Thomas Hayden
May 11, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

In the summer of 1565, the Ottoman army of Suleiman the Magnificent lays siege to Malta. Enter Mattias Tannhauser, a lusty Teuton with divided loyalties and snug leather breeches. In The Religion Tim Willocks places his hero in one of history’s great bloodbaths, gives him a brawny sidekick, two damsels in various degrees of distress, and a cunning nemesis, then lets the adventure flow. It’s a rollicking story, but largely undone by romance cliché and showy, faux-historical writing, an argot so belabored as to bespeak BS. For over 600 pages, Willocks reads history for thrills and retells it as fantasy — bawdy and unremittingly cornball. C+

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