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Dark Fire - C.J. Sansom
Member Name: whiskmite
Dark Fire - C.J. Sansom
Advantages: Great book
This is the second book written by C J Sansom about the adventures of lawyer Matthew Shardlake during the reign of Henry VIII.
I have reviewed the first book, Dissolution, and in that review I mentioned how 'hit and miss' historical fiction can be. Dissolution, in my opinion, is an excellent example of great historical fiction - you can almost see the sights and smell the smells of Tudor London (although sometimes, particularly in this book, I'm VERY glad you can't). I was nervous that Dissolution would have raised the bar too high, and that I would be let down by book two, but I really needn't have worried.
The book starts assuming you have read Dissolution, and to be honest although I don't feel you would NEED to have read Dissolution to enjoy Dark Fire, I can't see why you wouldn't want to and think that you would get much more out of it if you did. You would certainly be able to empathise with Matthew Shardlake's change of heart in the matter of religious reform and his ambivalent attitude towards Thomas Cromwell, who is a very grey character indeed in this book.
In Dark Fire, Cromwell uses a case Shardlake is defending - that of a young girl accused of murdering her cousin, by granting the girl a couple of weeks grace before she is 'pressed - to get him back on the investigative trail. This time Cromwell is after the secret of Greek Fire...
In my opinion one of the best aspects of this book is the introduction of Jack Barak, one of Cromwell's men who swiftly becomes Shardlake's new assistant, replacing Mark Poer. As far as I'm concerned, the replacement is a good one. Mark was fairly one dimensional as a character, but Jack has the element of danger, and is a man of the streets. Shardlake is likeable as ever, he retains his vulnerability and his desire for acceptance and romance is very touching (I think).
This book is darker than Dissolution, I think, due to the gruesome case Shardlake is defending (I'm not ashamed to admit that this case quite upset me!) and due to Shardlake's own personal doubts. This is not a bad thing, and Jack Barak's introduction somehow lightens this 'darkness'.
All in all this book is another great read.
Summary: Great historical fiction!