The Tournament

The Tournament

by Matthew Reilly


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“A complete success…action fans and PBS types can share their enthusiasm” (Booklist, starred review) when a young Queen Elizabeth I is thrust into a gripping game of deception and lust at the height of the Ottoman Empire in this edge-of-your-seat historical thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of The Great Zoo of China and Temple.

The year is 1546, and Suleiman the Magnificent, the feared Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, issues an invitation to every king in Europe: You are invited to send your finest player to compete in a chess tournament to determine the champion of the known world.

Thousands converge on Constantinople, including the English court’s champion and his guide, the esteemed scholar Roger Ascham. Seeing a chance to enlighten the mind of a student, Ascham brings along Elizabeth Tudor, a brilliant young woman not yet consumed by royal duties in Henry VIII’s court.

Yet on the opening night of the tournament, a powerful guest of the Sultan is murdered. Soon, barbaric deaths, diplomatic corruption, and unimaginable depravity—sexual and otherwise—unfold before Elizabeth’s and Ascham’s eyes. The pair soon realizes that the real chess game is being played within the court itself…and its most treacherous element is that a stranger in a strange land is only as safe as her host is gracious.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476749563
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 03/29/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 253,385
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Matthew Reilly is the New York Times and #1 international bestselling author of numerous novels, including The Four Legendary Kingdoms, The Tournament, The Great Zoo of China, The Five Greatest Warriors, The Six Sacred Stones, Seven Deadly Wonders, Ice Station, Temple, Contest, Area 7, Scarecrow, and Scarecrow Returns, as well as the children’s book Hover Car Racer and the novella Hell Island. His books have been published in more than twenty languages in twenty countries, and he has sold more than 7.5 million copies worldwide. Visit him at and at

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Tournament includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


When Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent invites his fellow monarchs to send a chess player to compete in a battle of the minds, the young Elizabeth Tudor accompanies her brilliant tutor, Roger Ascham, to see England’s champion play in Constantinople. Ascham presents the tournament as a learning experience fitting a potential future monarch, but even he cannot imagine the wonders and dangers in store in 1546 Constantinople. It soon becomes clear that a killer is on the loose, and that the magnificent palaces of the Ottoman Empire hide a wealth of sins. With the grand battle of the world’s finest intellects as a backdrop to sexual depravity, political plotting, and murder, Bess and Ascham must use all their wits to solve a deadly crime and escape with their lives.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. The Tournament begins with the lines: “My queen is dead. My friend is dead.” How does Bess grow as a future monarch in this novel? How do her views on her relationships also change?

2. Ascham says that believes that everything happens for a logical reason. In your opinion, do the events of the novel prove him right? In what ways do the events at the Sultan’s court defy logic? What other major forces shape human behavior in the novel?

3. Bess and Ascham debate whether chess is a game or a sport on page 26. Review their arguments and discuss them with your book club. After reading The Tournament, what is your view?

4. Discuss which chess piece best represents the following characters: Bess, Ascham, Elsie, and Mr. Giles, and why?

5. Reilly uses well-known historical figures like Queen Elizabeth I, Michelangelo, and Suleiman the Magnificent as characters in his novel. Taking one or two as examples, discuss how this fictionalization bolsters, challenges, or complicates your view of these famous people.

6. Bess deeply admires Mr. Ascham, but as she notes on page 239, he is not her “master at all, merely [her] teacher.” In what ways does Reilly make this difference in their social statuses clear?

7. Bess is allowed on the trip to Constantinople as an educational exercise, but the later “Virgin Queen” also undergoes a sexual coming-of-age via Elsie. Compare and contrast the two young women’s views on sex and power. Why do you think Reilly chose to provide his young protagonist with such a risqué example?

8. What does Elsie’s final punishment at the brothel reveal about double standards of sexuality in the proto-Elizabethan age? Do you think that Elsie deserves her fate?

9. Reilly is well-known as a thriller writer, though he takes on the at times slow, refined, and intellectual game of chess in The Tournament. In what ways do the actions of the matches themselves mirror the novel’s thriller plot?

10. Bess asks “what [men] have . . . to fear from women” (pg 165). What particular power do the female characters in this novel hold that their male counterparts may not, and vice versa? Consider the figures of Elsie and the other young women on the court, the Queen, and Bess in your answer.

11. What is the effect of organizing The Tournament into parts based on different chess pieces? What did this organizational device reveal about the plot and characters, and how did it impact your view of the action?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Do research on the Hagia Sophia, under the shadow of which The Tournament takes place, and take a virtual tour of the architectural masterpiece to get a better sense of the setting of the novel. You might also look up other examples of the groundbreaking Byzantine architectural style, like the ruins of the Great Palace of Constantinople, the Daphni Monastery in Athens, and the Hagios Demetrios in Thessaloniki.

2. Have your own miniature chess tournament with members of your book club. Work up a draw, and play short timed games over the course of the evening as you discuss the novel.

3. Constantinople’s sights, sounds, and tastes are richly evoked in The Tournament. Play Turkish music and order food from a local Turkish eatery to get your own sense of the country’s culture.

4. Experience another fictional interpretation of young Queen Elizabeth by viewing the 1998 film Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett.

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The Tournament 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fantastic story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book, well worth the wait! Love Mr. Reilly 's writing style.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a well researched story of historical fiction. Characters were well developed along with a pleasantly convoluted plot. Narrative doesn't reflect well on the Catholic church or on the Ottoman life style.
nook_reader_31 More than 1 year ago
Great read!! I love historical mysteries. Yes, there are some modern themes interwoven into the plot, however, they do not detract too much from the story. I had the feeling I was in Constantinople. My advice to other readers when reading fiction, it is always helpful to remember to suspend disbelief. I hope that the author continues the series. If you liked this book, I recommend the Queen Elizabeth the first mysteries by Karen Harper.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The premise is intriguing, but the execution was disappointing. The characters are, across the board, unrealistic and implausible, often behaving according to utterly modern values in a way that totally strains credulity in a sixteenth century setting. And the sex scenes were poorly written, unecessary to the plot, and, frankly, cheesy. While I like the idea of imagining the progressive education of a young Queen Elizabeth, this book paid almost no attention to that interesting question, preferring to focus on the totally implausible sexual escapades of her older friend. I should have given up on the book early on.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I received this book free from the publisher through NetGalley. I thank them for their generousity. In exchange, I was simply asked to write an honest review, and post it. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising] “If aggression meets empty space it tends to defeat itself.” -Joshua Waitzkin Elizabeth Tudor through circumstances around the plaque in England, accompanies her teacher and THE English chess champion to the Middle East to participate in a Grand, World-wide championship. Mystery and skullduggery abound as bodies start appearing and Roger Aschem and Elizabeth begin to put the clues together. This was one of the best historical fiction/mysteries I have read in a very long time, and I am very excited by it. First, and I know it is fiction, it's about Elizabeth I, one of my heros. Secondly, it's about chess, and its not something I play much but the strategies fascinate me, and third, Matthew Riley has written a rolicking good story! Its one drawback is that the politcs of the Moslem world and some of the discussions about it are too 21st century- ISIL related, as are the soliloquies on the role of women with that society, and taking the "pedifil priests" issue on. They are well researched, but the language used is too modern for Tudor Times. Its the main reason this book isn't a "five star". However, I will definately read more Matthew Riley
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yo ill join but i wanna go against hades
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yo guys!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"I'll sign up! You didn't say no gods,my friend!" He looks around ecstatically.