March 5, 2016

Sovereign by C. J. Sansom

Title:  Sovereign
Author:  C. J. Sansom
Pages:  660
Genre:  Historical Fiction / Mystery
Publisher:  Pan Books, 2007
Series:  Shardlake, Book 3

Synopsis:  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 local petitions to the King, Shardlake has reluctantly undertaken a special 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...
What is still true - astonishingly, in the twenty-first century - is that Queen Elizabeth II retains the title Henry VIII took for himself: Supreme Head of the Church of England, Defender of the Faith and - in theory at least - God's chosen representative in England.
Review:  This book was even better than the first two.  Thomas Cromwell is dead, executed by King Henry VIII.  Matthew Shardlake has been trying desperately, ever since the fiasco with the Greek Fire in the last book, to stay out of politics.  It's now the next year and Archbishop Cranmer has called on Shardlake to help keep an important prisoner alive.

In York, Shardlake's life is in danger at every turn.  The Northerners hate the Southerners who have come with the King on his Progress.  Shardlake has enemies now that his old benefactor Cromwell is gone.  And then he comes across papers that may document that the King is not the rightful heir to the throne.  At no point in the story did I realize who was after Shardlake.  I thought I knew, but I was far off base.  I love these stories and how the mystery stays a mystery until the bitter end.

York was even more pathetic and awful than London.  The prisoner Shardlake must keep alive was kept in such awful conditions that I cannot understand how anyone ever made it to trial (or to their execution).  At one point, Shardlake himself winds up in the Tower of London and the description of that scary and horrible place was enough to give me the shivers.  King Henry VIII is even worse 'in person' than I'd expected.

The Historical Note at the end of this novel was eye-opening and I was pleased to see how much of the background of this story was true, or at least as close to that as it can be.  The quote I chose from this book came from there and, after reading the novel, it chilled me.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

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