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Sovereign: 3 (The Shardlake Series) Paperback – 16 Mar 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 773 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 662 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; Reprints edition (16 Mar. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330436082
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330436083
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 4.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (773 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 67,285 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'A parchment turner, and a regal one at that.' -- Sunday Times

'Between them, Sansom and Starkey have the 16th century licked.' -- Independent

Book Description

The third novel in the compelling Shardlake series

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In what looks like being the final book of a trilogy, C J Sansom brings out long-suffering lawyer Matthew Shardlake for another mystery thriller set against the impeccably researched background of a vivid, tumultuous and colourful Tudor England.

Sansom has set this trio of books in the reign of Henry VIII, and in this book the lawyer gets closer than he would otherwise care to the dangerous monarch. His old promoter and task-master, Cromwell, has already fallen out of the King's favour, being despatched before being lamented. Shardlake is therefore surprised to find him being sought out to perform more missions in the royal service.

In this book he is working for Archbishop Cranmer, the reforming Archbishop of Canterbury and pivotal figure in the religious, social and political history of the turbulent reformation times. His mission is to head to York and meet up with the King's Progress. This mighty procession of monarchical majesty is designed to impress and cow the rebellious northerners, who have only just been settled after the Pilgrimage of Grace uprising.

Shardlake, always seeking an easy life, is assured his job will simply be to help a fellow lawyer with the pleas before the King. Naturally not all goes to plan, and the unwilling lawyer is thrust into a dangerous and gripping thriller which threatens to undermine the very essence of the Tudor dynasty, the very essence of Sovereignty.

I am not usually a big fan of historical fiction. It is often used as a vehicle by poor writers to give their bland prose a splash of factual colour, a "bodice ripping thriller", as Blackadder might say. But C J Sansom is very different.
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Format: Paperback
If you are already familiar with the Shardlake series you will need no second invitation to acquire this volume, as it is every bit as good as the previous two. However, if you are new to the adventures of Sansom's humane Tudor lawyer then be assured you are in for a treat. Historical whodunits are ten a penny these days, but ones of this quality are much rarer. Sansom's great skill is to evoke the England of Henry VIII so convincingly that you not only see the scenes of that ancient time but also feel them. The smells, spectacles, landscapes, characters and language of the time come truly alive and hence are an integral part of the novel's appeal. Onto this rich canvas, a complex tale of intrigue, betrayal, political rivalry, and murder is expertly woven focussing on real historical events-in this case The Royal Progress of 1541 and attendant conspiracy alongside the troubled reign of Queen Katherine Howard. Every aspect of the plot is related to the issues of the day (the author holds a PhD in History) and the set piece encounters of his fictional characters with the the era's most powerful figures are full of tension and import, consequently one learns much even as the story grips you. Yet this erudition never stifles the plot which is full of incident and moves at a cracking pace: there is none of Umberto Eco's intellectual showboating or Ellis Peters' genteel scene setting here: this is the sixteenth century in all its vibrancy, stink, and duplicity. It is also worth observing that Sansom writes well, his prose is pleasing and flows effortlessly so that a 600 plus page tome seems shorter than many half its length. In short this is a fine piece of writing which just also happens to be a thriller and one that affords the reader that very special pleasure when returning home at the end of a hard day you rub your hands and think `I can continue with Sovereign tonight'. All avid readers will understand what I mean.
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Format: Paperback
This is a great read for anyone interested in Tudor history combined with a good fictional thriller.

Sansom creates a great sense of place and time with attention to detail. This lends the book an authenticity that is is often missing in other historical fiction.

The dialogue and the characterisations are generally believable but I have some misgivings about Shardlake himself. There are times when I feel he is bearing modern day sensibilities (such as his distate of blood sports and the violence of the era) simply to act as a bridge between the modern reader and the plot. For me the dialogue is least effective and anachronistic when Shardlake adopts these 21st century values.

The book is well-paced with a good balance between descriptive prose and dialgoue to move the story forward.

If you fancy a holiday read that is several steps up from a Dan Brown then this could be the book for you.
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Format: Hardcover
I have read all of the Shardlake books and this is the best to date. The story is gripping - set aside a weekend when you won't be interrupted to read this because you won't be able to put it down. I love the sense of place and atmosphere - I feel as if I am there in York with Shardlake and Barak. Shardlake has to present petitions to Henry and to safeguard the welfare of a prisoner and then finds himself (with Barak)involved in investigating the death of a glazier. The language creates a strong sense of the smells, the people, the mutual suspicions between the southern visitors and the hosts, the casual barbarity of everyday life and the sense of a world turned upside down.

I have enjoyed all Sansom's Tudor mysteries but he has reached a pinnacle with this one. There are several stories happening at once and many layers of intrigue and deception, all of which keep you guessing. Characterisation is strong and vivid and an old world is brought to life in technicolour. I wished it would go on forever. I can't wait for the next one.
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