Summer 1565. The Knights of St John are under siege on the small island of Malta, facing the full might of the Ottoman Empire. Suleiman the Magnificent has let the Knights escape once before; now he seeks a final solution. And not only are the Knights few in number, there is discord among them. In their highest echelons lurks a traitor, who not only passes vital information to the besiegers, but poisons Grand Master Jean de la Valette with arsenic.
The Great Siege of Malta provides a superb setting for a historical novel, comparable with the Spanish Armada as an epic tale, and with the bonus of a great deal more fighting. But Mr Jackson fails to pull it off. Maybe, having spent three years of my childhood in Malta and having the Great Siege as part of my heritage, the standard I set is just too high. But clichés abound, and the characters are two-dimensional. The hero, Christian Hardy, is superman, but do we really care what happens to him, or to his aristocratic Maltese girlfriend, Maria? Or whether the Grand Master really is being poisoned? I’m afraid not. And there is no real sense of the Knights as fighters for their faith. That said, the battle scenes are well done, and those who like their historical fiction with plenty of gore will surely find enough to satisfy them.