The Twelve Children of Paris by Tim Willocks

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The Twelve Children of Paris by Tim Willocks

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: 16th century Knight of the Order of St John the Baptist, Mattias Tannhauser is back in another enjoyable epic filled with as much gore, action and historical interest as before. Having survived the Siege of Malta, he's now thrown at Paris' Huguenot massacre. Born in hell. Baptised in blood? You'd better believe it!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 768 Date: April 2014
Publisher: Vintage
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0099578925

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This review contains spoilers for the first Tannhauser: The Religion by Tim Willocks.

Knight of the Order of St John the Baptist, Mattias Tannhauser, does as he has promised. After surviving the 1565 siege of Malta, Mattias goes to Paris to look for Lady Carla (his heavily pregnant wife) and Orlandu, her child by birth and his by adoption. Carla went to sing and play at the royal wedding but seems to have disappeared. It's definitely not a good time to sample Parisian hospitality: one of the city's bloodiest chapters is about to begin as the Catholics seek to cleanse the city of members of the Protestant Reformist Church of France, better known as Huguenots. It gets worse though: not only are all Huguenots (and anyone who gets in the way) being hunted down and killed grotesquely, guess which church Carla's hosts belong to?

Not all doctors have such a high body count as physician Tim Willocks. Thank goodness his are in literature rather than hospital beds! This is Tim's sixth book but only second for hero Mattias Tannhauser, the knight who was adopted by the Saracens as a child only to return to join the Maltese Knights in adulthood. Those of us who avidly read The Religion, the first of a trilogy, have been just as avidly waiting for this; is this worth it? Oh indeed it is!

It's a great book for those who like their historical content. We can almost smell the streets of Paris and indeed the Louvre Palace. Tim makes this a wonderfully informative journey back in time during which we learn why the French courts had to move on a regular basis. The spectacle must have been amazing – people wearing cages holding small dogs?! Oh and remember the incendiary pigs back in Malta? The Parisians have their own version!

The twelve children of the title are varied waifs and strays that Mattias collects over his adventure, making him almost like a much more violent, much less musical, 16th century Von Trapp. Each child is different and fascinating in their own way. I particularly like Gregoire, presumed an idiot who becomes Tannhauser's lackey and Estelle the rat girl mal-used by the local Faginesque gang.

Even one of the adults has a name reminiscent of a child. Grymonde, the Infant of Cockaigne isn't childlike by any measure of the imagination, but, baddie as he is, I have a particularly soft spot for him. (You'll see why!)

The action romps along with Tim's usual wicked sense of humour adding a dark chortle or two. In fact I was so engrossed that I found myself getting a little impatient with a couple of the passages that dragged me away from the fray. For instance, I realise that Lady Carla's tarot reading has a purpose, but she seemed to be at it for a long time. It's safe to deem this a minor whinge though.

A warning, by the way: it rips along in terms of flesh as much as in terms of speed. This is definitely not for the squeamish. ('Sound of Music fans, the Von Trapp comment was a joke rather than a recommendation!) Indeed Tannhauser may be a man with a conscience, a chivalric attitude towards the ladies and a wry twinkle, but he knows some ingeniously inventive ways of imposing death and many of his adversaries reciprocate in kind.

Also in places Mattias' views seem fairly modern. Would someone from the 16th century consider that going with a willing child prostitute a form of rape? I'm also a bit dubious about him not realising the effect of his own words whereas we realise the moment he says them. (You'll see which bit I mean when you get there.) However, we don’t have long to ponder this before the next scare, twist or chase hits us.

This may not be a peaceful afternoon's read by virtue of the high heart rate it induces. But if you enjoy factoids and high adventure, can take the gore and love the dichotomy that is the charming, honourable knight-brute, I can heartily recommend it. Me? I'm counting the days till book 3 of the trilogy is upon us.

Thank you Vintage for providing us with a copy for review!

Further Reading: If you haven't read it already, do try The Religion. If you're already a fan and want to read more about 16th century France, we recommend Queen's Play by Dorothy Dunnett.

Buy The Twelve Children of Paris by Tim Willocks at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Twelve Children of Paris by Tim Willocks at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Twelve Children of Paris by Tim Willocks at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Twelve Children of Paris by Tim Willocks at Amazon.com.


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