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Sovereign (Matthew Shardlake, #3)Sovereign by C.J. Sansom

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I enjoy the Matthew Shardlake series, in part, perhaps because as the series has progressed Shardlake's dissolving respect for the Tudors mirrors my own passage from starry-eyed attachment to that dynasty to sheer, unadulterated disgust. I'm a proud Welsh-American in many respects, but I constantly feel it necessary to apologize for the Tudors, whose Welsh ties besmirch a noble people.

This book, in particular, is hard on the dynasty, and the portrayals of the members of the English nobility, and the royal family, are scathing. Set during the time Henry shared the throne with young Catherine Howard, the action takes place primarily in York, during the great pilgrimage when Henry was attempting to re-establish a proper relationship with the north. Sansom continues to have a deft hand presenting some of the hard realities of Tudor England, both in the physical realities of day to day life, but also in the tangled loyalties and priorities of people still bitterly torn by sectarian conflicts. It is that, more than any other aspect, that attracts me to the book. The people struggle to find a way through a moral and ethical minefield, with varying degrees of success in the moment, and in general. They make mistakes, innocent people get hurt, the venal and vicious sometimes win, but people keep trying, keep striving, to do more right than wrong.

I don't want to live in Shardlake's world, but I'm happy to visit it from time to time.



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