Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 1, 2013

Sovereign (2006), by C.J. Sansom

SovereignI don’t quite know why it is that airplane travel saps the brain in quite the way that it does, but there is no doubt that it’s impossible to read anything at all complicated on planes.  So this weekend when I had to make a quick trip to not-so-sunny Queensland to teach my elderly mum (a) how to use a laptop for the first time in her life and (b) how to order her groceries online, I was very glad indeed to have an engrossing historical novel to read on the return flight.  (Especially since I couldn’t get a direct flight and had to hang about in Sydney for 90 mins before my flight home to Melbourne).

Sovereign is third in the Shardlake series of historical mysteries by C.J.Sansom.  It’s set in the Tudor period, when Henry VIII was still married to the hapless No 5, Catherine Howard.  Matthew Shardlake is given the job of accompanying the Royal Progress to Yorkshire, where Henry is to receive the grovelling abasements of the locals who supported the recent rebellion, and Shardlake, a lawyer, is to sort out the petitions that go before the king’s court.  He has also a job for which he has much less enthusiasm: to supervise the treatment of a political prisoner, so that he is in good health when taken to the Tower for torture.

Before long however, Shardlake becomes embroiled in a murder mystery.  One of the glaziers removing the stained-glass windows in the wash-up of the Dissolution of the Monasteries suffers a gruesome death, and it has to do with the plotting that always surrounded the Succession in an era where monarchs and their presumed heirs so often died young and there was no such thing as DNA testing.  As a staunch republican myself, I was delighted by the intricate ins-and-outs of a plot that purports a rival claim to the throne of Henry VIII and his successors.  (If the claim were true, at least the Australian monarch would have lived here in Australia).

Anyway, it’s a compelling plot, hard to put down, very well-written and completely convincing.  I like conspiracy theories: It put me in mind of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose and Baudolino and Iain Pears’ An Instance of the Fingerpost which I enjoyed too.

Author: C.J. Sansom
Title: Sovereign
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
ISBN: 9780330436083
Source: gift from my father


Fishpond: Sovereign (Shardlake Series)


  1. I totally agree with you about trying to read on airplanes or air terminals – there is usually just too much going on for me to really focus on anything complex. Crime novels are good. (heh)

    I checked the Audible availability and see that the series is available there and with very high ratings. So the first of that series (already forgot the title) is now on my wish list – that’s my preferred way to do detective/crime novels and I’m always on the look-out for recommendations. :-) Thanks!


  2. This would be a perfect travel read. I really enjoyed it, too and have the next one on my shelves to read soonish.


  3. I have read the first two and really loved them. You have reminded me that this one is waiting for me :)


    • Sally, would you like me to send it to you? It is very battered after being shoved in and out of the handbag, but perfectly readable. If you want it, send me your address at anzlitloversATbigpongDOTcom


  4. HI Becky and Laura – somehow my father had got hold of this one and its successor but hadn’t had the first two. I’ve ordered those for him so that he can read the complete series.
    But this auhor, Sansom, has also written a book called Dominion, and I’m sure I’ve read a review of that somewhere too. Do you know anything about that one?


    • I don’t know much about Dominion, LIsa, except that it’s not one of the Matthew Shardlake mysteries.


      • I must have read it somewhere.
        What I need is an IT Geeky Thing that harvests all the blog posts I read so that I can search them when this happens. I suppose Old Henry could have jsut demanded one and it would have been invented. I shall have to wait until someone gets round to it LOL.


  5. While I am not all that fussed about reading straight historical fiction set in Tudor times because I am a bit burnt out on it, for some reason I can still read historical mysteries in that setting. I have heard so many good things about this series!


    • Marg, I think you’d really like this. I’ll pass it on to you next time we meet if Sally doesn’t want it.


  6. I have only read the 1st volume so far, but loved it very much:
    Looking forward to read them all. thank you for your review


    • Hello, welcome to ANZ LitLovers and thank you for sharing the link to your review:) Dissolution is one of the ones I’ve ordered for my father and he is under orders to keep it for me to read next time I visit him which will probably be in June. Of course, I could easily get it from the library, but he likes to lend me books, so I shall wait till then to read it.


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