Listen free for 30 days

£7.99/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime

Summary

The third novel in the compelling Shardlake series. Autumn, 1541. King Henry VIII has set out on a spectacular Progress to the North to attend an extravagant submission of his rebellious subjects in York. Already in the city are lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak. As well as assisting with legal work processing petitions to the King, Shardlake has reluctantly undertaken a special mission - to ensure the welfare of an important but dangerous conspirator being returned to London for interrogation.

But the murder of a local glazier involves Shardlake in deeper mysteries, connected not only to the prisoner in York Castle but to the royal family itself. And when Shardlake and Barak stumble upon a cache of secret papers which could threaten the Tudor throne, a chain of events unfolds that will lead Shardlake facing the most terrifying fate of the age . . .

©2006 C. J. Sansom (P)2014 Pan Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

What listeners say about Sovereign

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1,011
  • 4 Stars
    277
  • 3 Stars
    36
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    3
Performance
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    999
  • 4 Stars
    171
  • 3 Stars
    26
  • 2 Stars
    5
  • 1 Stars
    2
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    886
  • 4 Stars
    260
  • 3 Stars
    48
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 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

Jesu this is good!

Can't recommend this brilliant third installment enough. The plot, characters and narration are quite superb. The interweaving of a thriller - mystery with historical events is incredibly rewarding. I can't get enough Shardlake. Thank you, Mr Sansom!

6 people found this helpful

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

Absolutely superb!

Book 3 of the Shardlake chronicles, and in my opinion the best so far. Fantastic plots and sub plots intermingled with historical accuracies takes the listener on a fascinating and truly gripping adventure. Great narration only adds to the enjoyment. Bring on book 4.

5 people found this helpful

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

Conspiracy theories…

When King Henry VIII is progressing to York with his young wife Catherine Howard, Archbishop Cranmer appoints Matthew Shardlake to go there to assist in dealing with the petitions the locals will be making to the King. But Cranmer has another task for Shardlake while he’s there. Sir Edward Broderick is imprisoned in York, suspected of taking part in a conspiracy against the King, and Cranmer wants him brought safely back to London so he can be questioned by the Tower’s skilled torturers. Shardlake is reluctant – the idea of torture appals him – but when Cranmer gives an order it’s unwise to disobey. So accompanied by his assistant, Jack Barak, Shardlake goes. And it’s not long before he witnesses a man dying, perhaps by accident, but perhaps by murder. Soon Shardlake is sucked into a plot involving politics, the murky past of the Royal line, and the future of the Realm. And he’s in danger...

I loved reading this series and now I’m enjoying them just as much again as audiobooks. Steven Crossley does a great job again – his Shardlake is now how I imagine him sounding, and I’ve grown used to his Barak, though he sounds a bit older and gruffer than he did in my mind while reading. In this one there are lots of Yorkshire characters, and Crossley does them just as well. As always, there’s a huge cast, but he gives each one a distinct voice and manner of speaking, which I find a great help in remembering who is who when listening rather than reading. First rate narrations – a real pleasure to listen to.

Shardlake is now thoroughly disillusioned with Reform, having seen that the new regime seems just as cruel and unfair as life ever was when England was part of the Roman Catholic church. His faith has been shaken to the point where he’s not sure if he still believes in God at all, and he, like most of his countrymen, now sees Henry as a tyrant to be feared rather than a monarch to be loved. So his feelings about the prisoner are ambivalent – he doesn’t support the conspirators, but he understands their hatred of the King.

Meanwhile, Barak’s attraction to one of Queen Catherine’s servants means he and Shardlake are around the Queen’s retinue quite often, seeing things that Matthew finds deeply worrying. The young Queen is behaving foolishly, and that is a dangerous thing for a Queen of Henry’s to do. And a third strand is that Shardlake befriends an old lawyer who has had a falling out with his only remaining relative, and wishes to make up with him before he dies, which his physician has told him will be soon. Shardlake agrees to take the old man back to London with him and help him find his nephew.

As always with these books, it is long and slow, going deep into the way people lived in Henry’s England – both those at the top and those in the ranks below. The secret at the heart of the book, the one which causes all the trouble and puts Shardlake in danger, is based on a real rumour current at the time, muddied by a real prophecy which many believed (even though it was originally fictional). I won’t go into it any more deeply than that since that would take me into spoiler territory, but it gives the book a feeling of authenticity, which is what I always like about this series. Sansom, a historian himself, never produces a plot that feels anachronistic or as if it couldn’t have happened. And the blend between the historical characters and the fictional ones is so seamless I often have to check who really existed and who didn’t. That’s the one downside of the audiobooks – they don’t include the explanation Sansom usually gives as an end note, clarifying what is real and what he’s invented.

An excellent book, which again deepens our knowledge of Shardlake and our respect for him, and in this one we get to know Barak better and meet Tamasin, who will become a major character in the series as it goes on. It could be argued that the books get too long and could do with an edit, and I’d usually be arguing that myself, but I love the way Sansom shows us all sorts of stuff along the way that may not move the plot along, but builds up a full and fascinating picture of the time. In this case, the King’s progress takes centre stage and we learn all about the massive organisation that went into it – not as an info dump, but naturally, as Shardlake himself learns about it. And we are given a gruesome glimpse into some of the torture methods Henry’s henchmen employed – it’ll be a while before I make another dental appointment, for sure.

Great stuff – highly recommended, both book and audiobook.

3 people found this helpful

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

Fantastic

Loved this book from start to finish! Fantastic narration and unexpected twists at every turn.

2 people found this helpful

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

Complicated and predictable but still enjoyable

The setting for this mystery is a change from the previous novels, with the narrative shifting from one place to another. As such, the tale became monotonous in places as there was little development in the mystery. However, both characters Shardlake and Barrack had much more development to their characters and leaves the reader / listener considering the moral dilemmas they both face along the way.

2 people found this helpful

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

Excellent

Steven Crossely does a great job. I like the way he doesn't put on a whiney, high pitched voice when he voices women. He really is Matthew Shardlake!

1 person found this helpful

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

More meandering story than the first two

If you could sum up Sovereign in three words, what would they be?

Enjoyable but the story is the setting rather than the mystery for me on this one. It lacks the bite of his first two in the series, which seemed to have more of a purpose. I like this period of history and I suspect CJ has done his research well, so he colours an aspect I don't get from history books.

Any additional comments?

If you can contact the writer, please tell him to stop using the words 'interrogatively' and 'sardonically'. He overuses these and several other words, and I now wince every time I hear them.

3 people found this helpful

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

Excellent as always

Loved it and sorry it ended. Another great story and very well narrated. Thank you

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

Reliable narrator

Ginnel is pronounced with a G as in God not as in Gin! I love this series, it feels like you’re walking amongst the people of the time.

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

Gripping

I love these stories. So well narrated. The descriptive makes it so real and exciting.