This is a guest post by Ryan Webster. He has a blog focusing on Military History, you can check it out here. He’s been reading a wide variety of fiction lately and has very kindly agreed to write up some reviews for you lovely people.
Dominion by CJ Sansom, Macmillan, 608pp
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I have been familiar with CJ Sansom’s Shardlake series for some time now, so I was surprised at the direction this novel took. It’s essentially an alternative history spy thriller which is set in Nazi controlled London in the 1950s.
The Second World War did not happen as we know it, and portrays how events might have unfolded if the Third Reich was appeased. The book starts in 1940, with Neville Chamberlain acknowledging his position as Prime Minister is untenable, and a choice has to be made as to who will replace him. The popular candidates are Winston Churchill, a firm believer in Empire and the opposition of Nazi aggression, and the appeaser Lord Halifax. In this story, Churchill grudgingly agrees to work under Halifax in the new cabinet. Fast forward 10 years, and Britain is under an authoritarian government lead by newspaper magnate and Nazi sympathiser Lord Beaverbrook, and Churchill is forced underground as the leader of the Resistance. The Jews are beginning to be deported, there is violence on the streets and there are no elections.
Okay so I must begin with a confession. I started the month reading Jessica Cornwall’s The Serpent Papers. I read the first half but really struggled to get into it. I found the prose difficult to follow and there was a heavy focus on alchemy, without much explanation. The blurb was brilliant, and really made me want to read it. But in reality, I wasn’t enjoying it and life is too short to plod on reading books you don’t enjoy! So, I gave my copy to my boyfriend’s boss and got started on CJ Sansom’s epic sequel to Dissolution.
There is always a worry with sequels that the story will be less enticing, new characters less likeable and that plot lines might be more predictable now you know the protagonist better. None of these apply to the brilliant Shardlake series. Continue reading “Dark Fire by CJ Sansom – A Review”→
Wow. C J Sansom’s first novel in his Shardlake series is excellent. A murder mystery set in the turbulent years after Anne Boleyn’s execution and when the dissolution of corrupt monastic houses was underway, Sansom depicts a vivid world with larger than life characters.
Matthew Shardlake is a lawyer and a reformist and as such, trusted by Thomas Cromwell. Having orchestrated the fall of Henry VIII’s second and most controversial queen Cromwell had turned to rooting out papists and ensuring all holy houses swore an oath of loyalty to the king’s supremacy over their church. The murder of one of his commissioners in a monastery in Kent could draw unwanted attention and suspicion over the desired submission of the house. Enter Shardlake. In Cromwell’s favour and eager to prove his loyalty to the Vicar-General, Shardlake is dispatched along with his ward Mark Poer to seek the truth of the commissioner’s murder quickly and efficiently. However, as soon as he arrives it is clear the monastery at Scarnsea holds many secrets and lies.
Like any good murder mystery everyone is under suspicion and many clues point to different culprits. As the days pass more scandalous events occur that keep you guessing at what exactly had happened. I gasped so many times while reading and i was desperate to learn who the murderer was. The protagonist was endearing and likeable, Sansom certainly created an unforgettable narrator. He cleverly intertwines factual events with current historical theories into his fictional plot with ease. The writing was a joy to read and the expert descriptions plunge readers into the tumultuous sixteenth century.
I recommend this for anyone who enjoys historical fiction and whodunnit murder mysteries. It is not quite as fast paced as perhaps more stereotypical plots in the genre but it fits with the Shardlake’s character and the period in which it is set.
Devoured this in two sittings and cannot wait to go and buy the second in the series, Dark Fire!
I hope you all entered 2015 happy and with resolutions aplenty. I know it seems a bit cheesy nowadays to make resolutions, after all, why should we change? We’re already brilliant. Yet I think it’s quite nice to start on a blank page and set achievable challenges for the year ahead. I won’t bore you with all of mine but let’s just say they involve writing more, reading more and experiencing more. I’m sorry it’s been a while since my last post but my excuses lay in 2014 and as it is a new year, I shall focus on my main quest: a new reading challenge.