Sovereign by C. J. Sansom: Book Review

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Cover of Sovereign by C. J. Sansom

3 Stars

Matthew Shardlake has been summoned by Archbishop Cranmer to assist with some law work as King Henry makes a royal progress through the rebellious north. He must also try to keep a prisoner alive for later questioning. But conspiracies still abound in the area and Shardlake’s life is endangered when he stumbles onto something.

Reading this felt like slogging through the mud created by the never-ending rain in the book. It just dragged on and on and on. Finally, in about the last hundred pages, the action picked up and everything started to get interesting.

I enjoyed reading more about Shardlake and Barak, but overall, I have a lot of problems with the book. There were a lot of typos that drove me crazy. The Bealknap case (remember that from Dark Fire?) is still. dragging. on. C’mon and let it die already! With Shardlake being in the barbarous north, he obviously doesn’t really understand the dialect. The explanation of some of the more common terms was unbelievably clumsy. One character basically says out of the blue, “Oh, by the way, old boy, did you know that gate means street up here?” Yes, it really was that bad.

Reading this so soon after Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth was actually pretty interesting. In Pillars, we get to see how important the monasteries are and the hard work that goes into building a cathedral. In Sansom’s books, the pendulum has swung the other way and they’re being destroyed. I’ve never really thought too much about how much art, architecture, and history was lost in these kinds of purges, but the juxtaposition of the two books really brought that home for me.

I’ll keep reading, and if you’ve read the others, I would recommend you do the same. It was still decent, and I do look forward to the next in the series. I just hope it’s better.

Reviewed May 10, 2009

My reviews of the earlier books in the series, Dissolution and Dark Fire.

Find author C. J. Sansom on his website.

Buy Sovereign at

Friday Flashback Reviews, a feature at The Introverted Reader

Friday Flashback Reviews are a weekly feature here on The Introverted Reader. These are old reviews I wrote on GoodReads. Thanks to Angieville and her Retro Friday Reviews for the inspiration and encouragement!

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

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