Thursday, 20 November 2014

A Rare Masterpiece: THE RELIGION by Tim Willocks

The Religion by Tim Willocks
There are a lot of rare things in this world that I would like to get my hands on. Pink diamonds. Vintage John Paul Gaultier Corset Dresses. Black Limited Edition Burberry Trenchcoats. An Aston Martin Vantage (V8 or V12, I am not fussy) and.... lengthy books that stay consistent in pace and quality from front cover to back cover. 

Obviously, for me, only one of these was ever going to be attainable. And it wasn't the Aston Martin Vantage. It was, of course, a lengthy book with pace and quality finish to end.

 An enigma. A myth. Often whispered about, never actually seen. I have tried one or two, been tempted by a promise of cover to cover bounty many times. Was once wrongly directed down the Count of Monte Cristo path. A book that I felt suffered from much the same problem as many lengthy books. Too much waffle and could benefit from being a couple hundred pages shorter. Okay, so editors were less keen on cutting back then, but they should not be too scared of it now. And yet they seem to be.

I will concede that The Religion could have been shorter. Only nothing drastic. 50 pages at the most. But a few too many pages was kind of a small price to pay for a book that did not run out of prose in the first few chapters. It went on. On and on. On and on and on. Beefed up with excellent landscape and character creation, anchored by vivid portals into extraordinary battle scenes. 
I could not put it down. 
It was a gem as rare as any pink diamond, with as much pace at times as any V12 Aston Martin. As tight at the top as at the waist as at the bottom, as any Gaultier corset and with more movement than any Burberry jacket.
It was quite a find.
A rare find that you will notice from the outset. With passages that wash across the page in fresh, vernal literary splashes.

Page 12
The Fagaras Mountains, East Hungarian Marches. Spring AD1540

The yard was empty. The heavens at the rimrock's edge were reefed in vermilion cloud. From the village pillars of smoke quavered skyward and with them cries of anguish and crackles of flame.  
He walked across the cobbles, sick with fear. Fear of whatever vileness afflicted his mother. Fear of shame. Of cowardice. Of the knowledge that he couldn't save her. Of the darkness that had housed itself inside his spirit. Yet the darkness spoke with a feral power that brooked no refusal nor hesitation.
Plunge in, the darkness said.
Mattias turned and looked back at the forge...
Like the blade in the quench.
Plunge in.

Through to the middle they surged on. The tautness of a well trained writer carving his skill in inked words.

Page 348
The Gauntlet – The Bailey – The Causeway 11 June 1565

Straighten up, breathe and blow, shake the sweat. He wheezed. His chest was tight, his gorge scorched. He felt nauseous and weak. He was too far forward. Get back.

The horde shouldered each other in their frenzy to get through the choke point, their weapons constricted, one shield obstructing another. Spot the openings. Swallow the scalding bile. Kill him, kill them, kill them all. A blow glanced off his helm and hammered into his pauldron. Spike him in the privities, stab him in the neck. The fellow fought on from his knees, blinded by the fountain from his arteries, still scrabbling with his blade for the joints in Tannhauser's plate.

Tannhauser drove the finial through his temple and stepped back. Now backstep again. Keep them at bay. He threw and upward swordcut to the thighs and backstroke to the guts and a thrust to the chest, in deep and twist. Don't look in his eyes. He's done. And breathe, you fool, keep the knees loose, ignore the battle cries. Get back.

It goes on. On and on and on. But I think I have shown you enough.

Don't be dissuaded from trying this for fear it is too masculine. It is masculine, without a doubt, but there is beauty too. Beauty of the heart and of the lovelorn. The author has not forgotten you. You, the reader of the heart.
While I did not think there was much romance in this book, it is there. A tugging undertow that a reader like me - who does not read with the heart but reads with the mind - can easily ignore. I hardly even noticed the female characters most of the time. They did not take up much room in my mental landscape.

To me the book is perfect. Perfectly written that is. Fast paced from start to finish. The story, however, had some personal taste flaws. They are not going to be flaws for everyone. Some of what I call a flaw, will be the things you will most likely value about the story.
It was the sex. 
Some may say it had to be there as sex is a natural part of life. In part this is true (although many live without sex in their lives and I would never claim their lives to be unnaturally led), but the sex in this book is quite often odd. Poorly located. Unnecessary. Forced into the story.
There isn't a lot of it. If you blink - or skim read - you may even miss it. 
When it does come (no pun intended) it is oddly placed, like an afterthought, or to please the authors own building sexual tension. If an author wants sex in a book it needs to feel naturally placed. Not just plopped down because the author was randy or the editor told him it needed more sex.

It was a great ride while it lasted (the book, not the sex) and I was disappointed it came to an end. My forlorn need not last forever though, for there is a book to follow it called Twelve Children of Paris. I have bought it already and cannot wait to read it. 
With any luck, it will be as well done as this rare gem, The Religion. As this kind of  writing skill is not something an author loses down a bottle of whiskey while he tries to outdrink his writer's block. No, he clearly has command of his writing talent.
The only place I feel he can fall down will be story. Lets hope he gets that right again too.

- MM


  1. The only thing putting me off is the title. Anything to do with religion and it usually bores me too hell.

    1. Religion bores me to hell too. Luckily there isn't much religion in this book and what is there is usually centred on one of the female characters and can be skimmed over.
      'The Religion' (of the title) is a reference to the Knights of St John, aka The Hospitaller Knights, who held Malta during this period.
      They are like the Templar Knights in many ways. Religion based, but really just a death cult.