Listen free for 30 days

Listen with a free trial

One credit a month, good for any title to download and keep.
Unlimited listening to the Plus Catalogue - thousands of select Audible Originals, podcasts and audiobooks.
Exclusive member-only deals.
No commitment - cancel anytime.
Buy Now for £18.99

Buy Now for £18.99

Pay using card ending in
By completing your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and authorise Audible to charge your designated card or any other card on file. Please see our Privacy Notice, Cookies Notice and Interest-based Ads Notice.

Summary

The second Shardlake novel in C. J. Sansom's remarkable historical crime series.

It is 1540 and the hottest summer of the 16th century. Matthew Shardlake, believing himself out of favour with Thomas Cromwell, is busy trying to maintain his legal practice and keep a low profile. But his involvement with a murder case, defending a girl accused of brutally murdering her young cousin, brings him once again into contact with the king's chief minister - and a new assignment . . .

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 . . .

©2004 C. J. Sansom (P)2014 Pan Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

What listeners say about Dark Fire

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1,358
  • 4 Stars
    335
  • 3 Stars
    38
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    3
Performance
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1,300
  • 4 Stars
    242
  • 3 Stars
    23
  • 2 Stars
    4
  • 1 Stars
    2
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1,201
  • 4 Stars
    308
  • 3 Stars
    44
  • 2 Stars
    5
  • 1 Stars
    3

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Su
  • 22-02-18

Excellent Story

I have dementia which means it’s hard to follow a story.

This was well written but more importantly well read. It’s the reading that helps me to engage and understand.

Thank I love Matthew Shardlake and look forward to listening to the next book.

33 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Even Better Than The Last!

What did you like most about Dark Fire?

I enjoyed getting together with characters who were already old friends and...enemies! I also enjoyed meeting new ones! These books go at exactly the right pace and so feel comfortable, yet certainly not dull!

Who was your favorite character and why?

Matthew Shardlake is definitely my favourite character.

Have you listened to any of Steven Crossley’s other performances? How does this one compare?

I listened to the first book which was excellent. Try listening to them in order.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I laughed, worried and loved.

Any additional comments?

I enjoy listening to such well written & well read novels. I wish I had longer in the day when I am listening to one of these.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Another good Shardlake story

The Shardlake series is a well-constructed set of stories. The plots are well put together, the characters are credible and the dialogue is set in the historical context without being pretentious. Well narrated by Stephen Crossley. Very enjoyable.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Engrossing

Following on from listening to Dissolution I was keen to listen to book 2.

I enjoyed this more than the first, it was 'darker' in places which added to the suspense..We were introduced to Barack a rather shady character who on the surface is rather unpleasant but his character was revealed during the course of the story.

The storyline is full of plotting, scheming and even Shardlake has his manipulative side which adds authenticity to his character.

The narration was again well done and it is pleasing to have the same voice in a series; you relate better to the characters I always think when there is consistency.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great story. Brilliantly narrated.

I really enjoyed this audio book. The characters were believable and the story well put together. I learnt some history along the way as well.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Cromwell’s secret weapon…

It is 1540, and lawyer Matthew Shardlake has taken on the case of a girl who has been charged with the murder of her young cousin. The girl, Elizabeth, is refusing to speak, partly from shock perhaps, but she also seems to be full of rage. If she won’t plead she knows she will be subjected to torture, but still she keeps her silence. At the last moment, Shardlake finds that she is to be given a temporary reprieve – twelve days more in the Hole at Newgate prison before the torture begins, unless Shardlake can get to the truth of what happened before then. But then Shardlake learns that the reprieve has been the work of the King’s vicar general, Thomas Cromwell. And in return, Cromwell wants Shardlake to do a job for him – one that may save Cromwell from the King’s growing displeasure…

The two cases in this story are completely separate and quite different from each other, providing the kind of contrast that always makes the Shardlake books so enjoyable. While the Cromwell strand takes us deep into the machinations of the powerful men vying for the King’s favour, Elizabeth’s story is far away from politics, set in her merchant uncle’s home. This allows Sansom to roam widely through the streets of London, and the various types and classes of people who populate them.

Cromwell provides Shardlake with a new assistant, a tough young commoner by the name of Jack Barak who was once helped by Cromwell and now feels a great loyalty to him. Shardlake’s feelings are more mixed – he has been appalled by some of the things Cromwell has done in the name of Reform, including torturing and burning heretics, and is no longer as enthusiastic a Reformer as he once was. However, when Cromwell demands service a man has to be very brave or very foolish to refuse, and Shardlake is neither, plus he knows it’s the only way to gain time to investigate Elizabeth’s case.

Cromwell has been told that the formula for an ancient weapon once used by the Byzantines, known as “dark fire”, has been rediscovered. Having told King Henry, he has now discovered that the men who promised to supply it to him have been murdered. Cromwell is already on extremely shaky ground with the King since it was he who arranged the marriage to Anne of Cleves, which turned out to be a disaster, and he knows that if he fails to provide the promised new weapon the King will be even more furious. Now the King has set his amorous sights on young Catherine Howard and Cromwell fears that, if she becomes Queen, then her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, will take Cromwell’s place as the second most important man in the land. So he tasks Shardlake with finding the murderers and, more importantly, with finding either the supply of dark fire he has been promised or at least the formula for it.

Elizabeth had been recently orphaned and sent to live in her Uncle Edwin’s family. She never fitted in with her cousins, two girls and a boy, all of whom seemed to enjoy teasing her about her less refined manners. But when she is accused of having killed the boy by throwing him down the well, her other uncle, Joseph, refuses to believe her guilty. It is he who begs Shardlake to take her case, and as Shardlake and Barak investigate, they will find that there are dark secrets in this family – dark and dangerous.

Both stories are very well told, and Sansom keeps the balance between them well, never losing sight of either for too long. Although Barak’s job is to help Shardlake with the dark fire investigation, he is happy to help with Elizabeth's case too, especially since in some ways she reminds him of himself when he too found himself in trouble at a young age. Despite having little in common, the rough commoner Barak and the cultured lawyer Shardlake gradually begin to find a mutual respect for each other, and even the beginnings of friendship.

As always, the historical setting feels completely authentic, both in terms of the high events surrounding the King and court, and in the depiction of how people lived and worked at this period. Sansom gives an amazing amount of detail about all sorts of things, from the dinner-tables of the high and mighty to the inns and brothels of the poorer parts of the city, and manages to do this seamlessly as part of the story so that it never feels like an info dump. It becomes an immersive experience, and I always feel a sense of dislocation when I return to the modern world. Both plots in this one are interesting, although I found myself more involved in the more personal one of Elizabeth and her family than in Cromwell and his political shenanigans. Brother Guy from the first book is now in London working as an apothecary. He and Matthew have become firm friends and he plays an important role in this book, which is an added bonus for me since he’s one of my favourite characters.

I listened to the audiobook this time, which is wonderfully narrated by Steven Crossley. I will admit his voice for Barak didn’t chime with my own idea of how he should sound at first but I soon got used to it. His Shardlake is perfect, though, and he uses a huge variety of tones and accents for the other people in what is a pretty vast cast of characters. It makes such a difference to ease of listening when each character is so clearly differentiated, especially in such a long book.

So, an excellent second outing for Shardlake and, in common with all the books in this series, gets my highest recommendation.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Enjoyable story

This was an enjoyable romp through Henry viii's times. Good storyline and sense of what it must have been like in Tudor England. I will certainly continue with the series.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

History and Adventure

The novel is a good read (even for non historians). The Audio book is a very good representation of it. Excellent reading brings the characters to life.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic book beautifully narrated

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Its totally immersive and captivating. One of my most favourite books of all time.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

love this series !

I have read them all and now
I have the pleasure of listening to them, which is great !

1 person found this helpful