Top positive review
Nobody does it better. This is a genuine blckbuster
18 October 2018
The wait for the next book in the Shardlake series has been well worth it. This is a real blockbuster and C J Sansom, for my money, is a truly superb storyteller. It just doesn't get any better!
England's monarchy is at a crossroads following the death of Henry VIII; the country is bankrupt, the regent prince Edward is being manipulated by various nobles, all of whom are keen to gain power. There's constant plotting and intrigue to discredit individuals, including the young Princess Elizabeth. The political and religious divides are causing uncertainty and deep fear at every level. Currency has been debased, there's growing civil unrest as common land is enclosed by the nobility and people struggle to survive.
Shardlake encounters his old enemy, Richard Rich, who is ever hopeful that he can find an excuse to send him to the Tower again. Shardlake is sent to Norfolk where the death of John Boleyn's wife may bring discredit to the Boleyn's and Lady Elizabeth. Once in Norwich, he meets up with his old friend and assistant, John Barak, and one intrigue after another is uncovered, then the body count starts to rise.
The plotting is complex but utterly believable. It's good to meet up with characters from previous novels; they're all so convincing. But what's really amazing is the historical context in which these books are set. This time it's a peasant revolt known as Kett's Rebellion. I knew nothing about this episode, but with his usual understated panache, Sansom brings events vividly to life. Loyalties are divided, tension builds and I felt like a spectator involved in and watching as evens unfold. There's not a wasted word and even though this is a large book, it's never padded.
Tombland works well as a standalone. Recurring characters are introduced with some background for those unfamiliar with their early stories. The book works well at so many levels. It's a twisted and compelling murder mystery. I find Shardkake an endearing and intelligent protagonist. Even when his moral compass is challenged, he remains balanced and persuasive in his views. Over the series, his character has developed along with his personal relationships with others. Whether it's a former servant, an apothecary, nobility or his friend Barak, each book takes them all a little further on their personal journeys. As historical fiction, Sansom really brings both the period and people to life. The political machinations and duplicity are complex, but again, individuals like Somerset, the Boleyns, the young Elizabeth and her Court feel real and play such a believable part in the story. There's genuine atmosphere and context and plenty of tension.
What a wonderful way to bring history to life. There is no one who writes better about the Tudor period and Tombland is possibly the best of the series...so far. Absolutely captivated from start to finish and I can't recommend this book highly enough.