Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"Dark Fire" by C.J. Sansom - Review

If you are interested in historical novels set in Tudor's England, Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom should be on your list of books to read.

Set in the reign of Henry the VIII, these mystery series follow the life and work of lawyer named Matthew Shardlake. The author provides quite vivid descriptions of the social and political environment surrounding Henry the Tudor's England, especially the fear of self-expression and problem of absolutism. 

This was a very turbulent time for England. When religious reformation started by Luther and his followers in Germany, Henry VIII began his own religious reformation, led by all powerful chief minister Thomas Cromwell. Henry VIII simply to confiscate properties associated with Church of Rome and to divorce from his first wife (that Pope would not allow).

However later, Henry VIII, fearful that too much freedom in religious matters could undermine social structure of the kingdom, backtracked and instituted more conservative approach that eventually led to downfall of Thomas Cromwell.

This particular novel, titled Dark Fire, is set during the final year of Thomas Cromwell life (year of 1540). Asked by his former master, Thomas Cromwell, to investigate reports about Greek fire, an ancient weapon also known as dark fire, Shardlake uncovers the "fictional" conspiracy against Cromwell initiated by his political rival, Lord Norfolk. However, in the end, Shardlake is not able to prevent the downfall of Thomas Cromwell.

In addition to this, there is a side story running throughout book related to young woman who is accused of murdering her young relative. However, thanks to Shardlake's efforts, she will be exonerated and real culprits found. The author has included a very interesting detail about usage of belladonna drops by the young girls in 16th century to make them look more attractive and "comely" by pupil dilation (belladonna plant contains atropine, an original active ingredient of eye drops used in current ophthalmology).    

Overall, this novel is not as great as "Heartstone" but it is still easily readable and I would recommend it.   

posted by David Usharauli  

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