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Revelation - C.J. Sansom

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Author: C. J. Sansom / Genre: Crime / Thriller

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      11.02.2014 19:12
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      A fantastic read in a brilliant series.

      After thoroughly enjoying Sovereign, it was straight on to Shardlake number four.

      ***REVELATION***
      All the poor guy wants is a quiet life. But it just ain't gonna happen. Just when you think it's safe to go to a dinner party, hang out with your pals, and generally think you've got things how you want them, someone goes and bumps someone off.

      Matthew Shardlake is a character created by C J Sansom. During the reign of Henry VIII, Shardlake is fundamentally a lawyer. However, more than once he has become an inadvertent detective, or tool of the political powers that be.

      He's hoping that's all in the past though, and we see him some time after his last brush with murderers, politicians and kings. He's getting on with his job, he has a new case which presents a puzzling case of religious obsession. Barak still assists him, and if anything it is Barak and his wife, who we met in the previous novel who are giving him the most cause for concern.

      Then a brutal killer strikes close to home; Shardlake can't help but get involved in the pursuit of the killer. But what he thought was a random, if unfathomably violent, murder quickly becomes something far darker; Shardlake again finds himself working for Archbishop Cranmer. This murder is not the first of its kind, and at a time of great religious unrest and with an ailing King Henry pursuing his sixth wife not long after having the last one's head removed for certain indiscretions, the country's situation is volatile. Now is not the time to have a serial killer running around London, and certainly not one of the motivation that Shardlake figures out. The matter must be solved and until then it must be kept quiet - or more people could lose their lives than the victims of an apparently highly intelligent and massively violent killer.

      ***ANY GOOD?***
      Well in my opinion the Shardlake books up to now had been getting better and better with each title. And this is also superb, carrying on that trend in my opinion - but it is also quite different to the earlier books. Now I, as someone who loves Messiah, Midsomer Murders, Se7en and Silence of the Lambs right through to A Touch Of Cloth, love a good murder (fictionally speaking!). And of course previous Shardlakes contained plenty of people bumping off other people. But this is a proper, full-on, gory and violent serial killer mystery. Brilliant.

      That's my opinion. Others may think differently. Perhaps others read previous Shardlakes because of their historical context and because of their murders being less graphic than modern media equivalents as a result. If so, you might not quite have the same fondness of this fourth Shardlake outing.

      I personally loved it. The tone and characters of Shardlakes past is still there but now he is up against a terrifying serial killer whose motivations are so contentious that wide knowledge of his actions could have far more dangerous repercussions - a man who is so capable and calculating that he seems impossible to find.

      Along side this story runs the human element of both Shardlake and his assistant, Barak, and his young wife. As always, the characters are solid, believable and capable of inspiring empathy in the reader. The supporting cast, if you like, are all well crafted, and the imagination in the writing and the attention to detail mean that the reader enjoys almost feeling as if they were in the scene, looking on.

      And yes, yet again I couldn't put this down. I remember bemoaning the fact that I had a million things to do and none of them were going to get done until I had finished this one - and it's a pretty hefty book. But it is definitely one for me to reread one day - for me, with a leaning towards these tales of dark, gothic and sinister murderers, the combination is perfect. Indeed, there are very strong likenesses to Se7en throughout this book; which might illustrate why it is a question whether it will be for everyone is a different matter; my mother has also read this and she wasn't as keen on it as she was on previous books (worryingly, she also insists that the one I have yet to read, Heartstone, is by far the best of the lot - so that'll be another four days of my life written off, then!). But for anyone who enjoys this type of tale, as well as historical-based stories, you can't go wrong with this. Not only do you have a brilliantly crafted story on that front, but you also have the more sensitive personal experience and emotions of Shardlake and those he holds dear. C J Sansom has done it again, and it's an absolutely brilliant read.

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        12.01.2012 13:37

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        A fab historical murder mystery that kept me up late at night!

        Matthew Shardlake is a hunchbacked lawyer, who is a member of Lincolns Inn in London. He lives during the reign of Henry VIII and C.J. Sansom has managed to create a series of books that follow the trials and tribulations of Shardlake and the renowned King. Not that Shardlake has any direct contact with the King (other than a quick bow in a previous book). I really enjoyed this offering, I'm not going to spoil the story for you, because what's the point of reading the book if you know what is going to happen. But the basic story follows a series of gruesome murders, whcih begins with one of Shardlake's fellow lawyers and closest friends. He is heartbroken by this and decides to promise his murdered friend's widow that he will find out who the murderer is. Quickly he becomes involved with members of the King's court, who are eager to solve what appears to be a series of murders that have a dark biblical twist. In some respects the story is very like the modern film Seven, although I preferred reading this than watching a film. This book sees the return of many well known characters from the Shardlake series, including Guy Malton a black Spanish apothecary/doctor, Barack, Shardlake's clerk and Barack's wife.

        What I like about these books is that they recreate the sights and smells of Tudor London that you do actually feel like you are there with the characters. Although I don't think this is the best Shardlake book, it is still a very good book, that I would recommend reading.

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        04.05.2010 16:18
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        An excellent addition to the Shardlake series

        Revelation is the fourth novel in the Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom. The novels follow Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer in London during Henry VIII's reign.

        Matthew Shardlake yearns for a quiet life - not surprising given the climate of fear and paranoia during those times. However, he invariably ends up involved in political affairs close to the royal court, despite his determination not to. Revelation takes place while the king is courting Katherine Parr, the last of his six wives. Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak find themselves caught up in the investigation of some brutal murders, which are kept secret from the king by Archbishop Cranmer.

        Having read the previous three novels, I found it easy to immerse myself in the Tudor world. As far as I can tell, Sansom's descriptions of sixteenth century London are accurate - he is a historian. His writing is very thorough, and every small detail is clearly described, but not in an obvious way. He writes as though this setting is the present day, there is no sense that he is pointing out how different life was in Tudor times, yet it is not an alien world thanks to Sansom's clear style.

        Knowledge of the Tudor period is definately not necessary to read and enjoy Revelation and the previous novels. I have read a reasonable amount about this time and Henry VIII, but I was inspired to do so by the third novel, Sovereign, so Revelation was the first of the novels I read with any historical knowledge.

        The story of Revelation is gripping, as with the previous novels. It doesn't take long for events to start unfolding, and very quickly I was glued to the pages, waiting to find out what horrors would happen next. The novel is fairly graphic in its descriptions of the murders, but not so much that it should be avoided if you don't like gore.

        Revelation is more like the first two novels, Dissolution and Dark Fire, than Sovereign, in where it places the story in the Tudor setting. Sovereign was set very close to the king and court, directly involved with Henry VIII, but Revelation returns to the setting outside the court. The presence of the king is felt, but he is not part of the story. As with Dissolution and Dark Fire, other key historical figures are closely involved in the story - Cranmer being only one.

        The character of Shardlake is well written as ever. At times I felt pity for him, but this was rare. Shardlake is a hunchback, not a condition Tudor England was very understanding of. He is regularly mocked, and suffers a lot of pain. However, he is a strong man, and so any flickers of pity were soon driven away as it becomes clear he doesn't need it.

        As this is one of a series, the characters obviously develop over the series and make reference to past events. However, the main story of each novel stands alone, so it is not necessary to have read the previous novels to enjoy Revelation. I would recommend they are read in order though: they are so good that they deserve it, and I think the reader will enjoy them much more reading in series order.

        Revelation is yet another excellent novel from C.J. Sansom. If you've read the previous novels in the series, read this now! If not, go and get Dissolution and start at the beginning!


        Number 5, Heartstone, is out in September and sounds very exciting! Can't wait!

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          25.08.2009 18:34
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          Easy to read and a brilliant story

          I picked up 'Revelation' by C.J. Sansom while doing my weekly shopping in Tesco. I spent as couple of weeks eyeing this book up before actually purchasing it. I am a big fan of the murder mystery genre, of which this is included, but for some strange reason I kept faulting on buying it. When I finally did buy the book, I was very glad that I made the right decision. It is a great read!

          'Revelation' is part of the Shardlake series (for those who are not familiar, Matthew Shardlake is the main character in the series of books). I have to be honest and say that I have never read any of the other Shardlake books, so this was my first, but it has wetted my appetite.

          The Plot

          The story, and the whole of the Shardlake series, is set in the 16th Century. This particular story is set in spring 1543, before Henry VIII is set to marry Catherine Parr.

          Matthew Shardlake is a lawyer within Lincolns Inn in London and is about to undertake a case of a young boy who is suffering from a 'religious mania'. The young boy is forever praying that his sins will be forgiven and is constantly praying. Matthew takes on the case as the young boy has been sent to the Bedlam asylum and his parents are convinced that he will be burned at the stake for being classed as a heretic. It is Matthews's job to try and stop this happening.

          Matthew's closest friend is then horrifically murdered and Matthew promises his widow that he will find the murderer and bring them to justice. Matthew's journey to find the killer then takes him on a rollercoaster of a ride through which he finds that the murderer is a serial killer and is on a mission to prove his point.

          I don't want to go into too much of the plot as I will spoil it for you all!!

          My Opinion

          I have to say that I was not expecting too much from this book, but how wrong I was! I couldn't put the book down and it really got me hooked.

          The narrative of the book is fantastic. Matthew is the story teller and everything that happens is told from his point of view. The beauty of this is that Sansom has written it so that Matthew tells you in an objective way and you make your mind up throughout the book.

          There are two other characters that need a mention and they are Jack Barak and Guy Malton. Barak is Matthew's clerk and Malton is Matthew's physician and friend. Both of these characters join Matthew on the search for the killer, but there own personal stories are described in the book. Barak's relationship with his wife and Malton's relationship with his apprentice. Throughout the book their own personal life and relationships are exposed along with Matthew's relationship with Dorothy, the widow of his murdered friend.

          It is a lengthy book at 624 pages, but is such an addictive read that you don't even realise that it is lengthy!! Sansom has written the book so smoothly that you just glide through the pages at ease!

          If you love your murder mystery and suspense then this is definitely the read for you!

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            07.06.2009 21:23
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            A masterful murder mystery based in Tudor Times

            It is rare that I find a book as captivating as this. Having completed it at 2am this morning I have given it a good few hours for it to really sink in before I consider its true merits but fundamentally it's a great story.

            A murder mystery thriller set in the later part of Henry VIII reign with strikingly good attention to historical detail the reader is transported to the era. C J Sansom, the author has completed a PHD in history before training as a solicitor and the two seemingly contrasting career choices merge in his writing brilliantly in a clever and tantalising read that educates as much as it mesmerises.

            Master Shardlake is the main character, a lawyer at Lincolns Inn and a hunchback. I have not read the other novels in this series (but I will be doing now) but Shardlake was almost instantly likeable and within the first two chapters his disability and attitude to life drew me in, not to the extent that I pitied him but enough to care about his next exploits.
            When his best friend is brutally killed it sets Shardlake on a trail for the killer which in turn carries you through several more gory, dramatic and chilling murder scenes. Assisted by his troubled sidekick Barack the mystery they discover is one filled with evil, unanswered questions and tension. The reader is swept along with the novel which in reality takes place over only a matter of weeks but you too begin to struggle with the enormity of the task that faces them.

            For me the historical setting helped make this novel. I found it truly fascinating and it set it apart from the modern day thrillers I read. The cast of characters is extensive and all strong from the fleeting meeting you have with Roger down to Guy, Shardlake's physician. Sansom never shies away from introducing new characters. As the reader only sees through the eyes of Shardlake the author builds the reader's perception of each character solely through their interactions with Shardlake and his descriptions of them, often brief but comprehensive.

            Madness is examined quite extensively in the book, the madness that underlines evil to the madness that is created and cured in the everyday world. Shardlakes legal relationship with Adam Kite portrays the view that was taken in Tudor times of people with 'abnormality' of mind and at times Shardlakes observations are as relevant now as they were then. When faced with multiple and horrific murders you find the men in the story questioning how such evil can come about, with many assuming it is the devil but Shardlake himself being forced to confront the fact that maybe some people are just bad people.

            Religion plays a huge part of this novel, driving the killer and being the backdrop for changing times during the Tudor era and although I didn't always grasp a lot of the historical references to radicals and reformers it made it no less enjoyable and clearly demonstrated a country in turmoil. The heavy focus on the bible and the Book of Revalation is a linking theme throughout the book but Shardlake's lack of commitment to what he beliefs made sure I wasn't alienated as a reader.

            Despite the horrors that the book examines love is evident throughout in various forms. Shardlake's unrequited love for Dorothy and the difficult feelings that invokes for him, Baracks fading relationship with his wife Tasamin and Guy's relationship with his apprentice Piers holds sometimes sinister undertones. The enduring message is not that love conquers all but that all relationships requires work and compatibility

            I will reveal no more other than to urge you all to get a copy. The ending is as unpredictable as the killer's next move so it really does keep you guessing until the end.

            £3.99 on Amazon and for other 500 pages is well worth the money.

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              28.05.2009 16:43
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              A hunchbacked lawyer searching for a serial killer in Tudor England

              "Revelation" is the fourth book in the Matthew Shardlake series by C. J Sansom. The Shardlake series is set in 16th century England in the reign of Henry VIII and follows the adventures of Matthew Shardlake, a hunchback lawyer.

              So far there are four books in the Shardlake series, "Dissolution", "Dark Fire", "Sovereign" and "Revelation". Shardlake works on commissions from Thomas Cromwell in the first two books and then for Thomas Cranmer in the following two. This change of masters shows some of the precarious political and religious situation at the time.

              As Henry VIII aged he began to move away from religious reform and back towards a kind of Catholicism without the Pope. The reformers and radicals of both the court and the populace were engaged in a furious struggle with the more conservative parties who were happy to see the King moving back towards a type of Catholicism.

              Each side of the argument accused heretics and many were burned at the stake and/or persecuted for their religious beliefs.

              In this book, Shardlake becomes involved with Cranmer again when one of his old friends is found murdered and he swears to track down the killer. However the death is covered up by the court as there are political implications and previous similar killings. Shardlake is also working on a case involving a young man who is suffering from a religious mania and has been accused of heresy.

              Meanwhile Henry VIII is courting Catherine Parr after her husband's death and Bishop Bonner of London is searching for heretics amongst the radical Protestants of London (and trying to implicate Cranmer at the same time). Society is shaky and the people have no idea what is going to change next. It has barely been a year since the execution of Catherine Howard, Henry's fifth wife.

              As this is the fourth book in the Shardlake series, many readers will be familiar with the principal characters - Matthew Shardlake, Jack Barak and Guy Malton.

              Shardlake is a very humane and principled lawyer who happens to have a hunchback. Many of the people he deals with look down on him and insult him because of his infirmity. Indeed, even the King made a mockery of him in "Sovereign", the third book in the series. Shardlake's insecurity and loneliness are running themes throughout the series and this is brought up again in "Revelation" through his feelings for his dead friend's widow.
              Matthew is a very sympathetic character and as his thoughts and feelings are quite liberal, he is easy to like and agree with. He is also suffering a crisis of faith after the things he has seen and the changing nature of society.

              Jack Barak is Shardlake's assistant and used to work for Cromwell as a spy under his regime. Barak was at first forced on Shardlake to keep an eye on him but they have become friends throughout the series. His father was Jewish, which he is very sensitive about as Jews were not well regarded.
              Barak is quite an arrogant character but has a soft side to him. In "Revelation" we see his marriage going through a rocky patch due to his baby being born dead. Jack is very stubborn and drives his young wife away with his refusal to talk to her.

              Guy Malton is a doctor and a good friend of Matthew's. He is an ex-monk who found himself with nothing after the dissolution of the monasteries. He is also somewhat of a fellow social outcast as he is a black man in medieval England. Guy has enlightened ideas about medicine and is often consulted by Matthew on cases.

              Shardlake likes to collect waifs and strays, as he says himself in the book. He often helps orphan children by finding them jobs or taking them in to work in his own household. Although this may not be very realistic it makes him a very appealing character in the brutal Tudor setting.

              The hunt for a serial killer is perplexing for the men on this case, as the concept of a serial killer is not one they are familiar with. The assistant coroner who works with Shardlake on the case is a reformer who is convinced that the man must be possessed to do the things he does.

              I enjoyed this book a lot and found that Sansom is very good at involving you in the character's lives - you care what happens to them. I also didn't work out who the killer was, which is quite unusual as I can normally figure the plot out in these types of books.

              I also found that I enjoyed the historical detail as it's not too heavy and the story is never bogged down by unimportant details. There is a sense of immediacy in the book which keeps you interested as a reader.

              This was an engaging read and I would definitely recommend it. You can read it as a stand alone novel but it is easier if you read the series from the beginning. I started the series from book number three, then read two and then read four - I still haven't read the first book in the series. So, take it from me, it's easier to read them in order!

              According to Wikipedia the BBC have commissioned an adaptation of "Dissolution" with Kenneth Branagh as Shardlake, with the other books expected to follow. I really need to read "Dissolution"!

              You can find "Revelation" on Amazon from £3.68 new and even cheaper used.

              This review is also posted on ciao.co.uk

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                11.01.2009 22:20

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                another great addition to an awesome series

                Loving both history and crime fiction this series ticked all the the right boxes for me after coming across it whilst browsing the book shop- drawn especially by the titles which allways have a bearing on the plot of the book.

                The series basically follows the trials and tribulations of the hunchback lawyer Matthew Shardlake who, despite reservations, manages to allways end up working for the dangerous world of the Elizabethan court- this time looking for a serial killer who is a religious fanatic and there is a race against time to stop more murders happening.

                Revalation did not dissapoint, and for once I could not work out who the killer is, and you will be kicking yourself at the end when all is revealed. Each chapter leaves you wanting more and as a result you will easily get through the 500 or so pages without even realising it.

                Knowledge of the period is not realy needed as everything is explained but not in the dull history text book kind of way, but in the way that makes you realy feel that you are walking the streets of Henrican London

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                26.09.2008 13:44
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                A wonderful addition to the Shardlake series.

                I have just put down the best novel I have read in a long time. I have read other books in the Shardlake series, but I consider Revelation to be the best C. J. Sansom novel by far.

                Matthew Shardlake is a lawyer in the times of Henry VIII and longs for a quiet life away from court. The problem is that troublesome cases seem to follow Master Shardlake and with each novel he has become ever more closely embroiled with the fearsome King Henry, which is highly dangerous in the turbulent Tudor setting of this story.

                When Shardlakes good friend, a fellow lawyer called Roger, is found murdered with his throat cut he wants to know who wanted him dead and why in such a gruesome manner. After arguing with the Kings Coroner at Rogers inquest, Shardlake finds himself part of a taskforce to catch the person who killed not only his friend but others around London. Englands very first serial killer if you like.

                The King is to be kept in the dark about the murders for fear it may jeopardise his much hoped for union with the recently widowed Catherine Parr. These are frightening times, after breaking loose of Rome in order to marry Anne Boleyn, King Henry is turning more and more back to the old church ways. This is leaving followers of the new religion, modern day Church Of England, hiding in dingy little churches for fear of being persecuted and dragged to the Tower. Heresy was one of the worst crimes to be accused of and the punishment so appalling that even the most devout religious 'radicals' are hiding their religious beliefs.

                Frightening times indeed, so when Shardlake uncovers a possible biblical reason for these murders the men at the centre of the taskforce are definitely worried as it looks more and more like people with radical sympathies, like themselves, are being targeted. And with each murder it gets harder to keep it from the King, a King who famously does not like things to be kept from him.

                I found Revelation to be a gripping and interesting tale throughout. As well as the main plot of the murders there are several mini stories going through the book to hold your interest and although they don't all wrap up tidily together at the end, they all come to their own natural conclusions such as the insane boy Shardlake is representing. He is being held in the Bedlam Asylum, an awful place with careless and cruel wardens who are tormenting the boy when he really needs care and help.

                Shardlake is an extremely compassionate man, as a lawyer in Tudor times he was supposed to be aloof and uncaring of the poor and afflicted but he is so much deeper than the other lawyers and has an uncommon empathy with people lower in the pecking order than himself. I think he is a fantastic character who draws me easily into the story with his first person narration, he tells the stories with the minimum of fuss but Master Shardlake has a flair to his descriptions which made me feel almost as if I were there with him.

                Barak, Shardlakes assistant, is another good character who I think was underused in Revelation. He is a 'common man' who used to work alongside Shardlake for Cromwell, when their employer was tried and executed Shardlake saw the good in Barak and hired him to train and work as a lawyers assistant. In previous novels Barak has been an integral part of the story because of both his brawn and also his connections among the lower classes at court and his ability to get information from any of the local pubs or bawdy houses. This time though the story is very much centred around Matthew Shardlake and although Barak is always there he doesn't have very much to do with the unfolding drama, so much so that the author has constructed a small thread through the story of Baraks relationship with his wife, Tamasin, falling apart just to give Barak something to do!

                Because this is based on a real time in history there are plenty of names that you will recognise. The taskforce itself is comprised of Archbishop Cranmer, Sir Thomas Seymour and Lord Hertford (Edward Seymour) while other lesser known Tudor courtiers make small cameo appearances in the story. I always think it's interesting to read a book based around real life people because I feel I can relate better to the storyline as, with Tudor characters in particular, I am knowledgeable enough about their times and personal lives to be able to immerse myself more fully in the novel.

                I liked all the characters in Revelation and thought they all worked really well together. There's a good mix of characters involved in the story of the killer and they all bring something special to the story whether it's upper class gentry in-fighting, workhouse banter or a much needed person who cares in the Bedlam Asylum. I particularly enjoyed reading Shardlakes interactions with his friend Guy Malton, a doctor who Shardlake often calls on in the novel to ask his opinion on the killers actions. The friendship works well because they are both professional men, but also because Shardlake is a hunchback and Dr Milton is black so they are both somewhat ostracised in an era when coloured folk were looked upon with curiosity and disabled people were tormented through other peoples ignorance.

                Master Shardlake and Dr Milton get along famously and can seemingly talk to one another about their problems and worries, but in Revelation Shardlake worries that Dr Milton is developing an inappropriate relationship with his apprentice, a nasty piece of work called Piers. It's clear that Shardlake is desperately worried about Dr Milton but he has so much on his mind that the situation with Piers escalates unnoticed, leaving Shardlake and Milton with a broken (but repairable) friendship.

                I love the descriptions the author writes in the book, it's sometimes so wonderfully described that I forget I'm reading a book based over 400 years ago and it's not until a reference to corsets, chaperones or leeching comes up that I realise this isn't a story set in the present day! This is down to the wonderful rapport C.J. Sansom has with his characters, and also to the tremendous knowledge he displays when describing the Tudor lifestyle. There is a quote on the front cover on Revelation from Colin Dexter where he says "Sansom writes about the past as if it were the living present" and this is absolutely correct.

                Sansom immerses himself in Shardlake and this comes across in the thoughts and words of his central character, it is almost like watching a film rather than reading a book because Shardlakes narration is so descriptive that you will be able to see the settings and people that feature in your minds eye. I would love to see a film made based on the Shardlake series so I could compare how well I have visualised the story compared to how a film studio would recreate it.

                I would certainly recommend Revelation to anyone who has an interest in the Tudor period, and also to someone who simply likes historical fiction. Who's to say how historically accurate the novel is? It's an exciting, interesting and a book I found myself reading long into the night as each chapter seems to end with a cliff hanger so a few nights running I read into the wee small hours because I was so desperate to find out who the killer is and why he was targeting all these different people as victims. The pace of writing makes it very easy to read because I found it was slow and sedate during Shardlakes everyday business, but it soon escalated into a fast paced read when anything exciting or violent was occurring. The climax to the story is superbly written and had me glued to the book while it unfolded.

                You can currently buy the hardback copy of Revelation from amazon.co.uk for £7.15 which I think is a bargain for such a wonderfully written and thoroughly enjoyable book.

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                  09.05.2008 16:44
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                  A return to form for the Tudor lawyer

                  When I heard that C J Sansom was planning a fourth in his Matthew Shardlake series, my initial reaction was somewhat mixed. Although I have enjoyed all the previous books (Dissolution, Dark Fire and Sovereign), I do feel they have got progressively weaker. Similarly, when I heard that the storyline was going to feature a religion obsessed serial killer, my concerns grew. The plotline seemed a little too modern, a little too anachronistic.

                  Thankfully, my fears proved ill-founded, as Sansom has once again turned in an excellent and gripping novel, which grabs the attention of the reader and keeps it, despite the book's mammoth 500 plus pages.

                  As with the previous Shardlake novels, the amount of research which has gone into this book is astounding and Sansom provides an incredibly realistic sense of what life in Tudor England must have been like. He builds up an incredibly realistic world which allows the reader to immerse themselves totally in the environment which he as (re)-created. It's the attention to the little details which makes the book so evocative and so readable. Sansom has effectively recreated a past society, and done so in a way which is far more interesting and readable than any amount of dry history books. If you know nothing about the period, you will learn an awful lot, without even realising it. If you do know about it, then you will appreciate the huge amount of research which Sansom has done.

                  Importantly, though, you never feel like you are being lectured, or that facts, figures and people are crammed into the book just for the sake of it. Everything is relevant to either the main plot, or to creating the atmosphere. Real characters, events and places are carefully woven into the plot and always seem plausible and realistic, not merely the tool of someone out to prove how well-read he is.

                  The one exception to this is towards the start of the book, where (in order to move things along and get the necessary background information established), Sansom is forced to put across a lot of historical information in a very short space. Similarly, a lot of characters are introduced rapidly, and if you don't already know who they are, you may initially struggle to keep up. This may put some people off, which is a shame. My advice: persevere, it's worth it.

                  My concerns about the anachronistic nature of the plot were also ill-founded. Sansom is very careful to make sure that the plot never seems far-fetched or out of context, and is perfectly suited to the atmosphere which he has created. It progresses at a pleasing pace, so you never feel as though the author is simply trying to drag things out, but at the same time, you get plenty of opportunity to work out the killer for yourself. The plot is intricate enough without ever being so complex that it makes your brain explode trying to work out what's going on. Whether you guess the identity of the murderer or not, once you've finished the book, it's pleasing to be able to think back over what you have read and see where Sansom laced the book with clues. This isn't one of those frustrating books where the murderer appears briefly in a crowd scene on page 124 and then isn't seen again until (s)he is unmasked.

                  The characters (both real and created) always act and speak in a realistic way. More importantly for long term readers of the series, they act in the same way that they always have - there are no sudden changes of character purely to suit the whims of the plot. Yet, despite this, the characters are not static. There are elements of the plot which bring them on in new ways, allowing them to express new sides of their personalities (both positive and negative) and their relations with other long-term characters change. If you've read the other books in the series, you really do come away with the feeling that this is a very different Shardlake, for example, to the one we first met in Dissolution. Again, this helps you feel like you are reading about real people and that those people will carry on living their lives even once you close the book.

                  Despite its mammoth size, Revelation rarely felt overlong. Sansom has a very readable style, building in lots of cliff hangers and suspense at the ends of chapters to make you want to keep reading. I ripped through the book in just a few days, because I was so anxious to find out how it all panned out. The book is instantly engaging and keeps your attention through most of its 500 page length.

                  I say "most" because there is a slightly superfluous sub-plot involving a young boy locked in a mental institute. This angle does slow the pace of the main plot down a little, involving, as it does, lots of trips to the mental hospital which sometimes artificially hold up developments elsewhere. Although this does have some slight bearing on the main plot, it's one which could easily have been engineered in another way, without the need to develop such an intricate sub-plot. The sub-plot is perfectly readable enough, but there are times when it does feel just a little bit drawn out and it never really engages interest as much as the central mystery.

                  Overall, though, this is a definite return to form for Sansom. After the slightly disappointing Sovereign, he's returned to the basic principles that made Dissolution and Dark Fire so successful. If I had to place this one in order of preference, I would say it's right up there at the top, just behind Dissolution, but ahead of both Sovereign and Dark Fire.

                  Basic Information
                  -----------------------
                  Revelation
                  C.J. Sansom
                  MacMillan, 2008
                  ISBN: 978-1405092722

                  Available new from Amazon for £9.89 or second hand from £5.42

                  © Copyright SWSt 2008

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