Genre : Fiction
Published : 1 Nov 2006 - Macmillan
It’s 1541, and a year has passed since the beheading of Thomas Cromwell. Matthew Shardlake had been pulled unwillingly by Cromwell into two mortally dangerous plots (DISSOLUTION and DARK FIRE), but any hopes he now has that those days are behind him are dashed when he is summoned to meet Archbishop Cranmer, now King Henry VIII’s right hand man.

Cranmer wants Shardlake to take care of a few routine matters in York, towards which place the King is approaching with five thousand horses, one thousand wagons, one thousand soldiers, and all their retinue – the largest Royal progress of Tudor times – to terrify the recently-rebellious northerners. Shardlake and his companion Barak have barely arrived at York before they are caught up in a bloody and brutal murder…


Don't open this book if you have anything urgent pending. Its grip is so compulsive that, until you reach its final page, you'll have to be almost physically prised away from it.... Exceptionally gifted at re-creating the look, sound and smell of the period, Sansom also excells at recreating its moral and intellectual climate. Collisons of ideology and collusions of religion and politics fascinate him. WINTER IN MADRID, his fictional foray into civil war Spain, further testified to this. But it's in his Tudor novels - of which SOVEREIGN is so intensely imagined an example - that his remarkable talents really blaze out.

Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

[SOVEREIGN] is deeper, stronger and subtler than most novels in this genre (including Umberto Eco's THE NAME OF THE ROSE). The series is becoming an annual treat which admirers of David Starkey's Tudor biographies will value: they would, incidentally, teach most secondary school history students more than a plethora of National Curriculum textbooks. The vigorous, well-drawn characters and their flawed moral intelligence are especially enjoyable, and a reminder of much that is lacking in current literary fiction... As political greed continues to torment the innocent under the guise of religion, this gripping and engaging series seems ominously prescient about the present, as well as genuinely enlightening about the past.

Amanda Craig, Independent on Sunday

Sansom is excellent on contemporary horrors. This is no herbs-and-frocks version of Tudor England, but a remorseless portrait of a violent, partly lawless country....The terrifying business of encountering the king is brilliantly done: the mounting tension, the abasement. Sansom's incorporation of details of the royal progress is a model of how historical fiction can meld recorded fact with the imagined perspective of the contemporary individual, recreating the moment... You can lose yourself in this world.

The Independent

When historical fiction clicks, there's nothing more gripping. Almost 600 pages long, C.J. Sansom's fantastic SOVEREIGN left me positively baying for more. It's that good... Rebellion, plots, torture, fanaticism, a murder mystery and real historical scandal come alive in this deeply satisfying novel

USA Today

This is a compelling read, vividly capturing the atmosphere of constant fear, as religious fervour and political ambition are expressed in cruelty and corruption

Sunday Telegraph

Sansom's hero wins our respect and attention because, in an age where to pursue justice was to be half in love with painful death, he retains integrity, obstinacy and curiosity. This is an atmospheric thriller where velvet and silk hide putrescence, and beyond the grandeur of a Court lies a world where people rot alive or choke in deep mud. Sansom does a nice line in irony and savage humour, as well as the simple affections which keep people going in nightmarish times.

Time Out

A wonderful story, a taut plot, and enticing period description. I promise you that once you’ve found Sansom, you won’t want to let him go

James Naughtie

Heart-pounding suspense and stomach-tightening tension... a superb approximation of the crucible of fear, treachery and mistrust that was Tudor England, and a memorably blood-swollen portrait of the ogreish Henry's inhumane kingship.

Trevor Lewis, Sunday Times “pick of the week”

This series just gets better and better...wonderful...

Rodney Troubridge, The Bookseller

...a brilliant evocation of tyranny in Tudor England.

Literary Review excellent historical novel and a compelling mystery... Superb!

Cathy Waterhouse, Books Quarterly

Not only a great detective novel but also a fabulous insight into the historical happenings of the Tudor period, this book is an absorbing read.

Tesco Magazine

A dazzling conspiracy theory novel of the Tudor ages."<br />

Nottingham Evening Post

A fine setting for crime fiction and CJ Sansom exploits it superbly... Never mind the crime: this is a terrific novel...

Peter Green, TLS

SOVEREIGN, following DISSOLUTION and DARK FIRE, is the best so far... Sansom has the perfect mixture of novelistic passion and historical detail.

Antonia Fraser, Sunday Telegraph (Books of the Year)

I was enthralled by SOVEREIGN...

P.D. James, Sunday Telegraph (Books of the Year)

Both marvellously exciting to read and a totally convincing evocation of England in the reign of Henry VIII.

Spectator (Books of the Year)

Sansom has a real knack for bringing in the sights, sounds and smells of Tudor times to life and his evocation of a time when your fate could be decided on a whim and England was ruled by a bloated monster make you very glad indeed that, fascinating as it is, you’ll never have to witness Shardlake’s world first-hand.

Northern Echo


Daily Express

Sansom brings the colours, sights and sounds of Tudor England brilliantly into the imagination in this gripping historical novel.

Choice Magazine

Evokes the sounds, smells, sights and mentality of the period with remarkable immediacy...

Times (audio edition)

Historical crime fiction at its best.

Sainsbury’s Magazine

Superbly told and redolent with the corruption and fears of the time.

Dorset Echo

The skill with which CJ Sansom is able to conjure up the sights, smells and sounds of Tudor England is unrivalled... Sansom’s background detail is meticulously researched and it shows, but the reward for the reader of that it is meshed into an addictive tale of murder and intrigue which will leave the reader guessing until the end. SOVEREIGN is without a doubt the best book I’ve read so far this year. In fact, it’s a real treasure.

Birmingham Post

‘An excellent murder mystery... A wonderfully atmospheric novel...well worth reading.’ --

The Press, York

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