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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sansom's engrossing third historical featuring Matthew Shardlake (after 2005's Dark Fire) finds the hunchbacked barrister at the vortex of strife-torn Tudor England in the rainy autumn of 1541. Northern Britain anxiously awaits the arrival of the Great Progress taking Henry VIII and an entourage of thousands toward York to quell a fresh rebellion. Recently appointed a legal counsel for the Progress, Shardlake has a secret mission from Archbishop Cranmer to guarantee the safe return to London of imprisoned conspirator Sir Edward Broderick. With his trusted assistant, Jack Barak, Shardlake also investigates the death of master glazier Peter Oldroyd, a suspected papist, who fell from his ladder and was impaled on glass shards. Their search of Oldroyd's house reveals intriguing documents that question the royal line of succession and even impugn Henry. Despite complex court politics and several attempts on his life, Shardlake stalwartly maintains his integrity while searching for truth amid the "vipers' nest" of Henry's court. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

In Dissolution, reformist Matthew Shardlake works with Thomas Cromwell to investigate the death of a royal commissioner; in Dark Fire, he defends a young woman accused of murder. Critics agree that Sovereign is as good as, or even better than, its predecessors. Themes of political ruses, conspiracy, religious fanaticism, and murder, combined with sophisticated plotting, meticulously researched details, and convincing characters (including a cruel, paranoid Henry) recreate the repression, tyranny, and gory minutiae of Tudor England. (Soft romance is patently absent.) A few critics commented on the heft of the novel, but in the end they agreed that Sovereign is an outstanding work of historical fiction.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Series: Matthew Shardlake Mysteries (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 583 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (February 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143113178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143113171
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (168 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 62 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
C. J. Sansom's "Sovereign" is the third mystery in this critically acclaimed series featuring Matthew Shardlake, a thirty-nine year old lawyer, and his assistant, Jack Barak. The author demonstrates his prodigious historical knowledge as he traces Henry VIII's Great Progress to the North in 1541. Along with Catherine Howard, his fifth wife, a large number of soldiers, and members of the nobility, Henry and his retinue made their way from London to York with the goal of bringing the king's discontented northern subjects under control. Archbishop Cranmer sends Matthew Shardlake on the trip to process petitions for the king and to safeguard an important prisoner who is to be interrogated in the Tower of London. Matthew travels with a heavy heart, having recently buried his father, whom he had neglected. With the money that he will earn from this mission, Matthew hopes to pay off his father's remaining debts.

After the Progress finally reaches York, a glazier falls off his ladder and is impaled on fragments of glass. Shardlake quickly realizes that this was no accident. There may be a conspiracy afoot against Henry; papers hidden in the glazier's house would wreak havoc if they were to fall into the wrong hands. Since Matthew caught a glimpse of these papers, he becomes a target and narrowly escapes repeated attempts on his life. Meanwhile, Jack Barak has found love; he is smitten with a pretty young woman, Tamasin Reedbourne, who works in Queen Catherine's household. Matthew and Jack join forces to discover the identity of the killer and to uncover a secret so explosive that it could bring down a mighty monarch.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Heather A. Teysko VINE VOICE on May 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
It seems that everything related to the Tudors and Reformation England is really trendy now, which I'm loving, since it was my major in college. Somehow I managed to miss these mysteries thus far, but I'm definitely ordering the first two right away.

Matthew Shardlake is a lawyer in London who is sent to York ostensibly to handle legal petitions when the King visits on his great Progress; but also on a clandestine assignment from the great Archbishop Cranmer himself - to guard over a prisoner's well-being so he can be safely taken back to London and face the experts in the Tower who will administer his interrogation.

Chaos ensues early on when a glazier is murdered and Shardlake overhears a dying man's last words that may have secret meaning. When attempts are made on Shardlake's life, it seems no one can be trusted and everyone is a suspect.

I really enjoyed this book. It really helped that I have a fair amount of knowledge of the subject matter - I think that would be important. As much as the dialog tried to give backgrounds and histories, I think I would have been really confused if I didn't know a lot of the history. As it was, it took all my effort just to concentrate on all the many characters.

The book is fairly long (though absorbing), so be prepared to dedicate a certain amount of time to this book, and don't start reading it if you have other stuff going on. You're going to want to read this as much as you can until the last of the 650+ pages.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By JackLifton on April 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is the third adventure of the author's invited protagonist, the lawyer, Matthew Shardlake. It's not only the best one so far, but it is also a perfect example of an historical novel. Not only does the the period at the beginning of the end of the reign of Henry VIII come alive in crisp detail, but also the daily life of the professional and lower classes is the backdrop. Hollywood prefers to tell stories set in the past only through the eyes of the ruling classes, so we get gorgeous clothing and fairy tale castles that seem to have central heating and air condioning for the comfort of their beautifully coiffed inhabitants who to a person have flawless skin and excellent health. C.J. Sansom shows us that the lives of all of the classes of society can be measured by who has more of less. A literally decaying while alive Henry VIII suffers from leg ulcers that ooze pus and stink close-up, court ladies wear thick white make-up for formal occasions that today would be called clown-like. Gentlemen reach for their swords and daggers at the drop of an insult or a perceived affront. Religion is politics and politics, in the mioddle Tudor period, was religion.

The best aspect of this novel is that it is seen trhough the eyes of Sansom's main character,a hunchback lawyer, who has brilliant deductive powers and an almost photographic memory, in the service of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the only fully developed "famous" historical figure in the story.

The very poor term, smellovision, might best describe this all too brief sojourn into the year 1541, but I use the term intending it to be a positive comment on Sansom's skill to let us re-live and breathe-through a scented linen cloth, hopefully, the mid sixteenth century.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is the third Matthew Shardlake mystery and while I recommend reading them in order, the novels largely stand alone. Matthew Shardlake has two missions in York: the first is to assist with legal petitions to the King, the second is a secret commission on behalf of Archbishop Cranmer.

As participants in Henry VIII's progress to the north of England in 1541, Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak are part of the final episode of 'The Pilgrimage of Grace'. The Pilgrimage of Grace (1536) was the worst uprising of Henry VIII's reign and was a direct result of the dissolution of the monasteries.

Henry VIII was not popular in the north, and the setting is perfect for the latest set of adventures of Matthew Shardlake. This novel is an interesting blend of history and fiction delivered with gritty realism.

Recommended to all who like mysteries based in history.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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