The secret of Greek Fire, the legendary substance with which the Byzantines destroyed the Arab navies, has been lost for centuries. Now an official of the Court of Augmentations has discovered the formula in the library of a dissolved London monastery. When Shardlake is sent to recover it, he finds the official and his alchemist brother brutally murdered. The formula has disappeared.
Now Shardlake must follow the trail of Greek Fire across Tudor London, while trying at the same time to prove his young client's innocence. But very soon he discovers nothing is as it seems.
© C. J. Sansom; (P) Macmillan Publishers Ltd
"Having hugely enjoyed Anton Lesser's reading of Sovereign, the third of C.J. Sansom's Tudor mystery series starring the hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake, I backtracked to hear the first two in the series, Dissolution and Dark Fire.. . As a trio, they reveal just how skilled Sansom is in creating convincing characters in a fully imagined historical world, and it is no surprise that a television series featuring Shardlake is planned. I'm not sure if Anton Lesser will star in it, but after hearing him narrate all three books, I can't imagine anyone better suited to the role... Following the text in a paperback, I let my eyes chase what my ears were hearing and was impressed at how little had to be lost." Christina Hardyment (The Times Books)
"Excellently complex historical thriller"
This is the second of (currently) four Matthew Shardlake novels by CJ Sansom - and even better than the first (Dissolution) which I listened to via Audible previously.
Whilst Sansom's novels give something of a nod in the direction of Ellis Peters "Cadfael" books, this is altogether more sophisticated work, both in terms of its historical detail and the complexity of its plot, and has a somewhat darker, more adult feel.
I enjoyed Dissolution a lot, but this novel had me completely absorbed and its twists and turns kept me engrossed until the very end. Others have already complimented Anton Lesser (who also narrates the "Falco" series by Lindsey Davis) for his work, but he surpasses himself here, with such vivid characterisation of Shardlake and others that for most of the time you entirely forget that there isn't in fact a supporting cast! An excellent listen, and well worth every one of its five stars.
"Great descriptive writing, a thoroughly good plot"
CJ Sansom's Shardlake series are excellent books. Its advantageous to read them in order, but not absolutely necessary, as they can more-or-less stand on their own.
Sansom's descriptions and details of the period seem to me to be so good that in some scenes you can also "smell" the places. I'm no expert on this period of history, but I would think that his research is highly accurate. I like Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall", but I really enjoy the Shardlake series!
In "Dark Fire" we find Shardlake believing himself to be out of favour with his estwhile patrons (after the fall out from the 1st book in the series), but is given the task of finding out the truth behind the apparent rediscovery of "Greek Fire" - a Byzantine Weapon of Mass Destruction - and whether or not Thomas Cornwell should be recommending it to the King as a potential addition to his armoury.
We follow Shardlake, a "crook-back lawyer", across London, to the hospitals and ex-monasteries, and through the inns of court in his journey to try and uncover the truth behind this fearful weapon and the murders that are following in its wake in order to keep it a secret... or to benefit from its sale to the interested parties.
Shardlake is joined, for the first time in the series, by Jack Barak, more than a general dogsbody, and - as a younger and healthier man - able to do things that wouldn't have been open to the author if he had just stayed with Shardlake on his own.
The book covers and the initial chapters might seem a bit forboding, and perhaps a bit like a school history lesson, but there is a cracking good plot in all the books in the series, and good characterisation, and excellent descriptive narrative and attention to detail.
Give them a go!
I love the Shardlake series, have read them all in print and I would say that Dark Fire is my favourite but unfortunately the heavy abridging of this version makes the story uneven and a bit hard to follow. I was pretty deeply disappointed but Anton Lesser makes an excellent reading of what text he was left.
"A quality version of the original book"
Dark Fire being the second in the "Mathew Shardlake" series, is unlike some audiobooks in that is doesn't spoil or let down the feeling and style of the written book. It does however manage to paint for the listener an authentic taste of life in Tudor England, including the rich palette of smells, the people, the food, in fact the whole experience. The author has clearly spent as much time on the historic research as the complex and violent plot that envelops the hunchback lawyer, in his attempt to help a young girl escape the prospect of execution in a most dreadful fashion: a board placed on her and piled with stones until her back breaks and in time suffocation.. 10/10
"Again excellent stuff a little predicatable"
I thought that this was a joy of a book to read, however, it is not quite as good as Dissolution or Revelation both of which were exceptionally fine! That is why I have said 4 rather than 5 to distinguish the truely amazing from the simply excellent! Loving Shardlake!
"Strength to strength"
Yet another small masterpiece. Matthew Shardlake gains more depth in this story and the political intrigue in Henry VIII's court reaches new intensity. A worthy successor to 'Dissolution' - the first book in the series.
Great for listening to in the car whilst on a long journey!
This is the second of the Matthew Shardlake stories and, if possible, even more fascinating and exciting than the first. The world of everyday London at the time of the rivalry between Thomas Cromwell and the Earl of Norfolk - its sensations and its intrigues - I found utterly convincing. The characters of the lawyer and his assistant have human flaws as well as courage and integrity and one cares about them - in fact, all the people in the story are three dimensional. It is an irresistible mixture of flavours - complex plot, touching characters and incredible pace. Lots of blood and gore - but the horrors fulfill an important function in the overall effect of the novel. There is much in this world that echoes our own.
Anton Lessor's splendid reading is remarkable for its range and its underlying humanity. I can't think of many better ways to spend 7 hours than entering this world created by C J Sansom.
"Good, but not the best of the series."
I like the main character and enjoyed the book but I don't think it is such a good story. The others in the series are better, I think.
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