for sure you will not find such a ferocious beauty.

The setting that Mr. Willocks chose for this book is the siege of Malta in 1565, when the soldiers of Suleiman the Magnificent fought against the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, to conquer that island, and then Europe.

The characters that Mr. Willocks creates are really resounding. In the beginning we find captain Thannauser, a powerful warrior with a fascinating and tormented past. For him, the art of fighting doesn’t have any more secrets. Then we have Bors, Thannauser’s best friend, a colossal warrior, ready to do the worst atrocities for the people he cares about. Bors cannot resist to the battle’s charm, and he has no intention to do so. Then we meet two beautiful women that cross the Capitan’s destiny: Amparo, a sweet creature that can foresee the future, devoid of any shadow of evil. Countess Carla, a beautiful noblewoman who is looking for her son, that she had from the evil inquisitor Ludovico when she was very young. And Ludovico comes back on the stage, with his assistant: the depraved and handsome Anacleto (at a certain point of the story, the face of Anacleto will become a bag of pus).

So, take all of those character and put them in the historic setting we talked about: a town in state of siege, where there are more than forty thousand Ottoman’s soldier fighting against a few thousand Knights, led by the seventy-year-old Jan de la Vallette. And then put all of this elements together with the narrative genius of the great Tim, and you will have some of the best pages ever written in the contemporary English literature.

Far, really far from my intention is to open a discussion about contemporary historical novel meeting postmodernism and sheltering into the past, oh what a nice weather, yes but they say that tomorrow it may rain and so on.

But there is one thing I want to tell you: if there are any doubts about the fact that Mr. Tim Willocks is a narrative genius, well those doubts are dispelled as soon as we open this novel. Why? Because Mr. Willocks brings to life, with clarity worthy of the best lightning, a world that it’s been covered and coated too many times with idealizing rhetoric. A rhetoric that forgets about the only figure that characterized human history since its beginning: the human factor. In this book we go back to unvarnished and straightforward Epic. In this book we have a Hero who throws away his angel clothes and appears human again. We have a Hero that “does what he has to do”, no idealizations anymore. Here we have tactics, flesh, blood, shit, the decomposition of human bodies, amputated limbs burning on the flame while the smell takes the breath away, people being deprived, dirt, gunfire shaking the ground.

If I was thinking only by genres, I would say that there are many elements of horror in this book. Not that a war doesn’t have any. And I think that a real war fought between fanatics, with swords and guns, when medical knowledge was on gestation, would be full of horror elements. In this story there is no good against bad, and the story-line allows a wide-angle prospective on the atrocities of war, and on the subjective belief to be right.

Then there are sublime psychological characterizations of characters that make real and easy to understand even the most complex characters… but you will see that by yourself when you will read the book. Because we agree that you are going to buy this book, right? And you will let me know if you do think (as I do) that Mr. Willocks has been helped in the building of his characters by the fact that he has worked as psychiatrist for fifteen years.

So, The Religion is an extraordinary book, where the poetry and the breath of big classics books meet a power and a realism never seen before. Where the balance between harmony and contrasts is really strong. You cannot miss this book! So run right now to buy The Religion (or buy it on the web, if you don’t want to go out).

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