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Autumn, 1541. King Henry VIII has set out on a spectacular Progress to the North to attend an extravagant submission by his rebellious subjects in York.

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

But the murder of a York 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 documents which could threaten the Tudor throne, a chain of events unfolds that will lead to Shardlake facing the most terrifying fate of the age . . .

583 pages, Hardcover

First published August 15, 2006

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About the author

C.J. Sansom

34 books3,494 followers
Christopher John "C.J." Sansom is an English writer of crime novels. He was born in 1952 and was educated at the University of Birmingham, where he took a BA and then a PhD in history. After working in a variety of jobs, he decided to retrain as a solicitor. He practised for a while in Sussex as a lawyer for the disadvantaged, before quitting in order to work full-time as a writer.
He came to prominence with his series set in the reign of Henry VIII in the 16th century, whose main character is the hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake. Shardlake works on commission initially from Thomas Cromwell in Dissolution and Dark Fire and then Thomas Cranmer in Sovereign and Revelation.

The BBC have commissioned an adaptation of Dissolution with the actor Kenneth Branagh set to star as Shardlake. The rest of the Shardlake books are expected to follow. C. J. Sansom has been consulted on the series, which is in the final stages of negotiation.[citation needed].

He has also written Winter in Madrid, a thriller set in Spain in 1940 in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War.

Dark Fire won the 2005 Ellis Peters Historical Dagger, awarded by the Crime Writers' Association (CWA). Sansom himself was "Very Highly Commended" in the 2007 CWA Dagger in the Library award, for the Shardlake series.

(from Wikipedia®)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,388 reviews
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,517 reviews10.8k followers
December 18, 2011

Description the First:

Take Sherlock Holmes and...

1. Crook his back "Quasimodo" style (oh how I wanted to say “bend it like Beckham” instead, but I figure it's time we all move on from that one)...and make sure you include a nice hump;
2. Surgically remove 92.7% of the arrogant, ego-maniacal self love;
3. Replace Watson with a street-wise, well connected tough guy while deleting all hints of “bromantic tension” between the two;
4. Change the setting from Victorian England to the time of Henry VIII and the English Reformation where “Reformers” are engaged in a protracted struggle against the “Papist” supporters of the Roman Catholic Church;
5. Switch localized and small time crimes and mysteries to vast political conspiracies with subtle, nuanced clues and a host of “grey” characters struggling against the wider canvas of the Reformation;
6. Takeaway dumb, dorky stumbling blocks like Inspector “Idiot savant minus the savant” Lestrade and replace with rich, smart, capable, politically connected MEGAbastards with almost unlimited resources to cause mischief;
7. Add (and my apologies for Sir Arthur for this) superbly crafted plots, rich, nuanced characterizations and deeply immersive historical settings; and...


Description the Second:

Take Sherlock Holmes and...

First... beat him about the neck and chest with a burlap sack containing the full weight of his enormous ego until hot tears flow and he screams for Watson to bring him some cocaine and apologizes for being such arrogasshat pricktardo (it’s foreign but I think you can translate).
Second... tell Watson to grow a pair, send Sir Author to a writer’s workshop and finish Lestrade’s lobotomy Ninja style. Then...


4.0 to 4.5 stars. Okay, okay, that was a bit much and the Holmes stories are actually quite good. However, I find the Matthew Shardlake series and the writing of C.J. Sansom to be substantially better. These are true blue historical mysteries that pull you completely into the time of the story (in this case 1541).

Sovereign is the 3rd book in the series (there are currently five) and follows after Dissolution and Dark Fire. In this one, King Henry VIII is traveling to York on the famous “Progress to the North” to accept the submission of “papist” rebels and grant pardons for those involved. Master Shardlake, an attorney, is sent ahead to York to assist with processing petitions to the King. At least that is his public reason for being there. Privately, he has been requested by Archbishop Cranmer to ensure the welfare of a dangerous conspirator and bring him safely from York to London...so he can be properly tortured in the Tower of London.

Well, a murder occurring shortly after Matthew’s arrival points to a vast conspiracy that could lead to disaster for the King and his family. I will leave it there and just say that the intertwining plots and subplots are very well done and engrossing. This is easily my favorite historical mystery series and among my favorite mystery series period.

So why not 5 stars? Okay, here is my only gripe. The first book in the series was Dissolution and it was 320 pages long....AND NON STOP AWESOME FROM BEGINNING TO END!! Now, the last two books, Dark Fire and this have been almost TWICE as long. Now, the mysteries and conspiracies have gotten bigger and so some additional length is certainly welcomed. However, I still think that each of the last two stories are about 100 pages too long and so there are few parts that drag.

Thus, I can’t quite give it 5 stars. However, that is really a fairly minor quibble and some may even appreciate the stretching out of the narrative. Regardless, this is a superior series and the writing and plotting are top drawer and will make you see 16th century England when you close your eyes. Finally, Matthew Shardlake is an amazing character and acts as the perfect guide through these stories. Honorable, brilliant, determined, practical and very efficient. A GOOD MAN!!

Profile Image for Adina.
793 reviews3,061 followers
January 12, 2021
Matthew Shardlake series is my favourite among the historical mystery genre. The author masterfully combines well researched historical facts with interesting characters, an intriguing mystery and good writing. The downside is that all those elements combined result in a voluminous book that became a bit boring at times. Still, it deserves 4*.

After Shardlake’s protector, Cromwell, is killed, life seems to resume its usual pace for the lawyer. However, he is tricked into accepting a secret mission from Archbishop Cranmer and joins the King Henry VIII’s monumental Progress to the North. Apparently the king’s Progress is not a very famous fact from history and it was interesting to learn more about it. In order to show his power, the king together with a small army and lots of people from the court, made a long trip towards York. The progress stopped in various places to reinforce alliances. York was chosen as the end of the adventure because it was the place where a conspiracy against the king was recently discovered and crushed. Shardlake is asked to o ensure the safety of one of the conspirators who is to be returned to London for interrogation. In addition, the lawyer and his assistant Jack Barak are witnesses to a crime and they discover a cache of secret documents which could threaten the Tudor throne.

I guessed the culprit quite early but it did not stop me from enjoying the novel. I recommend this series if you are looking for an interesting mystery based on solid historical facts.

Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,394 reviews801 followers
October 22, 2019
“I looked at the little houses along Petergate and thought again of the rule preventing citizens from casting sewage in the streets or in the river while the Progress was here. It would be piling up in their backyards. It was symbolic of the King’s visit: all glitter and show in front, a pile of turds behind.”

My, how things have changed (not, sadly). Henry VIII’s England. C. J. Sansom drops you straight in it, stink and all. I love the Matthew Shardlake series, but I find I have to come up for air before diving into the next book.

I find I also have to forgive some glaring anachronisms in dialogue. I don’t know how I get past them, but I do, and I remain just as immersed in the story as before the jolt of a modern phrase (e.g. “the penny has dropped” – from the 1930s). The rest rings so true that it compensates for any lapses. It does mean I rounded down to 4 stars instead of up to 5, though.

Henry VIII with his new queen (Catherine Howard, aged 18), their household and a cast of thousands are on a slow procession – a “progress” – to York and the North. It is promoted as a good-will trip, but it's really Henry's show of power. The peasants have to provide all the food, contribute to a stash of gold to be presented to the King, and put up with their fields being muddied and trashed by soldiers and others camping in them.

Shardlake and his young offsider, Jack Barak, are also on a mission for Archbishop Cranmer (his former employer, Thomas Cromwell having been beheaded recently), who has given Shardlake his seal to assure him safe passage and entry into the city. At York Castle, he reports to Master Radwinter and looks out the window of his office.

The moat is surrounded by reeds, and Radwinter explains that they are being gathered to make rushlights. But who are the people standing in the water, picking at their legs?

‘They’re gathering the leeches that bite them, for the apothecaries.’

‘It must be a miserable occupation, standing deep in mud waiting for those things to bite.’

‘Their legs must be covered in little scars.’
He turned to me, his eyes looking into mine. ‘As the body of England is covered in the scars left by the great leech of Rome.’

No lack of occupations for those with strong stomachs, it seems. A rather forward, quite lovely, young woman cleverly contrives to meet them, as she seems to have her eye on Barak, and he is easily smitten. Shardlake is understandably suspicious, and when it transpires that she’s part of the Queen’s household, he is even more nervous. Tamasin becomes a major character in this story, as do the women she works for who report to the Queen.

The King’s Progress progresses, with the nobility clad in extravagant finery while the regular folk are mostly pretty grubby. The divide between wealth and poverty was like the divide between humans and livestock. Farmers and peasants were on the land at the pleasure of the landowners – the nobles. As I mentioned before, in some places, things are still just as bad.

Lest I make this sound like nothing but misery and torture – oh, I forgot to mention that, didn’t I? Yes, bones hanging from a loft where a man had died slowly, in chains, and finally been picked clean, while various body parts of other miscreants (or just someone who was out of favour at the wrong time) decorate bridges and pikes and fences everywhere. And part of Shardlake’s assignment is to look after and transport a prisoner to London where he will be tortured in the tower. Keep him alive long enough to be tortured. Not what he had in mind for a career but he needs the money.

Where was I? Yes, lest this sound like only misery and torture, I must add that the story has plenty of intrigue, plots, suggested dalliances between the very young queen (18) and her former suitors, and some interesting personal developments between Shardlake, Barak, an elderly lawyer, and Tamasin, who thinks she’s the illegitimate daughter of a gentleman of importance. And of course there is Shardlake's secret mission for the Archbishop.

Shardlake is always noticeably avoided because of his hunched back, but Jack Barak can move in and out of pubs and chat to the locals. But they are considered “southron heretics”, so even he has to be careful. The King has banned any signs of the old religion (Catholic), but the North hasn’t taken kindly to the message.

Shardlake doesn’t follow either side now, but keeps that to himself. Still, when the King’s procession arrives, and he stands with the lawyers to present the local cases, he is overcome.

It was foolish, I that had once had Thomas Cromwell for a friend and confronted Richard Rich and the Duke of Norfolk, reduced to such a jelly. Yet this was not an official or nobleman I was approaching now. This was God’s anointed on earth, Head of His Church, guardian of the souls of three million subjects, more than human in his glory. In those few seconds I believed it all.

It's like a cult. A cult devised to excuse divorce, and eventually excused everything. As Archbishop Cranmer says:

‘The harsh measures the King takes are necessary. Do not forget he is chosen by God, appointed by Him to guide England into the paths of wisdom and truth.’

I won’t dwell on the harsh measures, but I will mention the author’s note.

What is still true – astonishingly, in the twenty-first century – is that Queen Elizabeth II retains the title Henry VIII took for himself: Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Defender of the Faith and – in theory at least – God’s chosen representative in England.

I’d rather her than Henry VIII as the British monarch (I’m an Aussie, and we’re still part of the Commonwealth), but I look forward to reading more of Matthew Shardlake’s adventures with that unpredictable, dangerous ruler.

I love and recommend this series. Just remove your nit-picking language editor’s hat.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,109 reviews44.2k followers
August 19, 2018
We all know what it’s like to anticipate something so much that we are literally shaking with excitement. Shardlake had similar feelings about meeting his king; he couldn’t wait to behold the presence of King Henry VIII. Except when that moment finally comes it almost breaks Shardlake in two.

What does the obese tyrant do to cause such a reaction?


Well he publicly humiliates Shardlake by mocking his appearance because clearly the king is the very essence of physical perfection, clearly he is not beyond such vain fuelled low blows as Shardlake presumed:

"See the other lawyer by his side, the one that dropped his cap! I know he is a southron, see what a poor bent bottled spider he appears”

This may not seem like an overly terrible thing, but if you lived your entire life with such a strong insecurity, and then to have that same insecurity picked on by your king, it's like being struck with an iron fist. Shardlake does nothing but internalise such a comment making his self-esteem even lower. The comment almost makes him forget about his new mission, one that is rather mundane, but the plot picks up when a murder occurs in the king’s camp. Shardlake can then do what he does best.

He begins to investigate and finds some rather intriguing papers full of mystery and danger. Several attempts are made upon his own life in order to insure the secrets remain hidden. They smell of betrayal and dynastical forgery; they suggest that the current Tudor line is completely invalid due to Henry’s maternal grandfather (Edward IV) being a bastard born of a low born archer rather than the offspring of Richard Duke of York. Such material is politically sensitive to say the least. Shardlake begins to regret even finding such papers. He wants nothing to do with such intrigue. And who can blame him? This is dirty stuff. He wants no more of the King’s ire. But somehow he knows this is linked to the original murder.

So the two separate cases begin to intertwine and overlap. He questions, question and questions some more to get his answers. And, as ever, the plot becomes rather intense. The mystery is made dense by so many political schemers and conniving courtiers out to serve their own interests. There are so many leads, so many trails to follow. The hard part is decided what is relevant and what is irrelevant hearsay. But this is no chap murder mystery. The plot is lavishly detailed and perfectly drawn out. This is the best Shardlake book so far, as Sansom balances historical intrigue with detail and excitement. This series just gets better and better.

Matthew Shardlake Series
1. Dissolution-A suspense filled four stars.
2. Dark Fire- A dark 3.5 stars
3. Sovereign- A solid 4.5 stars
Profile Image for Gary.
933 reviews199 followers
August 19, 2020
The third in the Matthew Shardlake series takes us to York , in the midst of Henry VIII's brutal supression of Northern England known as the Progress.

Matthew Sharlake comes face to face with Henry's reign of terror (and the machinations of his henchman such as the conniving Sir Richard Rich) the book revealing Henry as a cruel tyrant , while discovering embaraasing facts that put his life in danger , and keep us speculating in an excellent cross between historical and detective novel.

The sights , sounds and smells of Tudor England are brought to life as are the violent conflict in the England at the time between 'traditionalists' and 'reformers' in the church , the repercusions of which would continue for centuries to come , to rock England and cause wars and turmoil.

In this novel we read of the tragic fate of Catherine Howard , Henry's fifth young wife.

Also interesting is the story of Jack Barak , and his secret Jewish ancestry.

Barak , a brawling street boy who , became a clerk to Thomas Cromwell , is constantly by Shardlake's side , and in this novel, finds the love of the pretty and pert Tamasin Reedbourne , and attendant to noblewoman Mistress Jennet Marlin , who herself is a central character in the intrigue.

Great characterization and a fast-paced story line which provides for a compelling read.
Profile Image for Matt.
3,668 reviews12.8k followers
April 18, 2019
C.J. Sansom continues to develop his great set of historical mysteries, all set during the Tudor era. With Thomas Cromwell executed, Matthew Shardlake is in definite limbo, trying to distance himself from his one-time superior while keeping a legal practice running effectively. The Cromwell void is filled soon thereafter when Archbishop Cranmer turns to Shardlake and asks that he make his way to York, where King Henry VIII will soon travel. Still reeling from the clashes with the Crown, York is a political zone that simmers with uncertainty, requiring that Shardlake and his new assistant, Barak, always watch themselves. Arriving in York, Shardlake senses that things may not be as troubling as Cranmer posited, seeing a community ready to celebrate with their King. However, when the death of a local glazier appears to be foul play, Shardlake and Barak cannot help but look into it, for the sake of the country’s safety. The victim appears to have fallen from a ladder, but there is surely more to it, which is substantiated when Shardlake discovers a box of documents. He and Barak ponder how to get into them and, once opened, the cache reveals something that Shardlake could not have imagined. Documents discussing the Tudor bloodline and some mention of the past King Richard, a close descendant to the current Henry VIII. Before Shardlake can process what he has glimpsed, he is attacked and the documents disappear. With two mysteries to occupy his time, Shardlake begins his own investigation, though tries to keep the peace when the King arrives to celebrate with his subjects. Dodging death on numerous occasions, Shardlake begins to wonder if the murderer has a determination that will not be sated and seeks to reveal a stunning truth about the legitimacy of the Tudor line. With Barak by his side, Shardlake tries to piece it all together without becoming another victim, while York remains a volatile spot for any southerner. A well-developed mystery that holds the reader’s attention until the final pages, allowing Sansom to use history to his advantage. Recommended for those who love a historical mystery, particularly the reader with a passion for all things Tudor.

This is a wonderfully deep and more intricate mystery series that forces me to think while also enjoying the narrative. Steeped in history and developments of the time, C.J. Sansom chooses to educate while entertaining with a nuance-filled narrative. The story helped to open my eyes to some of the Tudor history, particularly that during the War of the Roses, with York at the centre of all. Sansom also hinted at a little more of the backstory related to Matthew Shardlake, a welcome addition to any piece. A gritty and determined legal mind, Shardlake finds himself in the middle of upheaval, with Henry VIII getting rid of the stain of Thomas Cromwell as he advances on his tumultuous search for a male heir by lusting for anything with breasts. Shardlake must hold his tongue and forge onwards as best he can, hoping that he is one step ahead of his critics throughout. Sansom shows a man still humbled by his hunchback when exploring Matthew Shardlake, taking some time to talk about a childhood that was tough, when seen through the lens of other children, less understanding of difference and wanting to carve out their own identity. Still, Shardlake faces adversity in this new land—York—where many challenge his veracity and capability, as though his back is indicative of feeble mindedness. Shardlake develops a strong attention to detail when it comes to the law, as well as being a wonderful investigator. Having moved the story so far away from London, there are countless others whose presence throughout the novel help enrich the narrative, particularly the contrast between northern and southern sentiment about many things. These characters serve various purposes and the banter is highly educational while also keeping the reader from getting too serious about the reading experience. Sansom has a wonderful way of weaving his characters into a glorious tapestry and will not disappoint. The novel is strong and well-paced, opening yet more Tudor and English history, while questioning what many feel they know. Sansom captures these intricacies while offering a stellar mystery to keep the reader enthralled. The novel is by no means out of the realm of any reader, though its depth and analysis can sometimes give it a ‘deeper’ and more ‘intense’ feel. Peeling back the layers of history and the pace required to digest it all, this is a wonderful story for the patient reader. I am eager that I gave the series another chance and want to get to the core of the Sansom reading experience, with Matthew Shardlake at its centre.

Kudos, Mr. Sansom, for keeping the story strong and highly entertaining. I cannot wait to see what you have in store next, so I’ll rush to get my hands on another novel.

Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
Profile Image for Justo Martiañez.
360 reviews134 followers
January 6, 2022
4.5/5 Estrellas

Corre el año 1541 y la dinastía Tudor en manos de Enrique VIII se tambalea. Tras la caída de Thomas Cromwell el ímpetu de partido reformista se ha atenuado y corren las cabezas y las tripas tanto de papistas como de reformistas exaltados, sin embargo al rey se le presenta un problema interno importante y de difícil solución.
Tras la guerra de las dos Rosas y la derrota de la casa de York en Bosworth (1485) y con el advenimiento de los Tudor, el eje geopolítico, religioso y económico del reino se ha centralizado sobre manera en el sur, mientras que los condados del norte, yorkistas y muy apegados a sus tradiciones religiosas papistas, se han visto empobrecidos y relegados durante la primera mitad del siglo XVI. Esto generó un gran descontento entre el pueblo y la nobleza del norte, que desembocó en diversos levantamientos armados y conspiraciones que se sucedieron a lo largo del siglo.
La reforma religiosa, los escándalos maritales (el rey se acaba de casar con la 5ª, Catalina Howard), la escasa legitimidad de la dinastía, apuntalada en escasos y dudosos vínculos con las casas de York y de Lancaster, la crueldad del rey que reprime con gran dureza a los que se oponen a él tanto en política como en religión, han llevado al límite la estabilidad del trono. Para apuntalarla el rey decide hacer un viaje al norte el año de 1541 (una Jornada), para reprimir traiciones, recabar adhesiones, recibir pleitesías y derrochar su munificencia.
Es en este grandioso marco histórico, ambientado de forma espléndida por el autor, donde transcurre la nueva aventura de nuestro abogado Shardlake, en York, punto final de la "Jornada" real. Entre traiciones, intrigas, conspiraciones, enredos legales, humillaciones, llegará hasta el final de su misión gracias a su inteligencia y, casi, a costa de su propio pellejo, siempre con la inestimable ayuda de su secretario Barak (gran secundario).
Los capítulos donde se narra el encierro en la Torre de Londres, son espléndidos y merecen las 5 estrellas, casi llegas a sentir en tu propia carne el pánico y el miedo a la tortura, ríanse los ingleses de la inquisición española, que lo que se cocía en la Torre de Londres no tenía nada que envidiarle (y ellos no tienen leyenda negra) y ¿las ejecuciones por destripamiento? creo que no se ha inventado nada más horrendo....en fin, que hay que leerlo señor@s.
Resumiendo, libro espléndido, quizá lo más flojo es el desarrollo de la intriga, no tiene mucho margen y es bastante previsible, pero es lo suficientemente solvente para mantener las 5 estrellas, porque, vuelvo a repetir, el marco histórico y la ambientación es de 10.
Muy recomendable, si te gusta este periodo histórico, disfrutarás muchísimo.
Profile Image for HBalikov.
1,712 reviews637 followers
April 20, 2019
“You have rescued him from suspicion, Brother Shardlake.”
“I would not have anyone under false suspicion. Even Radwinter.”
“Maleverer’s smile turned into a cruel smirk. ‘Jesu, sir, you are a righteous prig. I wish I could afford your scruples.’”

For most histories, the Progress to the North of 1541 is given little comment. Yet, this was a critical time for Henry VIII in securing his rule after he had disposed of his “handyman” Thomas Cromwell. C.J. Sansom gives us many of the intimate details of this procession, through his character, Matthew Shardlake and his task which sends him from London to meet the Progress at York, the center for the previous rebellion.

Shardlake is told: “This is not a game. It is to show these barbarian papists the power and glory of the king.” Henry no longer prefers to be addressed as Your Grace; he now favors Your Majesty.

As the title alludes to, this book is about the King, Henry VIII. The thing that has hovered over the monarchy for years is still an issue. It was something that Shardlake was familiar with since his time with Thomas Cromwell. “Queen Catherine was in her forties, past child-bearing, and she had not given the King a male heir. Unless he could marry a younger woman who might provide an heir, the Tudor dynasty would die with him…And there were many of us who thought the only way to preserve true religion in England was for Queen Catherine to do what the Pope himself had suggested to her: go into a nunnery, allow the King to marry again…Foolish, obstinate woman. By insisting God intended her to be married to the King until death, she brought about the very revolution to religion she hated and feared.”

One of Shardlake’s tasks is to assure that a prisoner is not abused before he can be brought back to the Tower of London and interrogated by the King’s experts. Yet, not long after he arrives in York, a puzzling death takes place that demands his attention. This places him (and his clerk, Barak) in greater danger. The plot takes us through multiple attempts on his life while he searches for the killer or killers….and why there is need for any killing.

The pace is slow and I am sure some who reviewed this book were bored with all the wandering around town. This is the nature of detection and getting to know the town is part of that. Yet the book is over 550 pages and you have to have a desire to be immersed in Tudor life or it isn’t worth the effort. Is this paragraph necessary? “We walked to Stonegate as the sun and city came to life, keeping under the eaves as people opened their windows and threw the night’s piss into the streets. The shopkeepers appeared in their doorways and the noise of their shutters banging open accompanied our passage.” Perhaps, unnecessary to the plot, but part of what informs and illuminates life in Tudor times.

This is history for where Shardlake finds himself now, in York, with the King and his new Queen (after Anne Boleyn and several others) and a rebellion having been quelled. The King is determined to stamp out any remnants of the rebellion and to assure that His Church of England is the only Christian church extant. That is part of Shardlake’s role in York – to see that a noble prisoner is well-cared for and fit to be brought back to London for Henry’s inquisitors.

Those are not easy tasks under the best of circumstances. Here, the rich detail of the venues slows down the plot to a pleasant stroll through York and then builds its momentum so that, by the time Shardlake, gets back to London (about 100 pages from the end) we are caught in a maelstrom of politics, greed, veniality, and mayhem. To those who have read other historical books of the period (Wolf Hall among them) the names will be familiar: the Howards; the Seymours; the Parrs; the Dudleys; and, of course, Richard Rich. The plot gathers speed at the end like an avalanche and false assumptions are swept away in the final chapters. Very satisfying.

In addition, we learn a lot more about Shardlake’s relationship to his father and his growing up in the countryside. Sansom’s take on the court politics and the use of legal documents in Tudor times is interesting and informative. I know that my GR friend, Beata, enjoys these details as much as I do.
Profile Image for Barbara.
267 reviews205 followers
December 6, 2020
Matthew Shardlake does it again. He retains his integrity while solving another involved crime. Who is sovereign? Is it the brutal, infamous king, Henry VIII? Do the conspirators from the north have proof of the authentic ruler?

Sovereign is a mystery set in the 16C. The Great Progression occurred in 1541; King Henry, his court, servants, and a thousand soldiers left London for the northern city of York, a total of over 3,000 people. The inhabitants in the north, mostly still Papists, were less than pleased with the king, the destruction of their monasteries, the outlawing of their religion, and the forced acceptance of a new religion. The king, fearing another uprising, made the arduous trip to win over these unfaithful and demand homage from those who had not done enough to discourage the rebellion. Those who actively participated in the coup were either in "The Tower" awaiting their fate, or had met their fate. Their remains were hanging publicly for all to see and learn from. Like Netflix's The Crown, many court intrigues were involved, including the events that resulted in Queen Catherine's demise. All these complexities creates a story steeped in factual detail and suspense. C.J.Sansom, an accomplished historian, does a meticulous job of weaving detailed historical facts and events with a fictionalized narrative.

This is the third book in this series which I have read; each has greatly satisfied my love of history and mystery. The author is a master of the genre. I look forward to following Matthew Shardlake through the rest of the 16C and into the 17C.
Profile Image for Brian.
679 reviews323 followers
November 6, 2021
“There is always an answer if you look hard enough.” (3.5 stars at times)

SOVEREIGN, the third book (out of seven) in the Matthew Shardlake Tudor mystery series, is a good read, but the mystery the text centers on is not as strong as the first two in the series. As with its predecessors, author C.J. Sansom take a historical event and weaves a fictional plotline/mystery into events that feels like a plausible explanation for things that really happened. In this text the historical event the mystery is integrated into is Henry VIII’s Great Progress to York in 1541 and the subsequent downfall of Queen Catherine Howard.

For a majority of the novel our protagonist, hunchback lawyer Matthew Shardlake, is out of his home turf (London) and this allows the novel to give lots of interesting details about a royal progress, the rebellions in the north of England after the split with Catholicism, and just the difficulties of travel in general in the 1500s. It adds great texture to the book.

SOVEREIGN was published in 2006 and was clearly influenced by the media attention and political conversation devoted to torture and its efficacy that was ubiquitous at the time. It fits in the context of the novel, but just occasionally a very modern sounding comment would be made that was jarring and yanked me from the world of 1541 England.

Some general thoughts about the text…
A new character was introduced that I assume will become a regular in the series. I’m not sure I like her.
I saw the ending coming a mile off. It was pretty obvious and a little disappointing, but Sansom was still clever enough with how he integrated it to keep me reading.

Some lines from the text that I marked…
• “Do not assume you know my mind or history.”
• “I knew the way to break you was your hatred of what you are.”
• “…how strange were the ways of the mind.”
• “When was justice ever divorced from politics?”
• “But then darkness lies behind so many faces.”
• “Pride and obstinacy are great sins.”
• “But we all have darker sides to our natures, I thought.”

This book continues the interesting characterization Sansom is developing with Shardlake, and I am really enjoying how he is developing Shardlake’s disillusion with how the Reformation is being played out in England. It is fascinating watching a character go from the extreme of a position to the center.

This series has yet to disappoint, and I fully intend to complete it. I guess that says enough.
Profile Image for Kerri.
970 reviews344 followers
February 5, 2022
I took longer to get to this book than I meant to, but I'm pleased I finally did! I really love this series, it's utterly gripping. There are times when something is mentioned and I think, 'Surely not?!' but a quick Google often confirms it. A spoiler free example of this is the practice of hanging people in chains. An awful thing to consider.

Of course this is historical fiction, so I really appreciate C.J. Sansom's Historical Note at the end of the book, which provides some helpful information.

I can't say I ever looked at King Henry VIII as a likeable figure, but I've come to despise him. Over the course of three Shardlake books, he's solidified in my mind as a rather vile and detestable man; the power he had was quite absurd and wildly misused. However, I would like to learn more about him at some point, though I admit his predecessors and successors interest me more.

Matthew Shardlake is a character I really like, and I enjoy getting to see Tudor England through his eyes. The mysteries are engaging and unexpected, and I find myself rapidly turning the pages to try and work out what the heck is happening! I wont be letting such a long time pass before I start the next book!
Profile Image for Ingrid.
1,180 reviews45 followers
September 16, 2021
What a wonderful book, if possible even better than no's 1 and 2!

Listened to the audio book this time, still 5 stars :)
Profile Image for Geevee.
337 reviews186 followers
May 25, 2021
Matthew Shardlake is given a task by Thomas Cranmer that requires him to join the King's Progress at York and provide legal advice to the people of the city, and also something far more political and dangerous.

It is a time in Henry VIII's reign of continued religious strain with loyalties and beliefs tested, challenged and hidden.

The progress brings the king's power and wealth to his people but in this part of England not all those who see God's representative of Earth are supporters. This mix of royalty, the king's court, the landed gentry and religious leaders coming to York sees huge preparations in building temporary lodgings, stables and other necessary accommodation, along with a mass of people to serve the Royal Household and do the King's bidding.

Into this charged atmosphere of politics and people, Matthew and Barak enter. Who is a friend, who is foe and why are some both?

Once again, Mr Sansom delivers a hugely enjoyable story and plot with real historical characters alongside his accurate and colourful description of people and their lives in Tudor England.
Profile Image for Bettie.
9,988 reviews15 followers
October 3, 2015


Revisit is via R4 dramatisation: Atmospheric dramatisation of C. J. Sansom's third Tudor crime novel featuring hunchback lawyer detective Matthew Shardlake.

Autumn, 1541. King Henry VIII has set out on a spectacular Royal Progress to York, aiming to strike fear and awe into his rebellious northern subjects. Shardlake, and his assistant Barak, arrive in the city a day ahead of the 3,000-strong procession. Officially there to prepare petitions for the King, they have also been tasked with a secret mission by Archbishop Cranmer: to ensure the welfare of one of the northern conspirators, Sir Edward Broderick, who is to be brought back to London for questioning in the Tower.

1/10: Tensions are running high in the city, and soon Shardlake is called to investigate a suspicious death - and stumbles upon a daring plot that has the potential to shake England to its core

2/10: After settling into their living quarters, Shardlake witnesses a man fall to a terrible death and, on hearing his last words, feels sure it was more than an unfortunate accident.

3/10: After meeting with fellow lawyer Wrenne, Shardlake and Barak decide to go back to Oldroyd's house and see if they can find something to confirm Shardlake's suspicion that there was more to the glazier's death than a terrible accident.

4/10: Autumn, 1541. King Henry VIII's spectacular Royal Progress is drawing closer to York. Shardlake and his assistant Barak have arrived in the city ahead of the 3,000-strong procession. Officially there to prepare petitions for the King, they have also been tasked with a secret mission by Archbishop Cranmer: to ensure the welfare of one of the conspirators, Sir Edward Broderick, who is to be brought back to London for questioning in the Tower.

But they have become distracted from their duties by the mysterious death of a local glazier, Oldroyd, and Shardlake has been attacked by an unknown assailant who then stole papers from a box found hidden in Oldroyd's house. Bruised and smarting from tough questioning by Sir William Maleverer, Shardlake prepares to ride out to meet King Henry VIII.

5/10: Reeling from his public humiliation at the hands of King Henry, Shardlake returns to York knowing that it will haunt him for the rest of his life. His troubles aren't over, however, because an old enemy is waiting to see him: Sir Richard Rich.

6/10: Shardlake has been left badly shaken by the attempt upon his life. Fearing for his safety, he hopes to convince Sir William Maleverer that he should be sent back to London.

7/10: Shardlake, aided by his trusty assistant Barak, is determined to pursue his own investigations into Oldroyd's murder and the theft of the treasonous papers - as well as to discover who has been trying to kill him. Their inquiries lead them to a rough part of York, in search of information about Craike.

8/10: After the second attempt upon his life, Shardlake is convinced that the stolen papers - with their allegations against the King - hold the key to the whole mystery.

9/10: With the killer unmasked and his final duty - caring for the prisoner, Broderick - almost complete, Shardlake is glad to be heading returning south with the Progress. But when the ship docks in London, he receives a shocking summons.

10/10: Falsely accused of treason and unable to answer the gaoler's questions, Shardlake awaits his fate in the Tower of London. Can Barak convince Archbishop Cranmer that the allegations are false and save him from the torture chamber?

I got to hiss, boo, and shake both fists at Dickie Rich all over again. Come on BBC - give us the whole book series as TV drama, you have the costumes from Mantel's epic.

11 Things you didn’t know about King Henry VIII’s Great Progress

Shardlake: Justin Salinger
Barak: Bryan Dick
Maleverer: Stephen Critchlow
Radwinter: David Acton
Broderick: Nick Underwood
Wrenne: Geoffrey Whitehead
Craike: Patrick Brennan
Rich: Chris Pavlo
Innkeeper: Mark Edel-Hunt
Profile Image for Susan.
2,601 reviews599 followers
March 21, 2019
This is the third Matthew Shardlake novel, following on from Dissolution and Dark Fire. Shardlake is now a much more established character, with Jack Barak as his foil and sidekick, and this is a much more assured novel (which, considering how excellent the first two books are is very impressive). It is 1541 and, after the fall of Cromwell, Shardlake has gone back to his law practice and has taken Barak on to work with him. They are not the only ones to remember Thomas Cromwell though – it is rumoured that the King himself regrets losing such a loyal and competent servant. Shardlake had hoped his days of being involved in the Court are behind him, but he is asked by no less than Archbishop Cranmer, who had been told by Cromwell himself of his discretion, to escort a prisoner from York to London.

Henry is making a Progress in the North. A conspirator, Sir Edward Broderick, is being sent from York to the Tower of London and Shardlake is told to ensure he arrives safely within the Tower walls. However, shortly after arriving in York, Shardlake hears a scream and finds a glazier has been killed. Before he dies, he tells Shardlake, “no child of Henry and Catherine Howard can ever be true heir.” Unwillingly, Shardlake is told to investigate by Maleverer; a crony of his old enemy Richard Rich. Soon, Shardlake is trapped in an unenviable situation – forced to deal with a conspiracy which strikes at the very heart of the succession to the throne, embroiled in treason and with his life in increasing danger, whilst also having to try to keep Broderick alive and well in order to face torture in London.

The characters in this novel are a mix of real and fictional, but they are all so well cast, that it is impossible to say which is which. There is the sadistic jailer, Radwinter, Jennet Marlin, a member of the Queen’s servants, young Tamasin Reedbourne, who catches Barak’s eye, Lady Rochester – former wife of George Boleyn – the new young Queen Catherine, who is way out of her depth, the arrogant young men who surround her, including Culpepper and Dereham, and the elderly lawyer, Giles Wrenne, who befriends Shardlake. Indeed, Shardlake needs a friend in this book. With Barak busy being in love, under pressure from Maleverer and Rich, with several attempts on his life and humiliated by King Henry himself, this really makes you face the reality of the Tudor world. We are taken behind the pomp to the backstage of Court life, from the grandeur of the King to the vicious reality of power; even to the real fear and horror of torture in the dungeons beneath the Tower itself. A wonderful read in a brilliant series.

Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,157 reviews2,007 followers
February 24, 2015
This is such a good series! Let me quote the comment from the Sunday Times on the cover of the book - "So compulsive that,until you reach the final page, you'll have to be almost physically prised away from it." I so agree! I just wanted to curl up in a corner somewhere and read until I had finished all 653 pages of it without stopping. Of course life isn't like that and I did have to put it down but I rushed back to it as soon as I could every time. In this episode Thomas Cromwell has gone to his maker and Matthew now reports to Archbishop Cranmer. The author's descriptions of Tudor England seem so realistic and the hardships and brutality of life at that time ring very true. Beautifully written, an intriguing story and believable characters - what more could you want? An easy five stars.
Profile Image for Bookish Ally.
483 reviews44 followers
January 14, 2021
Wow, smack dab in the middle of the Matthew Shardlake series. What a fabulous series for people who enjoy great historic fiction! In this installment, we enjoy interaction with such people as the doomed Katherine Howard, the manipulative and greedy Sir Richard Rich, Archbishop Cranmer and even Henry Tudor himself. For myself, I enjoy a historic novel that educates while it entertains.
Sovereign takes us to the impoverished city of York (it's true! I did the research and it was INDEED impoverished during the time period that the novel is set, despite it's being a wealthy and prosperous community prior to, due to a combination of the dissolution, the recession, and other factors. There are too many threads to bring out, but here I learned about the "Legend of the Mouldwarp" and the exhaustive details involved in a royal progress. 5 luminous stars for this book!!!!
183 reviews1 follower
October 13, 2007
I thoroughly enjoyed this read. I especially liked Mr. Sansom's handling on the historical background, in this case Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine Howard. The mystery set in this novel was very good and held my attention. I particularly liked Mr. Sansom's description of Henry VIII, who was quite old and ill at the time he was married to Catherine Howard. He had gained weight over the years, and especially after a fall from his horse when he was with Anne Boelyn. I look forward to Mr. Sansom's next novel.
Profile Image for Javir11.
519 reviews150 followers
April 22, 2022

Tercer libro de la saga y aunque ya venía avisado, me ha sorprendido de forma grata saber que mantiene el nivel con respecto al anterior. Cierto es que la quinta estrella es raspada, pero no menos cierto es que lo he disfrutado mucho y se las merece.

Con respecto a la historia en si, volvemos a disfrutar de las aventuras de Matthew Shardlake, un abogado jorobado que a pesar de sus reticencias siempre anda metido en líos políticos y esta novela no iba a ser menos. La trama se centra en la Gran Jornada que hizo Enrique VIII en su día por buena parte del norte de Inglaterra. Esta ruta con intenciones políticas terminaba en York, capital de los rebeldes papistas y una de las zonas más beligerantes en contra del monarca, en la que los nobles de la zona deberán humillarse delante del rey y su sequito para conseguir su perdón.

Bajo esta tesitura, nuestro abogado recibirá dos encargos, el primero sencillo y acorde a su oficio, lidiar con las diferentes suplicas judiciales de la zona que con la colaboración de un letrado local, tendrá que analizar y hacer llegar al rey las que crean de su incumbencia. El segundo encargo será algo más especial, sin el apoyo de Lord Cromwell y con problemas financieros, Matthew deberá ayudar al Obispo Cranmer a la hora de vigilar a un rebelde que posee información vital sobre los traidores de la zona y que debe de llegar sano y salvo a Londres para ser interrogado.

Obvia decir que ninguna de las dos tareas serán sencillas para Shardlake, de hecho su vida correrá peligro en más de una ocasión y llegará a ganarse la enemistad de gente poderosa que le harán la vida imposible debido a su rectitud.

Ya no cuento nada más sobre la trama, la cual en general me ha gustado bastante, dejando muchos frentes abiertos y muchas opciones hasta casi el final de la historia. De los personajes también tengo muchas cosas buenas que decir, es imposible no empatizar con nuestro protagonista y su unión con Barak, un joven granuja que le hace muy bien de contrapunto, del que ya comenté en la anterior novela que había sido un acierto y me reafirmo. El resto de secundarios muy bien, con voz propia e única y con personalidades acordes a su rol en la novela.

No me gustaría terminar sin destacar la ambientación. Sansom busca con su narración ofrecernos una atmosfera de un York deprimido y en decadencia, lo que unido a la caza de brujas que el rey y sus partidarios llevaban a cabo tras la desvinculación de la iglesia católica, nos hace aproximarnos a la angustia y la incertidumbre que debía de vivir la gente en aquel intrincado momento.

Tras dos 5 estrellas seguidos, es indudable que voy a seguir con esta saga, que espero que me de muchas más alegrías.

Profile Image for Pam Baddeley.
Author 2 books44 followers
August 13, 2020
After jumping ahead and reading a couple of later books in this series, managed to get this earlier volume which I have enjoyed. In this Matthew Shardlake, lawyer, and his clerk/bodyguard/sidekick Jack Barak are in York as part of the King's progress to the North. The political situation is tense following a second conspiracy discovered and crushed, only five years after the Pilgrimage of Grace which Henry VIII was only able to subdue by deceit and treachery. Shardlake is part of the legal team who are meant to be hearing petitions and weeding out the unsuitable ones, the Progress being meant to show the King's justice as well as being an opportunity to cow the northern nobles.

Barak finds meaningful romance for the first time when he meets Tamasin who is working as a sweetmeat maker for Queen Catherine. But things take a sinister turn when a glazier, who is removing the stained glass windows from the decommissioned abbey church in the walled enclosure that is to be the King's base in York, is killed - and it soon transpires that not only has he been murdered but that he seems to be mixed up in the recently put-down conspiracy. For it seems that some members have managed to evade the authorities.

As usual this is a page-turner with various attempts on Shardlake's life, against a complex interweaving of Tudor politics, religion and social castes. I did work out some elements of the mystery, as I had seen the documentary which the author refers to in his endnote, but didn't work out all the elements of who had done what. I did though work out who one of the villains had to be, but I still found the denouement effective and saddening. The only weakness in the book, which holds it back from 5 stars, is that the author has a few "ticks" which really jumped out and kept taking me out of the story. People constantly take a deep breath - Shardlake himself does this 5 or 6 times in one scene. And there were a few continuity errors, such as having a character stand up twice about two paragraphs apart. But it still merits a well-deserved 4 stars.
Profile Image for Kylie H.
879 reviews
January 19, 2022
This is a series that just seems to get better and better. In this third book in the Shardlake series, lawyer Matthew Shardlake is now working for Archbishop Cranmer, with Lord Cromwell now executed. Shardlake and his manservant Barak are sent north to York, where they are to assist with petitions to King Henry VIII on his great Progress to visit northern cities. In addition to this Shardlake is to oversee the welfare of a political prisoner who must be returned safely to London Tower for professional interrogation.
In York, resentment of King Henry and all those associated with him runs high, and Shardlake finds himself hunted by an unknown assailant.
On top of being a fine mystery, this book also gives a very realistic representation of the Progress and all the work involved in preparing cities and towns for a Royal visit.
This is a long book, over 600 pages, but I did not want it to finish! Highly recommend this series, start with book one. It would be hard to read this instalment as a standalone.
Profile Image for MaryG2E.
372 reviews1 follower
November 1, 2016
4.5 ★ s
This should have been an out-and-out 5 star score from me, but I've deducted a half for the patchy editing. It is a shame that a best-selling writer of the calibre of C.J. Sansom does not get the 5 star treatment from his editorial team.

Having said that, this is a thoroughly enjoyable mystery novel, suitably labyrinthine in its plot, as was so typical of the goings-on in the court of Henry VIII.

One of the reasons I'm such a fan of the Matthew Shardlake series is the thoroughness of the research done by the author, which enriches the story in ways that stimulate the intellect while satisfying the emotions. Googling Sansom, I found he has had scholarly articles published in professional journals regarding the King's Northern Progress, because so little research has been done on this topic by history academics. Always in his Afterwords, Sansom indicates his references and suggests further reading for those interested in the issues.

I have to confess to being a dedicated Henry hater. It dismays me that recent history has lionised him as some sort of humanist Renaissance Man, and/or as a stud in the bedroom. Personally, I loathe not just him but the entire Tudor dynasty because they had so much blood on their hands. In my eyes, Henry is a cold-blooded killer, although he may never have wielded the murder weapon himself. There is an old saying "Absolute power corrupts absolutely", and that definitely applies to Henry VIII, Mary and Elizabeth I. All in the name of religion, but really to fulfil their own greedy ambitions and craving for supremacy.

So it is with great glee I read the Shardlake books which show the real effects of Henry VIII's policies, schemes and whims on the court, parliament and general population of England in the 1530s and 1540s. Third in the series, Sovereign takes the closest look yet at Henry himself. And it is not a pretty picture.

Following the fall and execution of his former mentor Thomas Cromwell, Shardlake is charged by Archbishop Cranmer to accompany the king's Northern Progress to York, to replace a lawyer who had died suddenly. Also he was given a private task, to escort a religious rebel, Sir Edward Broderick, safely back to London to face legal proceedings. Shortly after his arrival in York, accompanied by his loyal retainer, Jack Barak, Shardlake is embroiled in controversy and murder.

There is an amazing, vivid description of the arrival of the Progress in York - heralds, horses, courtiers, officials, all richly dressed, and conducting themselves in a courtly manner as respect for the all-powerful monarch and his queen, Catherine Howard (number 5). On the approach to York town, Henry VIII encounters Shardlake and insults him in public for his deformity. Not long after that, Shardlake narrowly escapes being killed by a metal spike deliberately launched at him by an unknown person.

This is not the only attempt on Shardlake's life during the course of the novel, and there are deaths, conspiracies and secrets aplenty for him to contend with, as the Progress stalls in York for many days. Several unpleasant characters emerge as the story unfolds, including the harsh gaoler, Radwinter, the scheming power-broker Sir William Maleverer, the fierce-tempered servant Jennet Marlin and the bitchy Lady-in-Waiting, Jane Rochford. They vex Shardlake and Barak, throwing all sorts of obstacles, both literal and figurative, in the path of their investigations.

A key narrative thread throughout the novel is the dangerous information that the Tudor claim to the English throne is invalid, and that Henry VIII is the grandson of a bastard. Shardlake finds (then loses) some documents that relate to this proposition, and his safety is threatened several times as various scheming individuals try to get the information from him to satisfy their own aims. The resolution of this plot line at the end of the book was fascinating and gave me much food for thought.

This is a long book, and its pages contain many twisting plot lines, to which the reader must pay attention. So it is not a quick, easy read, but rather a slow-burner, a book that takes its time to develop its themes and reveal its intrigues. The prose is easy and accessible, and the language is highly descriptive. As with earlier Shardlake books, Sansom has the ability to recreate the smells, sounds and sights of 16th century England with great credibility. In this instalment, much attention is paid to imprisonment and torture, which makes for uncomfortable reading on occasion. But by the same token, it is not a bad thing to be reminded of the brutality of the legal system as it existed in earlier centuries, and be grateful for what we have now. Above all, I came away from the book thinking about the low value placed on human life in that era, and the arbitrariness with which one's life could be terminated so abruptly.

Profile Image for LJ.
3,156 reviews313 followers
August 14, 2007
SOVEREIGN (Historical-England-1541) – VG
Sansom, C.J. – 3rd in series
Macmillan, 2006-Hardcover
*** Lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak are sent to York to ensure the welfare of a prisoner being returned to London for interrogation. Matthew is also to assist with processing legal partitions King Henry VIII during the King’s Progress to York. When local glazier is killed, Matthew and Jack uncover a locked box containing several papers, including a genealogical chart. Before Matthew has a chance to review all the papers, he is attacked and the box taken. Other attacks follow and Matthew must uncover who is behind them and what is the secret that could topple a King’s throne.
*** Sansom has a talent of writing both a very good, suspenseful mystery while involving the reader in the life and politics of the time. Rather than portraying a romantic view of historic England, Sansom conveys the harshness of living conditions, the brutality of the justice of the time and the unrest and uncertainty due to Henry’s striving for an heir and causing the religious division of the time. Matthew is a wonderful character with a strong belief in doing what’s right, he’s nicely offset by Barak greater willingness to bend the rules. Matthew is also a very human character who can be stubborn, petty and jealous. Although the dialogue is a bit awkward at times as it is strictly neither period nor modern, only a couple times did I find that distracting. This is a series I read in order, but if you enjoy history brought to life, I highly recommend Sansom.
Profile Image for Piyangie.
508 reviews389 followers
November 1, 2018
This is the only book I have read in Matthew Shardlake series. The story, set up in the reign of Henry VIII, is pretty dark. There were a lot of history included in the story with the horrible brutalities and the severe torture those who were regarded as King's enemies suffered; and on the other side the treacheries and personal vengeance the powerful Lords carried out in the name of the King unknown to him.

The story was a good historical mystery but the involvement of too much brutality towards human (which is really said to have taken place according to history) made it difficult for me to stomach. The book is well written with a truly convincing story line. I liked the story but the dark historical details made me depressed.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,209 reviews550 followers
February 9, 2021
Very long, immensely detailed with the physical, mental, spiritual of that Henry VIII on his 5th wife (Catherine Howard) period. Shardlake is sent on an extremely dangerous mission. And he cannot say no.

Several underplots core this book. Most are posited by the rebellions of the North and the layers of "progressive" or "reformed" quantities of religious belief for those in the Northern parts of Henry's kingdom. That's why he is making an extended progress North to fling his strength and purposes. That religious aspect of reform practices is always essential to breathing in this decade. The dissolution of the convents and monasteries has also created voids and havoc in the economic and "health" situations of masses. Fevers and other ailments of sudden death illness are also wide, constant, and funerals the "meeting of the week" in each small town or big city street. I always enjoy the role of the coroner in this period and for the next couple of centuries England.

Barak is prime in Matthew's travels and mission. He also meets his mate in this book.

Honestly, these novels are good but they are too long winded to have the intensity of core plot for me. By the time I know who is the most duplicitous, I rarely care all that much. The body counts and pieces are also as off-putting common to the era at the same time. Which does not improve my reading experience. New ways to torture and mutilate get old quick.

Mainly it is the prose style that becomes after 200 pages just too wordy and too repetitive for my taste. I can read one or two of these a year and that's about it. I had another on order and I may send it back until next year. 2020-21 is not a good time to dwell on plagues or tyrant governments!

Regardless, he knows his period and he can depict the constant shimming between mind sets and loyalties/ trusts that was at its heart to stay eating and breathing.

I do think I read one of these out of order already but I do not think it much matters. Especially if you know and have read the Tudor periods as much as many have. As I have.
Profile Image for Phee.
555 reviews58 followers
October 11, 2017
4.5 stars

Well this one was an absolute treat!
The story starts about a year or so after the events of Dark Fire. Hunchback lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak have been keeping their heads down after the fall of Cromwell. Peace doesn’t last forever though, now they are thrown into a new mission thanks to Archbishop Cranmer. Tasked with the welfare of a prisoner, one who is to be taken from York to the Tower of London for questioning and torture, Matthew and Jack find their way up north. There is also the matter of the Kings Progress, Matthew also has to attend to the petitions that are to be made to the King.
Things aren’t all they seem however and Matthew soon finds himself in the middle of a dangerous conspiracy, one against his King...

This was almost a 5 star read for me. The two cases were tense and had the highest of stakes. The only thing that let it down slightly was all the waiting around the characters did. A lot of time passes in this book where the characters are just sitting around and waiting for things to happen. It was boring!
I loved seeing both passions and tensions flare in this one. It threw some spanners in the works and shone a different light on Shardlake. Something that I don’t want to spoil involving Matthew and the King was a terrifying scene. I have never felt so mortified whilst reading, and it resulted in a huge lack of self-confidence in Shardlake when he really needed it the most. I really felt for Barak and Shardlake in this one. They were very isolated up north and I was on edge for most of the book and terrified that something awful would befall them.

The conclusion was fantastic. I had guessed the culprit at around the middle point of the book but I was still uncertain that I was correct until the very end. Sansom puts threads of doubt into your head throughout and plenty of red herrings. I love the way he write his reveals, and it was so action packed that I truly didn’t know how it was going to end.

Like I did with Dark Fire, I listened to portions of this via the audiobook. The audiobooks for this series are really well narrated and I loved that the narrator puts on different accents. It was nice hearing a Yorkshire/Northern accent and reminded me of home, as I was born in Yorkshire. Even in the physical copy of the book the accent came through in the way the words were written. So props to the author.

I really wish more people would read these books. It’s masterfully crafted historical fiction, with the pace and mystery of a crime thriller. It’s so refreshing to read and I love every second I spend reading them. I already own the next two in the series which I shall be picking up very soon.
Profile Image for Karen Witzler.
470 reviews153 followers
September 3, 2019
The King's Progress to the North after the Rebellion. Poor Kitty Howard! Once again, Post- Anne Boleyn Britain and the era of religious reform has an atmosphere eerily similar to our own time. Culture wars, fanatics, opportunists,mad conspiracy theories, dangerous tyrants; The Mouldwarp.

Details of the Progress were quite good.

Am moving forward to #7 Tombland which features a young Elizabeth and Boleyn relatives.
Profile Image for Terri.
529 reviews252 followers
January 20, 2013
Boy oh boy, C.J. Sansom has done it again.
This is the third book I have read in this series and for me, it is the best one so far. A rich tapestry of history and character development that is hard to beat.
In this instalment of Sansom's Matthew Shardlake series, Shardlake and Barak find themselves in York awaiting the Royal Progress of Henry VIII. Shardlake is ordered by Archbishop Cranmar to assist a senior York lawyer, Giles Wrenne, in organising and presenting petitions to the King on his arrival.
Since this is a mystery series, you get what you paid the admission price for. Murder..or is it accidental death? I shall not tell. Aggravating antagonists. Miserable creatures. Miserable dungeons. And mystery abounding.
The magic of this series for me is not the who done it and the chasing rabbits down holes, although that helps of course, no the magic of this series for me is the atmosphere. Nobody gives the world Tudor England like C.J. Sansom. Except maybe Hilary Mantel, but then I have not read her books and can only surmise.
You feel the damp of the walls, smell the filth in the streets, wince at the leeches on your legs and shudder in the face of the torturers red hot narrow blade. You walk the cobblestones, fall in the mud and recoil at the rankness of King Henry's odorous and festering leg.
Sansom exhibits a multifarious skill. Not only can he write well and build a believable world, he also knows how to incorporate his research into his books so that it does not feel like research.
It is as if he was actually there and can unlock doors to take the reader there too.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,692 reviews280 followers
March 6, 2017
enjoyed this next part of the shardlake series based just after the pilgrimage of grace as shardlake finds himself in York on Archbishop Cranmer's orders and enter the viper nest of the royal progress and as the plot goes down many red herrings as his life is in peril but like how the story flows and brings york to life.
Profile Image for Labijose.
940 reviews401 followers
December 4, 2013
I Love all C.J. Sansom novels. He makes you to feel present.
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