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Review of Tim Willocks’s “The Twelve Children Of Paris”

The scorecard says it all. This is NOT for the faint of heart reader.

The scorecard says it all. This is NOT for the faint of heart reader.


This is the goods. This is real, bonded stuff. Folks looking for a summer read, only one with hair on its chest will find it in The Twelve Children Of Paris, the second book in a trilogy. I read the first one, The Religion, about seven years ago and enjoyed that tremendously. Willocks’s nail biting, stomach churning account of the Siege of Malta had me utterly spellbound and looking forward very much at the end to the next installment. Years passed without any sign of the sequel, however. I began to think it was one of those ambitious projects that for want of interest by publishers would languish.

A chance Amazon search turned up the sequel, which appeared in 2013, but isn’t available here in the USA. Willocks is British. This is a serious mistake since Game Of Thrones fans and medieval enthusiasts would simply eat this novel up. Scene, the late 16th Century with Europe embroiled in religious wars. A colossal atrocity in that internecine conflict is about to erupt, the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of the Huguenots in Paris. Into this giant warren of intrigue and debauchery rides grim Mattias Tannhauser, Knight of St. John, former Ottoman janissary, and the biggest ye olde badass who ever swung a battleax, hell bent on rescuing his wife, the fair Lady Carla, from a sinister, complicated revenge plot that involves the most powerful men in the Kingdom. Tannhauser’s enemies have no idea who they’re dealing with, however.

Ruthless, implacable, Tannhauser battles on through overwhelming odds and leaves a trail of carnage behind him, all against the morbid tableaux of endless scenes of massacre, looting, and rape. Readers who want a quick, crash course in how godawful the Reformation was couldn’t do better than Children. Along the way, Tannhauser collects a small menagerie of damaged, lost children, waifs who prove their worth in the course of their collective ordeal. Willocks’s strength at characterization shines here. His people are individual, distinctive from the start, and always consistent. They speak in a semi-Shakespearean vernacular, which Willocks also handles excellently, leavening high flying rhetoric with humor and commonplace observations, never falling flat or coming across as pompous.

This is one hell of a good read, but like I warned before, it’s not for those easily put off their food. Willocks is a doctor by trade. That combined with his expert knowledge of late medieval warfare, its methods and results, leads¬† to some revolting although page turning reading. Children reads like an Alexandre Dumas Pere novel only with a Grand Guignol twist, with scenes of gore and slaughter no stage could ever simulate.¬† This book and The Religion would both make incredible movies. Highly recommended. If you can handle GOT, you should get a big kick out of this novel.


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