Thomas, Richard, Maria.
Simon Scarrow is back with his brand new novel the Sword and Scimitar! The book is based around the Ottoman/Turk invasion of Malta in 1565 and tells the tale of an English Knight called Thomas. Thomas is part of the Templar Order of St. John that has its base on Malta. However, as a young man Thomas is exiled from the order because of a love affair he has with a young noble woman who is in the Order’s protection.
Thomas returns home to England and lives out the next twenty years of his life on his small land holding. But, one day a French Knight turns up at Thomas’s farm with a summons from the Order’s new leader, telling Thomas to return to Malta to help fight off the imminent Ottoman threat. He decides that he will return to Malta, but not to help fight the Turks, but in the vain hope that his love (Maria) will still be there. Unluckily for Thomas, the French Knight has been noticed by the authorities in London and Thomas has to travel there to explain why a Catholic, French Knight has been in correspondence with a Catholic English Knight, in what is now a Protestant Kingdom. Thomas is confronted by Robert Cecil and explains about his summons back to the Order. Cecil seizes this opportunity and sets Thomas a mission to receive an important document that was lost in Malta with the death of Henry VIII. To aid him in this mission, Cecil sends one of his best agents called Richard to act as Thomas’s squire and to look for the document. What Thomas and Richard don’t know is that their coming together is not a coincidence, but part of a thorough plan of the Queen of England’s spymaster.
When the duo reaches Malta, they soon discover that finding the document is the least of their worries. They will have to fight the hardest battle of their lives to help the small Christian garrison stem the flow of the Ottoman horde that looks to conquer the whole of Europe! Plus, enemies within the Order of St. John will make it harder for Richard to find the document and Thomas to find Maria.
This was an excellent book from Simon Scarrow and shed some light on a period of history that I was not that familiar with, but which defined the era of conflict between Christianity and Islam. The story was also interesting because it told the tale of a Catholic Knight living in Elizabethan England. It showed the dual loyalties to both the crown and the church which many Catholics had, but which over the centuries were discriminated against because they were seen (by Protestants) as been only loyal to the Pope. The story of the siege was also brilliant and extremely detailed, telling of the new war techniques, which both sides used as warfare moved away from sword, shield and bow, to gun, cannon and pike.
However, I did have one issue with this book and that was the ending; it seemed to drag! I personally think if Scarrow ended the book a hundred pages earlier then it would have been much better. I thought the last hundred pages really didn’t need to be there, it sort of reminded me of a movie when it cuts to black and you think ‘that’s the ending’ but then it goes on for another thirty minutes which doesn’t really need to be there.
Nevertheless, I did enjoy the book and would suggest it to any Simon Scarrow fans. I would also suggest it to fans of C. J. Sansom’s Shardlake series because they are both set in the Tudor period and both revolve around a mystery.
For author’s official website click here.