Amy Reads Books

Dark Fire (Matthew Shardlake 2)

Dark Fire  - C.J. Sansom No spoilers for DissolutionI enjoyed Dissolution, the first of CJ Sansom’s novels to feature Tudor lawyer-come-detective Matthew Shardlake, to my own surprise due to my relative dislike of learning about the Reformation at school. So I was really looking forward to reading the follow up; unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it as much as its predecessor.On the plus side, Shardlake is still a compelling character, with a really interesting narrative voice. Plus, he moans a little bit less about being a hunchback in this instalment which is a major improvement. Sansom is also really great at bringing to life Tudor London; the way he describes the packed streets, the mix of poverty and wealth and all of the different characters of people that mingle with each other. I also really liked having the return of Guy from the monastary at the centre of Dissolution, he also remains a really interesting character. The introduction of a new assistant for Shardlake, in the form of Cromwell-appointed Jack Barak is also interesting. We don’t really learn that much about him in this novel, but I’m hoping Sovereign will perhaps gives us more of an insight into his personality. Sansom also really gives a more ‘from the people’ view of history; reflecting the confusion over continuous religious changes that dominated Henry VIII’s reign, and the way that the continually changing factional politics in Henry’s court impacted people’s day to day lives.However, to me there was something a little off about the actual central mysteries in the book. Neither were overly compelling; and the pacing felt a little strange. Considering the entire novel was supposed to take place in just twelve days, it seemed to amble along. Plus, I felt that this time Sansom may have included some historical characters a little too much, although this probably isn’t a problem for people that are only just being introduced to the Tudor world, for me it felt a little hard to believe. Another thing that I had a little problem with was that, like Dissolution, the whole mystery was solved by a sudden revelation on the part of Shardlake, which was a little far-fetched to me.All that being said, I am looking forward to reading Sovereign, if only because this time the action appears to be set outside of London and it’ll be interesting to see Sansom’s descriptions at work there.