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Defenders of the Faith: Charles V, Suleyman the Magnificent, and the Battle for Europe, 1520-1536

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  574 ratings  ·  77 reviews
In his Warriors of God and Dogs of God, James Reston, limned two epochal conflicts between Islam and Christendom. Here he examines the ultimate battle in that centuries-long war, which found Europe at its most vulnerable and Islam on the attack. This drama was propelled by two astonishing young sovereigns: Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Turkish sultan Suleyman the Magnif ...more
Hardcover, 407 pages
Published December 31st 2009 by Penguin Press (first published 2009)
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4.01  · 
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 ·  574 ratings  ·  77 reviews

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Jun 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
A good general overview of events in the early 16th century. The title is a bit misleading however, and should actually be: Defenders of the Faith: Charles V, Francis I, Henry VIII, Martin Luther, the Medici Popes, and the Battle for Europe (feat. Suleyman). I felt like a half dozen chapters about events in Europe, followed by a brief "oh hey Suleyman's canons sunk in the mud *again*".

It was very readable, and Reston did a good job of ensuring that all the disparate players had personalities an
Jan 29, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, library-book
This book is a fun read if you like history. I have read many books on the Protestant Reformation, most of which only mention wider historical circumstances as they influenced the Reformation. In such books there might be a sentence about the sack of Rome by Charles V's armies or of the fear of the Ottoman Turks invading Europe. This book focuses on the historical situation surrounding the early part of the Reformation. Its main characters are the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Ottoman Turkish ...more
Sep 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
There has rarely been a fourteen year period in history when so many monumental events have occurred. James Reston in "Defenders of the Faith" chronicles the happenings of that period, 1520 - 1536. There was a pathetic series of popes ending with Clement VII, who was a member of the Medici family and as corrupt as they come, trying to hold on to the papal states of Italy; there was Henry the VIII of England, who ended English participation in the Catholic church so that he could divorce his wife ...more
Michael Burnam-Fink
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, 2017
Defenders of the Faith is a thrilling popular history, focusing on the clash of the two great empires of the 16th century, the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire. For all its "clash of civilizations" overtones, the encounter was more of an up-jumped border skirmish at Vienna. Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, faced problems in his rear in the form of the Protestant Reformation, King Francis I of France, and a bleeding ulcer of a war in Italy. Suleyman the Magnificent was on the offensive, ...more
Sep 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
Mediocre popular history. Supposedly part of a larger series of books examining the encounter of Islam and the West, yadda yadda. Despite the pages of credits and respectable bibliography, the author shows amateurish control of the sources and seemingly just regurgitates other, better books on the subject. And I could have forgiven much if the writing were just better. But curious typos and misspellings show up ("Lütheran"), as well as numerous small errors of fact. Clunky prose and bizarre turn ...more
Aug 18, 2009 rated it liked it
Defenders of the Faith is a history covering 1520-1536 AD which mainly focused on the politics and wars in Europe (Charles V, Francis I, Henry VIII, the popes, Martin Luther, etc.). Only a fourth of the book focused on Suleyman's battles in Europe, European diplomacy efforts toward him, descriptions of feasts he held, and his internal politics...and very little was said about the Sunni/Shi'i conflict.

The book used quotes from people living at the time and gave nice details about how things looke
George Kaposi
Sep 02, 2013 rated it really liked it

This work is a detailed account of the clash between the Holy Roman Empire, ruled by Charles V and the Ottoman Empire ruled by Suleyman the Magnificent. The time period covered by the book is approximately 1500 through 1550. There are a number of sub stories especially the travails of Martin Luther, the birth of the Reformation, the marital issues of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. Also covered are the machinations of the various Christian rulers, Francis I of France, Ferdina
Jan 03, 2015 rated it liked it
This book covers the history of Europe and the Ottoman Empire from 1520-1536. In particular it focuses on the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation in Germany, the three way struggle between the Pope, the Holy Roman Emperor and the French king over Italy and the Ottoman Empire's invasions of Eastern Europe.

Overall, it's quite an interesting story though at times it felt like a slog to keep myself going.

One complaint though is that there are no in text citations. To my mind this is a very big
Nov 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
Amazing book! I would recommend it to anyone. Reston is a wonderful author, however, this should not be be taken as truth-to-history. Reston's anti-Catholic Church bias shines through clear as day. However, I rather enjoy a book that introduces a strong opinion when the author is an intelligent one. And Reston definitely is.

This time period was very tumultuous and the author captures every aspect of it. He doesn't just focus one vantage point of history, but many. You get "both sides of the stor
Sep 15, 2012 rated it liked it
An enjoyable read about the period of 1520-1533 or so, the reformation and the Austrian/Hungarian struggles against the Turks. The intrigue, and such during the period was incredible. I have only two problems with the text. First it's coverage of the siege of Vienna was too brief for my tastes. Secondly, the book is written in the style of "I've read the history so you don't have too", which while pleasant to read has no footnotes. there are quite a few odd ball factoids that I wanted to check, ...more
Jimmy Tarlau
Sep 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A lot happened in those two decades of the 16th Century. I didn't realize all that was going on. If you add Henry VIII and his problems with his wives, Suleiman the Great invading Europe (and almost taking Vienna), the rise of Martin Luther, a French King being captured by the Spanish King and of course a bunch of trips out West, it was a remarkable 16 years. I've read a lot of Jimmy Reston's books. (He's the son of the famous New York Times columnist.) He makes history enjoyable and readable.
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
James Reston, Jr. takes this very complex material and brings it to life. This is a totally engrossing book. It helped me to understand this period of history in a way I had not before.

I cannot say enough about how well this is done. Reston introduces the characters and presents their actions and motivations at a pace the reader can understand. He brings the battles, the politics and the pageantry to life.

Reston, undoubtedly, had many decisions along the way, what to put in and what to leave out
Daniel Kukwa
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A gloriously-written snapshot into a fantastic time...and an excellent way of presenting the trials and tribulations of the early European renaissance through counter-point with the Ottomans. A definitive text for both study and enjoyment of the era.
Stephen Barry
Jan 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Excellent! Well written, well researched and with an eye toward the little stories that make history come alive. The author presents a well balanced account of a troubled time. this is history that reads like a well loved novel.
Joshua Horn
Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
I would recommend this book highly to any students of the Reformation. That is certainly not something I expected to say before I read this book. I purchased it for information on the 1529 Siege of Vienna but I was really surprised how helpful it was on many other areas.

This book is really a broad history of the first decades of the 16th century in Europe. That time was dominated by three major factors - the conflict between Muslims and Christendom, wars between nations in Europe, and the dawn
Chris Keeve
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Reston has an emphatic and compelling writing style, but the premise is slightly misleading. It's presented as the story of two global superpowers, but it functions more as an in-depth narrative of 16th century European geopolitical and religious developments, interspersed with periodic Ottoman invasions.
Альберто Лорэдо
Good book dealing with all the important events of this crucial period. Perhaps, too long descriptions about what the sultan and the viziers wore and ate and the lack of notes is penalising this book for not getting the top mark.
Pieter Lombaard
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a fantastic book on a critical time in human history! The author always kept me engaged. Things never got bogged down to unnecessary details. I learned a lot and enjoyed it! I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in the politics of the 16th century.
Jul 08, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I dunno...readable enough (I have a downloaded audio edition) but I had trouble figuring out what the topic was. And also, it seems as if Reston just abruptly lost interest in his subjects at a certain point and cut off there (well before the actual deaths of Charles or Sulieman).
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I will read this one again someday, no question, it's that good.
Readable popular history on an interesting topic, but no footnotes and terrible, unhelpful maps.
Sep 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Many reviewers have highlighted the pros and cons of this book. It is beautifully written and well organized. Reston creates a brilliantly structured historical narrative that is not bogged with too much detail, sidelines, or academic prose. He is writing for a mass audience, not just historians and students.

On the flip side, the title implies a great clash of cultures. Nothing could be further from the truth. While this argument is injected from time to time in the reading, there is no real ev
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: european-history
Given the lack of any real aspirations in my life, I make up small quests that give me something to strive for--a windmill against which to joust. (Please note the previous sentence is in jest..mostly.) I have decided my meaningless quest for this month is to clear completely out my "reading list" on Goodreads.

I will start new and refreshed. I will "respawn" my reading list.

So I've got to clear out books that I never really got into or cared to finish. Yeah, this will be fun.

This book is a duel
Paul Schulzetenberg
May 10, 2010 rated it liked it
Not as revelatory as I had hoped, but eminently readable. I wanted a little more depth, and a little bit more analysis. Too often, I was reading a recounting of events, and not often enough did I feel like the battles were contextualized. I was moderately familiar already with this period, and I was hoping that this book would enrich my understanding.

The book certainly has its high points. The historical characters are strong, and you feel a certain personal connection to them, and an understand
Nov 16, 2011 rated it liked it
What I liked about this book is it covers at least four or five major gaps in my knowledge of history:

--Why Henry VIII broke away from Rome to found the Anglican church
--Who the heck was Martin Luther? (Answer: A drunk monk.)
--Aside from purveyors of obsolete footstools, who were the Ottomans?
--What the heck is a Holy Roman Emperor and why were they not in Rome? And why was the last Holy Roman Emperor coronated in a dolled-up Bologna?
--Rome sacked in 1527? I thought the Goths took care of that
Aug 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Easy to read, full of facts and battles and sieges stories, which i particularly affect. More facts than analyses. The author takes a distant tone, not affecting any particular side, and he explains all decisions by interests of parties - almost everyone looks "base". He does however give the reader the impression that Charles 5 is the center of his story telling.
What i missed are footnotes - a general bibliography at the end do not satisfy someone who may want to know more. What i appreciated
Rob Lever
Oct 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, 2013
Finally finished, so much for the cover tag line "fast-paced and engaging." Ha!

All in all, I enjoyed the book. Title is very misleading, there is no epic religious battle to be played out here, clearly the editors felt playing off current events and biases would garner more book sales. Essentially the story is loosely tied around a handful of the eight Ottoman incursions into Europe during the reign of Suleyman I. While an interesting bookend, there isn't really any historical play (war or dipl
Aug 02, 2013 rated it liked it
It's more a novel than a history book. This book is one step above something like the DaVinci Code in the way it reads. However, unlike that comparison, this book does not try to invent anything out of thin air, it simply seeks to air out the dirty laundry and little known events of a very important series of years--which by the way, were very arbitrarily chosen.
It reads well, and it progresses quite nicely through the middle portions. The begining and ends leave some to be desired. It's anti cl
Stephen Durrant
Nov 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Time for a break from novels. The Sixteenth Century is a fascinating period in European history. I like to think of the first half of that century as a time of remarkable men (Charles V, Francois I, Henry VIII, Suleiman the Magnificent--if I may take a somewhat expansive view of Europe--Martin Luther, etc.), while the second half of the century is a time of equally remarkable women (Catherine de Medici, Mary Stuart, Elizabeth I, etc. . . . on that half-century I very much recommend John Guy's "M ...more
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a great narrative look at the rise of 16th Century leaders Francis I, Henry VIII, Charles V, Martin Luther and Suleyman the Magnificent. It also traced the rise and fall of popes Leo X, Adrian VI and, Clement VII.

The best part of the book is the narrative structure that Reston employs (but it is also a slight drawback, as he would have to backtrack a bit when switching between the various players). This is not dry history; it's a skillfully woven story that intertwines major politi
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James Reston Jr. (born 1941, New York City) is an American author and journalist. His father was the American journalist James Reston.

Reston was raised in Washington, D.C. He earned his BA in philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) while on a Morehead Scholarship. At UNC, he was an All-South soccer player, and retains the single game scoring record for the university (5