Review: Sovereign

Sovereign
Sovereign by C.J. Sansom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s taken me years to get around to reading this, and having finished, I’m left with one inescapable thought: Why did it take me so long?

Matthew Shardlake and his trusty sidekick Jack Barak are off to York with the Royal Progress. King Henry is intending to to prod some serious Yorkshire buttock, and Shardlake is along to help with the legal petitions. He has also been given the task of ensuring the health and welfare of an accused traitor, who is being brought back to London for “questioning”.

Pretty soon, it’s clear that something is rotten in the county of Yorkshire (other than the King’s ulcerated leg, and the bits of traitor still nailed up over the gates), and before the tale is done, there are murders, attempted murders, lies, betrayals, seductions, narrow escapes, and celebrity gossip.

Shardlake and Barak make a good team, even though they don’t always see eye to eye, and Sansom is obviously moving their story on: this is a good thing, as it’s always vaguely unsatisfactory when the main characters’ lives never change, despite what’s happening around them.

Sansom also manages to get the paranoid atmosphere of Tudor England under the latter part of Henry VIII’s reign: an increasingly tyrannical and unstable king with nearly absolute power. Religion and politics inextricably linked. The danger that a wrong word or look to the wrong person in the wrong place, and someone might end up in the Tower of London however innocent they might be.

This series is going from strength to strength, and I will definitely be reading the rest of it.

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2 comments

  1. This sounds fantastic. I always kick myself when I wait to read a book in my possession only to discover it rocked. Makes me wonder what I was on about for delaying. Love the 1500’s time period and the mysterie. Do you think I should begin at book one or can I dive in with this book three?

  2. If you don’t have any of the series, I’d start with Book 1 UNLESS you particularly want to start with Book 3.

    Which is a pretty roundabout way of saying, “There’s some [relatively small] stuff that happens in Book 3 that is explained in the previous books, so to get ‘full value’, you’d need to start with Book 1. But you can read Book 3 on its own without major problems, provided you’re not the kind of person who gets really hacked off with not having all the details on everyone.”

    Honestly, I really enjoyed Book 1, too. None of these are cosy mysteries, though – a lot grimmer than Cadfael!

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