Friday, January 25, 2013

Artful Readers Club January - Heartstone by C. J. Sansom

It's time for my first book review and associated arty piece reveal for the Artful Readers Club

The book I chose to read in January is Heartstone - the fifth and most recent title in a series of period crime thrillers written by PHd historian (ie. he knows what he’s talking about!) C. J. Sansom


The five novels revolve around a fictional lawyer come amateur detective called Matthew Shardlake, active during the reign of King Henry VIII.

I have read the first two Shardlake books – Dissolution and Dark Fire – but am yet to read #3 Sovereign and #4 Revelation – despite the fact I have them sat on my bookshelf – so I’m really not sure why I skipped straight ahead to Heartstone, I think I thought this was the next one – I will have to go back and play catch up at some point.

This is an ambitious book, and a long one at over 700 pages – but none of those are filler as there is a lot going on.  There are two separate cases of wrongdoing for our clever lawyer to investigate, both of which attract multiple twists and turns (and dead bodies) along the way  – and all of this is set against the backdrop of the war against France, and in particular the French navy’s arrival at Portsmouth and the ensuing battles at sea.

I particularly liked the part of the book about the Mary Rose as I remember a trip to see the remains of  the ship when I was little
The author’s real skill, as well as writing a cracking story that’s extremely entertaining to read, is in bringing the sights and sounds and smells of Tudor England to life, and also in perfectly explaining the social norms of the day, how people of all classes from beggars to the Monarchy behaved around each other.  He creates a really believable and immersive world.

And our lead characters are believable too – Shardlake, clever as he is, and seemingly in possession of more ethics and morals than the rest of Tudor England combined, doesn’t always make the right deductions or the right calls, in fact sometimes he gets things quite spectacularly wrong.   And his dogged determination to solve even the cases that nobody wants solved, despite the fact that his continued meddling endangers himself, his clients and everyone around him, is rightly highlighted by his manservant / right hand man Jack Barak as a major character flaw.

All in all, another great book from an accomplished and well rounded author – but I would definitely advise you start with one of the earlier books in the series if you would like to try a Shardlake novel for yourself – they are shorter and punchier than this one, a little faster moving, and most importantly provide important background for the lead characters which help you to understand their motivations in their later adventures.

Oh – and as for the title of the book itself – which will hopefully help make some sense of my accompanying artwork – one of the key scenes in the book takes place on a deer hunt – and the ‘heart stone’ is a heart-shaped bone from a felled stag that is given as a good luck charm to the huntsman who brings the stag down.  One of the main characters in the book wins the heart stone and ..... it's barely mentioned again for the rest of the book :)  (I kept thinking it would end up being hugely significant seeing as it's the title of the book, but no). So I'm not spoiling anything by telling you that little snippet.

And here's my arty thang:


I've decided to make individual 7" x 7" loose pages - artwork on the front, details of the book and a copy of my review on the back - and at the end of the year I'll bind them in some way (probably a stab binding of some kind - there's a one inch flap of paper on the left that you can't see as I have tucked it under for the photo)

This one has a watercolour and charcoal background, with a bit of stamping (the manuscript lettering, to represent one of the lead character's legal documents) and a stag hand cut from black card overlaid.

His heart is nice and glossy as it is topped with diamond glaze, but you can't really see that in the photo.

Now to go and link this up over at Darcy's blog, and to get blog hopping to read everyone else's reviews!

Next month I'll be reading America Unchained by comedian Dave Gorman, which will be quite a different experience to Heartstone, I think :)

26 comments:

Virginia said...

Oh they sound interesting Sarah although would agree the first book in the series probably would be more sensible seen as I haven't read any of them! Loving the vibrancy of the artwork and I love LOVE LOVE that manuscript stamp - utterly gorgeous and totally in keeping with the book! The stag if fabulous - must have taken an age to cut out and I like the fact that he's got a shiny heart!

Carmen said...

The book sounds really intriguing, just my cup of tea but would agree about starting with the earlier ones :) The art work is gorgeous - that stag is a real beauty. This is going to be an amazing journal at the end of the year!

NatashaMay said...

What a fabulous page! Love the contrast of colors. And the book sounds interesting. 700 pages? that's like 5 of my books. Lol!

Jenny said...

Well done Sarah... 700 pages... oh my gosh... what an effort... love your gorgeous artwork... and love too that you are going to include your review on the back of it... wonderful idea...

Jenny ♥

San @ Made in Hem said...

Yikes, 700 pages... Glad you made it!
Your art looks great! I'm impressed by the black cut-out. I tend to cut pieces off that are not supposed to go off... :)
I bought this series for my e-reader. Can't wait to start! It sounds great! ♥

Sarah said...

I cut the wrong pieces off too sometimes Sam, and just glue them back on :) I hope you enjoy the Shardlake books as much as I do!

Jez said...

Have read a couple of these, the first two I think. I like historical novels and enjoyed those reasonably well, but somehow never got any further with the series. Interesting review, I enjoyed it. it's surprising how often the title refers to a tiny little piece in the book and you wonder why it has that title.The photo of the stone is so appropriate.
I am absolutely full of admiration for your cut-out stag - monarch of the Tudor glen. You have a steady hand and much patience. Like San I tend to cut in the wrong places, and then try to stick things together as well as I can. Lovely image with the Tudor rose and the calligraphic background.

Gina Shillitani said...

Your review makes this book, the whole series really, sound very interesting! I've never been good at history but that doesn't stop me from enjoying novels with history in them :) Your artwork is beautiful and I love that stamp or stencil of the lettering!

cindyw said...

Love your book review but I am not into historical type books. Love the colors on your artwork...bold.

Jay said...

i like history books and this series sounds like a good read.

P.J. said...

Though I like your review and the way you speak of the book, I honestly don't know if I would get into it. Books like these always sound good when I start and then I kind of get lost and fade on them.

Cool artsy work with it though. I really dig the look of it!

Darcy said...

wow 700 pages, not sure I could tackle that, maybe one of the shorter earlier ones though. I do love a good detective story.

love the art page, everything about it from the script to the tudor rose, and wow at the stag that you hand cut.

it's gonna be a beautiful book to look back on when you have all the pages bound.

SusieJ said...

Love the review and the artwork! My other half reads this series of books and speaks highly of them...perhaps I should give them a go!
Hugs xx

Shirley said...

Gosh that was quite a tome to start your year off Sarah, although it seems to have kept you entralled and reading your review I can see why. Lots of history and intrigue. Loving your artwork but then I always do, the colours are so vibrant and that stag is awesome. Looking forward to your review next month it will certainly be a different kind of book!

Diane said...

I love historical based fiction but would be daunted by a 700 page book at this time. Your journal page is wonderful with the layers of symbolism you brought forth from the book.

Janet said...

I love a good bit of history fiction and have added this author to my list. Great piece of artwork. I love stags - living in the Highlands of Scotland.

Janet xx

Jen said...

Lovely artwork. I too like historical fiction probably take your advice and start with a shorter one.
Jen x

Michelle Vanstrom said...

Thanks for an informative review. I hadn't heard of the series prior. Beautiful artwork. Thanks for sharing. Michelle Vanstrom

Leialoha said...

This is one of my favorite pieces...the colors are brilliant and such a great creative representation of 'Heartstone'. Thank you for this review...I may have to add this one to my list.

Magaly Guerrero said...

You carved the stone and brought the cover to life. Lovely greens and reds...

I enjoy reading historical fiction, with awesome descriptions of times I can only imagine. I might pick this one up ;-)

Ali said...

Reading your review reminded that I had read this book and really enjoyed it. Your artwork is great. Thank you for sharing it with us all.

Gina said...

Now this sounds like a set of "must reads" to me! Love historical dramas, and am watching "the Tudors" on catch up tv as we speak :D
Gorgeous art page too :D XXX

Manon said...

This sounds like a real goog read but I guess I would have to start with the thinner ones first. I love the art space!

Maz said...

Another set of books to put on my list :) Your artwork is fabulous - especially the hand cut stag, it must have taken a while to do!

Catie Cuddles said...

Don't think the book is for me but love your art piece ... Stunning and I would be happy to have it framed on the wall of my home!

I adore Dave Gorman and saw the TV show he did around your next book so would be glad to hear what the book is like.

lorig said...

I'm intrigued and have added this series to my ever growing list of books to read. Wonderful art.