U.S. publishers wouldn’t touch this book, but the Nashua Public Library goes where few dare.
Tim Willocks is a serious writer though. His narratives move like juggernauts and are weighted with philosophy. He has a gifted command of language. If his hero has a superhuman complex, the author uses it effectively to examine the worst of human nature–represented by the worst in himself.
That hero is Mattias Tannhauser, a former jihadist who left Islam to become an opium and arms merchant, and then, of all things, a crusader–a Knight of St. John fighting against the Muslim hordes at the famous Siege of Malta (1565). That story was told in The Religion.
In this book he enters Paris during the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (1572), which began as a royal stab against an elite group of Protestants but quickly degenerated into a full-blown massacre of Protestant civilians by the Paris militia.
Tannhauser has come to Paris for his wife, but learns that she has been abducted for unknown reasons. As carnage ensues, he goes on a slaughter-mission of his own, tearing up the city to find her. He still wears the cross of St. John (see book cover above), but he’ll decapitate Catholics as often as Protestants, thank you.
Tannhauser’s personal moral degeneration matches the city’s, and as a result he becomes a more believable character than the “superman” of The Religion. Most of the opposition he faces are poorly trained city militia, everyday thugs, and politically appointed “knights” hardly worthy of the title.
In the first book he beat up his own size, or generally those who deserved it, and he joined forces against invading Muslim hordes. Now he kills without second thought people who scarcely get in his way.
His salvation–if he deserves any–comes from a group of children he rescues along the way. Some have been abused horribly, others are starving and destitute, and two are Protestant girls whose father has been burned on a pyre outside their home. The innocence of children is the thin ray of light in a city that has become hell on earth.
If you liked The Religion, you should love The Twelve Children of Paris. What makes it controversial is precisely, in my view, what makes it a superior sequel.
See also this interview with Tim Willocks.
About Loren Rosson
Loren Rosson heads up the circulation department at the Nashua Public Library. He's worked at the library since graduating from Lewis and Clark College, with the exception of the two years he spent in Lesotho with the Peace Corps, teaching high school.