Book Review: “Tombland” by C.J. Sansom

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The death of King Henry VIII has left his young son, Edward, as the new King of England. In 1549, Protestantism is on the rise and Lord Somerset is the Lord Protector for the young king. However, the people are not pleased with their treatment compared to the lifestyle of the gentry, causing many rebellions to sprout along the countryside. The mysterious death of a Boleyn relation of Lady Elizabeth has led Matthew Shardlake on a collision course with one of the major rebellions and to be reunited with an old friend, Jack Barak. Can Shardlake solve the mystery and find out where he truly belongs before time runs out? This is the scenario C.J. Sansom has chosen for his final, for now, book in the Shardlake series, “Tombland”.

To be honest, this was such a bittersweet read for me. I have grown to love Sansom’s writing style and his colorful cast of characters. I did not want to say goodbye. I savored every minute, even though it took me a bit longer to read than the other books in this amazing series.

We join Matthew Shardlake in his latest job, working for Lady Elizabeth when she gives him a new case to investigate. A distant relative of Elizabeth, one Edith Boleyn, has been found murdered and her ex-husband John Boleyn is accused of committing the heinous crime. We are introduced to John’s twin sons, who are the antithesis of charming, his curmudgeon of a father-in-law, and his much younger but devoted second wife. While Shardlake and Nicholas Overton dive into this case, they have the great pleasure of meeting up with everyone’s favorite rogue turned family man, Jack Barak, who is now working for the Assizes in Norwich.

As things heat up with this brand new case, Shardlake, Overton, and Barak are swept into a rebellion camp, led by the infamous yeoman Robert Kett. This is where this book truly shines. For many of us who study the Tudors, rebellions like Kett’s rebellion are just events that are briefly mentioned. Sansom dives into the life of the rebels in the camps to explore what it was like. How they were organized. How they were trained to fight. What they stood for and where they stood on religious issues. I never really considered the feelings of the rebels, but Sansom made me sympathetic to their cause and I understood why Shardlake and Barak found the rebellion so appealing.

It did feel like the murder case and the rebel storylines were two separate plots, but Sansom was able to masterfully combine the two to create a thrilling conclusion to this delightful series. If I did have a problem with this particular title it would be that the pace was a bit slower than the other books in the series. I was wondering if Shardlake was ever going to solve the Boleyn mystery, but of course, he does spectacularly.

There is always a concern with a fabulous series with how the author will end it. Will it satisfy the readers and their expectations. I can’t speak for every Shardlake fan, but I was thoroughly engrossed with this series and the ending was perfection. If this is indeed the last Shardlake adventure, it was truly a ride I will never forget. If you are a Shardlake fan or you want a remarkable novel about the Kett’s rebellion, “Tombland” by C.J. Sansom is the book for you. A truly mesmerizing culmination for a dazzling series.

Book Review: “The Anne Boleyn Collection II” by Claire Ridgway

18588008The Boleyn family have been viewed as social climbers, who only desired power and prestige, in history and novels for centuries; their fall from grace was due to their ambitions. But, is this true? Did Anne Boleyn’s family only care about getting to the top by any means necessary? Were they manipulative, cunning, and cruel like they have been portrayed in dramas and novels? Who were the Boleyns and why have they been so maligned in history? In her second book of this series, “The Anne Boleyn Collection II”, Claire Ridgway of The Anne Boleyn Files examines Anne Boleyn and the truth about her family.

After I had finished the first edition of “The Anne Boleyn Collection”, I did have a conversation with Claire Ridgway about the structure of her book. If you read my review about that particular book, I did have a slight issue with the blog article structure of the book. Claire Ridgway explained that it was intentional as these books are a collection of blog articles from The Anne Boleyn Files, which helped me while reading the second collection of articles.

In my opinion, Ridgway’s structure in this second collection is much better than the first collection. It reads like a book and it is in an order that makes sense. We start our journey with the origins of the Boleyn family, which was fascinating and very informative to read about the different theories of how this family rose to power. Then, it is all about Anne and her life and the myths around her. Compared to her previous book, I found this part well researched and I learned a lot. Anne Boleyn is not exactly my favorite wife of King Henry VIII, but I did feel sympathy for her, and I could see why so many people do defend her while reading about her in this book.

The last section of this book deals with Anne Boleyn’s immediate family. Her father Thomas Boleyn has been viewed as a “power-hungry pimp” who only cared about his position rather than his children, but Ridgway shows that this was not the case. Anne’s mother Elizabeth Boleyn has been a shadowy figure in the past, yet Ridgway dives to find out what kind of parent she was and the rumors around her. Was George Boleyn such a scandalous figure and what was his relationship with his wife Jane Boleyn like? What is the truth about Mary Boleyn’s story? And finally, Ridgway explores the big question about the Boleyns and their religious viewpoints.

This is my favorite book from The Anne Boleyn Collection series so far. Claire Ridgway’s research and writing style has improved significantly between the two books, and it shows. I did thoroughly enjoy this one and I wanted to do my own research into these topics after reading this book. I learned so much about the Boleyns that it made me realize that maybe they were not as bad as novels and dramas have portrayed them. If you think you know the Boleyns, I would suggest you read, “The Anne Boleyn Collection II” by Claire Ridgway. It may change your mind about how you view this hotly debated family of Anne Boleyn.

Book Review: “The Anne Boleyn Collection” by Claire Ridgway

13488604Have you ever watched a historical drama/ movie or read a historical fiction novel and started to wonder if the “facts” they a portraying are true? You start researching the history of these people and the times that they lived in and it soon becomes a passion. You have your favorite figures to study and you want to defend them when those online decide to criticize them in discussion boards. For some of us, that is as far as it goes, but some choose to make blogs to explore these topics even further. This scenario is similar to what happened with Claire Ridgway, the creator of the popular blog The Anne Boleyn Files; however, her inspiration came from a dream. To share her passion for all things Anne Boleyn, Ridgway has decided to compile some of the most popular articles from her blog into her debut book, “The Anne Boleyn Collection”.

As a fellow history blogger, I share Ridgway’s passion for finding the truth about the past through personal research and to share that information with other Tudor fans through articles. I admire her for finding a subject that she is so passionate about that she decided to write enough articles to create an entire book about Anne Boleyn and the topics around her. There were several articles in this book that I found fascinating; like the missing Boleyn children, the men and women of Anne’s household, the discussion of the Boleyns in popular historical dramas, and the discovery of Anne’s remains, which I think shows Ridgway’s desire to show a different side to the Boleyn story to those who study the Tudors.

Ridgway’s book is a series of articles that were well received on her blog. They are not in chronological order, but there are some mini-series of articles that discuss certain topics at length. Some of the articles do discuss Anne Boleyn and how she is portrayed in The Tudors and The Other Boleyn Girl, which are popular but they tend to show Anne and her family in a rather negative light. Ridgway has very strong views on these programs and makes them very apparent.

The one major issue that I had with this book was the fact that she reused articles that were on her blog and just put them in an order that made sense. To me, there is a difference in style between writing a blog article and writing a book. You can still have the casual writing style that makes you feel like you are having a conversation with the reader, but expand your thoughts that you had in your articles while using more reliable sources. Since these articles are the same ones that were on the Anne Boleyn Files blog, it feels a bit redundant to have them in this book and on the blog.

Overall, I think that this was a decent debut book for Claire Ridgway. I thought she made some good points in her articles and her passion is evident in her writing. It does feel like having a conversation with Ridgway herself, which makes it easy for Tudor novices to understand. I did wish she expanded on some points and used more credible sources, but I thought it was a good book. If you are a fan of the Anne Boleyn Files and discussing hot topics about Anne Boleyn, I would recommend you check out, “The Anne Boleyn Collection” by Claire Ridgway.