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Publisher's Summary

May 1565. Suleiman the Magnificent, emperor of the Ottomans, has declared a jihad against the Knights of Saint John the Baptist. The largest armada of all time approaches the Knights' Christian stronghold on the island of Malta. The Turks know the Knights as the "The Hounds of Hell." The Knights call themselves "The Religion."

In Messina, Sicily, a French countess, Carla la Penautier, seeks a passage to Malta in a quest to find the son taken from her at his birth 12 years ago. The only man with the expertise and daring to help her is a Rabelaisian soldier of fortune, arms dealer, former janissary, and strapping Saxon adventurer by the name of Mattias Tannhauser. He agrees to accompany the lady to Malta, where, amidst the most spectacular siege in military history, they must try to find the boy - whose name they do not know and whose face they have never seen - and pluck him from the jaws of Holy War.

The Religion is Book One of The Tannhauser Triology, and from the first page of this epic account of the last great medieval conflict between East and West, it is clear we are in the hands of a master. Not since James Clavell has a novelist so powerfully and assuredly plunged readers headlong into another place and time. Anne Rice transformed the vampire novel. Stephen King reinvented horror. Now, in a spectacular tale of heroism, tragedy, and passion, Tim Willocks revivifies historical fiction.

©2006 Tim Willocks; (P)2006 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC

Critic Reviews

"Willocks...strikes gold with this epic account." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Bonnie
  • Bellmore, NY, United States
  • 07-03-07

This captured me

From the very start of this story, I was drawn into it so completely, I didn't want to stop. The history and horror of the time is vivid and passionate. If you enjoy Historical Novels and Simon Vance reads beautifully, you will enjoy this piece. I hope there will be a follow up on this novel.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Rip-roaring adventure!

Willocks doesn't believe in using one word when four will do, but his story of soldier of fortune Mattias Tannhauser and his adventures on Malta during the great siege will capture the listener. Simon Vance delivers an extraordinary reading. Looking forward to Volume 2, as this is supposed to be a trilogy.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Excellent narration

This is an interesting, adventure story that exposed me to a period in history I had not previously explored. I agree with previous reviewers that character development is somewhat lacking and I found the "love scenes" to be quite unimaginative, despite the detail. Like others, I too tired of the overly long and gory battle scenes. I understand that this is the first book of a trilogy and I hope that future volumes are a bit more fully realized and not so bloody.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Rich Tapestry

Rich tapestry is a much used phrase, maybe overused; however The Religion is definitely a rich tapestry. The characters are alive. I cared about them. They wove themselves and their situations into my waking hours -- and some of my dreams. Vivid! Alive! The story was whole, a tale, a spoken ballad to be sung again and again. Unlike many books who tell a story to get to the end - the climax; this book lives, has a past, present, and future. It allows for a full range of emotions to be experienced and treasured. Thank you, Tim.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

gripping but shallow & too graphic

First, this is a "page turner." It is a very gripping book and the narration is excellent. That said, the book has two flaws which make it something of a one time read rather than a book that I will return to again.
1)My first criticism is a little superficial: This is without exception, the most graphic book I have ever read. I am not by any stretch of the imagination either a prude or squeamish (I am a eight year veteran of the Army and have seen my fair share of blood and have never thought of myself as the least bit puritanical) however the incredibly evocative descriptions of wounds, torture (much of it done by the protagonists), murder, rape, violence of all stripes, and battle border upon the sick and the amount of very explicit sexual descriptions passed the merely titillating and verge on the pornographic. What made this particularly notable is that it is repeated to the point of tedium. An occasional graphic scene is not a problem, the problem here was that it was repeated over and over and over. Again, this is from a person who has never had a negative reaction in his life to a graphic bit of writing. This is however, a relatively superficial criticism, if you can get past the massive overdose of explicit sex and violence.
2) More damning are the inconsistencies in the plot and the rather weak to non-existent character development. Oddly enough, whenever there is any character development it is so abrupt or so out of character as too be annoying. Unfortunately, I cannot explain this in more detail without giving away points of the plot.
In sum, this book is gripping and a great fun read but its quality was severely reduced by shoddy character development and a dozens of frankly overly graphic scenes.
FYI I strongly advise the book Empires of the Sea on Audible which covers (non-fiction) the siege of Malta very well.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

One hell of a bloody yarn!

If you're looking for an intriguing 20+ hours of audiobook entertainment, then you can't go wrong with this beast. As others have said, it's bloody beyond compare. There were times during this audiobook when I actually started to giggle at the unparalleled gruesomeness of the confrontations and battles. Not because it was funny by any means but more the result of some built-in self-defense mechanism on my part. While I was taken aback at first by the level of violence, I began to realize that swords, axes, and countless other weapons of antiquity did exactly what's described in this story. Namely, well... you'll "see" for yourself. Good for Willocks to not hold back, in my opinion.

I really enjoy good historical fiction, and this definitely is. The amount of research that must have gone into the writing of this book is impressive. I was so intrigued by the historical details and references in this story that I did a little research of my own, just enough to appreciate it more on the second listen. One hell of a good story, not to mention the always wonderful narration by Simon Vance. Can't go wrong with a credit on this one, it's a pure rip snorter.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • John
  • Columbia, TN, United States
  • 12-18-10

Your vote appreciated

This is one of the most descriptive books I have purchased. Tim Willocks is a master of language, and the artful way he draws you in to the story. For myself, there was to much description of sex, and its frequency. I wish we had been allowed more imagination on our parts. The narrator is outstanding. He delivers, with his tone and timbre an excellent voice to the characters, better than I could have imagined myself.
-------------- Please vote to let me know if this helped.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Superb Writing and Narration!

WOW! I could not take the headphones off. Fantastic story which the narrator brings to life. Very graphic battles and aftermath, definitely not for the faint of heart or squeamish. A superb story with fantastic history interwoven. Makes you wonder how we humans have made it this far.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great Book

I loved this book from start to finish. Great characters and character development. I can't wait for the sequel. If you like this book you might also like George Martin's a book of fire and ice.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Howard
  • Scottsdale, AZ, United States
  • 10-10-10

Good, but not Great

One reason that I like historical fiction is that it gives me an opportunity to learn about history in an entertaining way. “The Religion: A Novel” by Tim Willocks satisfies both: it is an entertaining and adventuresome tale, and it centers on a heretofore unknown to me important event, the siege of Malta in 1565 by the Ottomans. Willocks paints an horrific picture of how gruesome 16th century warfare was, and his fictional characters, although scarcely believable, were within the bounds of this type of fiction which requires larger than life heroes and villains. Willock’s history-based characters play the same roles in the story that they played in history, as far as I could tell from the historical reading on Wikipedia I did along with reading the novel. The strong points of his novel are the relentless action and forward movement of the plot, and the historical setting in the siege of Malta. But, there are some weak points. The book, at 688 pages and 25 1/2 hours, is overly long and could use some serious editing. While each battle is well-described, the overall war strategy of the opposing Christian and Muslim sides is never quite explained. In a similar vein, the author fails to place the battle in its important larger European context. The narration is excellent and adds a great deal to the enjoyment of this audio book. All in all, this is much better than average historical fiction, but it’s not great.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful