2 January 2018

Book Review ~ Sovereign (The Shardlake Series) by C J Sansom

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Set during King Henry VIII’s progress to York in the autumn of 1541, this book shows the darker side of Tudor life. Even Sansom’s normally mild-mannered lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, eventually finds it all too much and turns on someone who provokes him too far. York is full of rebellion against the ageing king and no one seems safe from spies and conspirators.

At 653 pages this is the perfect book to take on holiday as Samsom’s immersive style takes you deep into Shardlake’s world. Several plot lines eventually develop to create a classic murder mystery with a list of unlikely suspects.

Although well researched and full of fascinating details, some readers will share my issue with the notion that Henry VIII relied on his mother’s bloodline for his legitimacy, as this ignores the fact his father took the throne by conquest at Bosworth. There were also a few too many coincidences and unlikely chance events. They keep the plot lively, but I did raise an eyebrow when Shardlake was attacked by an angry bear.

I made the mistake of reading the Shardlake series in the wrong order, so if you haven’t come across them, I recommend that you start with the first book, Dissolution, set in 1537. Having said that, Sovereign stands alone and has one of the most malevolent depictions of Henry VIII I’ve ever read.

On his website Sansom admits that Sovereign is his favourite of all the six books in his Shardlake series and I can see why - highly recommended.

Tony Riches
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About the Author

Born in 1952, Christopher John Sansom grew up in Edinburgh, the only child of an English father and a Scottish mother. Educated at Birmingham University, he took a BA degree and 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. Find out more at his website www.cjsansom.com


  1. Of all the Shardlake books, this is the one I found most confusing. The plot meanders slowly to the end, then it all seemed a bit rushed and contrived. On the whole, though, I love the series.

    1. I thought it was because I read them in the wrong order - but easily solved the mystery, so would have preferred a surprise ending.


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