Sovereign by C. J. Sansom (Review)

Sovereign by C. J. Sansom


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 for the Archbishop Cranmer – 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 to Shardlake facing the most terrifying fate of the age…


This is the first Shardlake book that I have struggled with slightly but I am glad I persevered with it as I really enjoyed the book, especially the ending. 

We find Shardlake trying to live a quiet life fighting legal cases with the help of his assistant Jack Barak. Cromwell is now dead so Shardlake has been living his life as a normal lawyer would without being sent off to do any missions for the Crown. However, that promptly changes when Shardlake is summoned before Archbishop Cranmer who then gives Shardlake a mission. 

Shardlake finds himself joining the King’s progress to the North where not only will he be assisting with the legal work of processing the petitions to the King, he will also be ensuring the welfare of an important prisoner who needs to be interrogated in London. This is the last thing that poor Shardlake wants. 

Most of the book is in York and I must admit after the discovery of the secret papers the book did drag on for me and I really did want it to move along a bit quicker because it was at times rather dull. However, once Shardlake left York and got onto the boat things moved along at a much quicker pace and the story picked back up again and then I couldn’t put the book down till I had finished it. 

I wish this book had shown more of Guy who is one of my favourite characters but sadly he was only mentioned in passing and didn’t feature at all. We did get some new characters though. Giles is the lawyer from York who helps Shardlake with the petitions. He is an old man but still upright and very sharp of mind. He also comes across as rather a cuddly character and a man who would help anyone in need. 

The character I really couldn’t stand was Tamasin and at times Shardlake felt the same way. I really didn’t like her ways and found her far too pushy and brazen. She also had rather a big chip on her shoulder. 

Overall, I enjoyed the book and even when I had guessed who the suspect was I was still hooked. If the middle of the book had moved at a quicker pace I would have given this book a higher rating but sadly it was just too much of a drag for me. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.


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About the author

C. J. Sansom was educated at Birmingham University, where he took a BA and then a PhD in history. After working in a variety of jobs, he retrained as a solicitor and practised in Sussex, until becoming a full-time writer. He lives in Sussex.

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