Sword and Scimitar by Simon Scarrow is a historical novel set in the 16th century and covers the siege of Malta. He has written a number of popular historical novels about the Romans which I found extremely hard work, but this novel, covering a time I am more interested in, and highlighting an event I knew little about is, for me, much more readable. Even so the narrative is quite stolid and functional rather than pacy though the level of historical background and research is quite impressive and makes the whole book quite fascinating.

The books starts with an interesting background to the fight against the fight of the Christians against Islam in the 16th century when the huge power of the Ottoman empire came near to over running the whole of Europe. The Knights of St John, with small numbers of soldiers and ships harassed the Turkish ships in the Mediterranean. The book’s hero, the British knight Sir Thomas Barrett fights with his father-like colleague La Vallette. Later he has a forbidden relationship with an already betrothed women (whom they had saved from the Turks) and was banished from the order. Many years later he is recalled and is recalled to Malta. The Queen’s right hand man Cecil asks him to undertake a duty for Elizabeth and to take an aide with him who will help him. The narrative then covers the various battles and actions taken to defend Malta.

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