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Sovereign by C. J. Sansom

Sovereign (original 2006; edition 2007)

by C. J. Sansom

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1,777723,949 (4.09)224
Authors:C. J. Sansom
Info:Pan Books (2007), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 662 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, historical fiction, crime, mystery, york, wgs, series

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Sovereign: A Matthew Shardlake Mystery (Matthew Shardlake Mysteries) by C. J. Sansom (2006)

  1. 40
    Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (bookfitz)
    bookfitz: A novel from the same time period. The story follows the rise of Thomas Cromwell in the court of King Henry VIII.

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Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  T_K_Elliott | Mar 12, 2017 |
C. J. Sansom writes long historical thrillers. His Shardlake Mysteries feature a 16th century lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, who is constantly, albeit reluctantly, drawn into affairs of State and forced to solve some murder or other to redeem himself and deliver to his masters.

In ‘Sovereign’, Shardlake joins King Henry VIII’s Progress to York to reassert his power over northern England. Shardlake is charged with providing some legal assistance to the Progress, but his real purpose is to escort a valuable prisoner back to London for interrogation under torture. Murder, attempts on his own life and a conspiracy to prove Henry is not the rightful King complicate matters.

Sansom has a good grasp of history and the political, social and geographical context where he places his story. Shardlake tells his tale in the first person and this helps to keep the narrative drive going and to give the reader the same facts and perspective as Shardlake himself.

This is a fine example of historical thriller writing that draws the reader in and keeps those pages turning. ( )
  pierthinker | Jan 31, 2017 |
Read in 2016 ( )
  jemalong | Dec 1, 2016 |
[Dark Fire] by C J Sansom
[Sovereign] by C J Sansom
Beach reading - well from the balcony overlooking the beach which was far more comfortable. Two books in the Mathew Shardlake crime series and both of them kept me up reading well into the night. Shardlake is a lawyer in 16th century England whose services are used by the power makers in the Tudor Court. In Dark Fire he is Thomas Cromwell’s man who is tasked with solving the mystery of the re-discovery of Greek Fire: a combustable material that could burn on water and which had been lost for centuries. Shardlake is soon the target for assassination attempts and with his assistant the streetwise Barak he must solve the mystery to save Cromwell’s skin. Sovereign finds Shardlake after the fall of Cromwell when he is tasked by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer to ensure the safe passage of the man Broderick, who has important information as one of the leaders of the Revolt of the North - the so called Pilgrimage of Grace. Shardlake must meet King Henry VIII progress at York and escort the prisoner back to London. Shardlake and Barak again find themselves in far deeper waters that they anticipate as this time the fate of Catherine Howard: Henry’s Queen, is also involved.

The world building, scene setting, historical reconstruction or whatever you like to call it is the main reason I have got hooked on this series. Sansom is careful not to stray too far from the known facts of the period and his murder mysteries enable him to bring his own interpretations to the characters that were the power brokers in Henry VIII court. The struggle between the catholic traditionalist and the protestant reformers who made up the factions containing the great families of the realm provide a stunning background to the stories. Shardlake was seen to be a reformer when working for Cromwell but with the rise of the Howard family at court following the execution of Ann Boleyn he must tread a more wary path when the traditionalists were gaining the upper hand. Sansom superbly captures the deadly intrigue surrounding the King and his coutiers in a world that was all too easily, likely to spill over into violence. Shardlake the crookbacked lawyer spends most of the books in fear of his life.

Dark Fire is set in London and there are thrilling descriptions of Shardlake riding on horseback through the streets of Cheapside, Fleet street, Ludgate, St Pauls, and Newgate. There are horrific descriptions of Newgate goal and the poorer areas around Thames Street, but it is the bustle, the crowds, the sense of a city bursting at the seams that fires the imagination. Shardlake seems to be constantly battling through the hubbub, pursuing or being pursued by mysterious forces intent on stopping his investigations. Sovereign is set largely in York, perhaps the second city of Tudor England, but a much poorer place compared to London. The city seems to be going backwards despite its collection of marvellous buildings. Both London and York are suffering the effects of the dissolution of the monasteries and while London seems to be embracing the change York as a city is suffering. What is clear however in both cities is that there is money to be made from the sale of land belonging to the church and those is favour with the King will benefit. A feature of Sovereign is the descriptions of the Kings Progress. In Tudor times it was still customary for the government led by the king to tour the kingdom usually during the summer months. In the great progress to York in 1541 Henry was intent on displaying his power, his government and all its followers was literally on the road cutting a huge swathe across the country and the purpose of the York progress was for Henry to receive oaths of allegiance from the great Northern families. The stately progress hampered by an appalling English summer and fraught with tension is brilliantly conveyed as is Shardlake’s return to London where he is arrested thrown in the Tower and suffers at the hands of the torturers.

Mathew Shardlake’s character has been set from the first novel in the series. His crookbacked deformity is mocked by many of the people with whom he has to deal, leading him to hide behind a gruff exterior. He is hard working and as honest as his predicaments allow him to be. He is trustworthy and together with his attention to detail and painstaking following through in his investigations makes him a useful tool to his paymasters, however it is these very characteristics that constantly get him into trouble. I was reading these two novels in conjunction with a history of the battle of Flodden 1513 and I had difficulty in telling apart the history from the historical novel.

Looking over the balcony at the people on the Mediterranean beach, relaxing, perhaps escaping from the drama and intrigues of their daily lives, there could hardly have been a greater contrast than with Mathew Shardlake’s desperate attempts to save himself and his friends from death or worse in Tudor England - 4 stars. ( )
3 vote baswood | Jul 3, 2016 |
This one felt gossipy...an outpouring of tittle tattle rather than a crime or mystery to be solved. This is presumably what the atmosphere was like when Catherine Howard was accused and executed, it just didn't sit well with me, with all the machinations being done at 3rd or 4th hand. Entertaining and atmospheric, but leaves you feeling slightly dirty. ( )
  jkdavies | Jun 14, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
"Tension is kept up as the lawyer's compassion for the conspirator wars with his sense of duty in this craftsmanlike piece of historical fiction."
"As always, former lawyer Sansom (Dark Fire, 2005, etc.) fleshes out the detection with rich historic details presented at a stately pace."
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It was dark under the trees, only a little moonlight penetrating the half-bare branches.
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Book description
Autumn, 1541. King Henry VIII has set out on a spectacular Progress to the North to attend an extravagant submission of his rebellious subjects in York.

Already in the city are lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak. As well as assisting with legal work processing petitions to the King, Shardlake has reluctantly undertaken a special mission – to ensure the welfare of an important but dangerous conspirator being returned to London for interrogation.

But the murder of a local glazier involves Shardlake in deeper mysteries, connected not only to the prisoner in York Castle but to the royal family itself. And when Shardlake and Barak stumble upon a cache of secret papers which could threaten the Tudor throne, a chain of events unfolds that will lead Shardlake facing the most terrifying fate of the age.
Haiku summary
Matthew Shardlake rides
to York and soon uncovers
a conspiracy.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0330436082, Paperback)

Trade edition paperback, vg++

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:20 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Following the uncovering of a plot against his throne in Yorkshire, King Henry VIII has set out on a Progress to the North, to overawe his rebellious subjects there once and for all. This is the latest book from Sansom whose novel 'Dark Fire' won the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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