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Review: Revelation by CJ Sansom

Revelation - C.J. Sansom

With this installment in the Matthew Shardlake series, I think I can safely say that CJ Sansom has taken his place as my second favorite modern author (Sharon Kay Penman being my favorite). I have given this book some time to swirl around in my mind since I finished it, and I'm still not sure that I can do it justice.


Nobody brings Tudor England to life the way Sansom does. The sights, smells, sounds....it is easy for the reader to imagine that they are walking along next to dear Matthew as he walks the crowded London streets. This is what I first fell in love with in Sansom's writing back in Dissolution. 


The next thing that drew me in was Shardlake himself. I love the way Sansom presents him as a character that the reader can relate to and admire despite his flaws. We share his doubt, fears, and longings as if Matthew is our very best friend. I can feel my heart twist in my chest when he is hurting.


Then there is the mystery, which I know is supposed to be the main point. Though it is expertly done, this is only part of the attraction of the novel for me. The cases that Matthew is wrapped up in for this installment once again bring him closer to court than he is comfortable with, and the reader is given a fun glimpse of the Seymour brothers as Henry VIII nears his end and targets his final wife, Catherine Parr.


This story is much darker than the previous volumes, with a serial killer stalking victims and torturing them according to his interpretation of verses in the book of Revelation. Sansom takes this opportunity to evaluate the religious war taking place in England at the time along with Matthew's personal doubts.


If I had one minor complaint about this book it was that the author attributes many protestant beliefs to Martin Luther than he did not hold. Maybe this was believed at the time, and that is why he chose to write it that way or maybe it was a simple mistake. Specifically, Martin Luther did not believe that certain people were predestined to hell. This is a belief more accurately attributed to Calvinists. On the other hand, Luther did believe in the true body and blood of Jesus being present in the Eucharist, though not all protestants did.


Revelation was captivating in its plot, historical detail, and character development. I am only afraid that soon I will run out of Shardlake novels to read.