Hunchback lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, is requested before the Archbishop Cranmer as a trusted individual. His mission: to join the Progress in York and help with the petitions, but Cranmer has an alternative agenda. Shardlake’s task is to protect the welfare of the prisoner Broderick and bring him safely back to London where he will be tortured in the tower.
In and amongst his responsibilities, there is a weight pressing down on Shardlake and someone is trying to kill him.
I discovered CJ Sansom whilst reading an interview with him in a magazine. It may have been Writing or some other monthly writing magazine that I liked to pick up occasionally. It was at some point during my University years, back when he was a debut author – if my memory serves me correctly – and since then his writing career has boomed.
I love free bookshelves, and after reading Dissolution, was thrilled to find Sovereign on one of these bookshelves in a local pub. I didn’t hesitate in adding it to the monumental tbr pile at home. It’s shameful to say that it’s been sat there at least 2 years before I had the opportunity to actually read it…but it was worth the wait.
Please don’t be daunted by the size of the book, I know I normally am. Generally speaking I often want something that will be a quick read so when something comes up on my reading list that is over 400 pages, I’m not overly keen to get started. But the memory of the last book I read spurred me on and within the first chapter I was hooked.
I always marvel at authors who manage to use a third of the book beginning the story for you to only realise that they haven’t actually made any progress and you’ve just been learning about day to day life, as well as the backstory. Sansom is great at this, but as you read on you learn that it’s not a case of fleshing the story out but he’s cleverly laid the foundation of what’s to come.
I was engrossed in this book, I couldn’t put it down. Every spare moment I had, I was picking it up. The characters are vibrant, the story compelling and the description is spot on – I can’t be doing with too much of it. I loved how when you think nothing else could possibly go wrong – bam – all hell breaks loose. The fact that the whole book is from Matthew’s perspective only strengthens the story.
For me the most fascinating, and most confusing, element of the novel is perhaps the historical references. I didn’t learn history at school and so my memory of the Tudors is a result of what we all learn in primary school – vague. I couldn’t name Henry VIII’s wives, maybe a couple of them but I definitely wouldn’t be able to tell you in which order he married them, let alone how he came to power.
I enjoyed learning about Cromwell in the first novel and thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the uprising in the North as well as the conspiracies and the uncertainty surrounding the royal blood line. Sansom doesn’t leave you in the lurch though, the complicated elements of the conspiracies are explained multiple times throughout the book without making you feel stupid. I must admit, the drawn diagrams were a great help too…
This isn’t the sort of thing I would normally read, if I’m honest, only because I’m not a history buff and that basis alone would potentially put me off but after enjoying the work of Wilbur Smith, I’ve discovered that maybe I do quite like a historical novel, if it’s set in the right era.
Sansom is an incredibly talented writer, one that I hope will continue writing for a long time. I feel the Shardlake series is potentially one of the best I’ve ever read and would rival some of the more well-known in the genre. If you’re looking for something maybe out of your comfort zone, or a compelling read, then I would definitely recommend this book – it was absolutely amazing.