If I have any criticism of the book it is Mantel's choice to write Cromwell using only "he" to identify him and portray his thoughts and impressions. She obviously wanted to avoid writing in the first-person "I" to avoid Cromwell sounding narcissistic, or the third person and make him seem distant. But it makes it a little confusing to know who is speaking at times, with so many potential "hes" to choose from in this huge cast of characters. It's an affectation, but you get used to it, and the rest of the book is so great it becomes only a minor annoyance.
The importance of religion plays a huge part in Wolf Hall and the fate of its characters. Religion played such an important part in people's lives at that time, because it was interwoven into all aspects of life. The Catholic Church ruled all, including the King. Cromwell wants to break the Church's hold on land and money and government, freeing both Henry and his people. As much as Cromwell loved Wolsey, he realizes while still with the Cardinal that they can never achieve what really needs to be done in England. A member of the Church is still responsible to the Church. Cromwell has much more power and flexibility as Henry's advisor.
Mantel's Cromwell witnessed the burning of a "heretic" at a young age and the author doesn't stint on the depiction of how horrible a death that was, nor what a spectacle. How many of the people were burned for simply wanting to read the Bible in English, rather than Latin, is unclear. It is clear that the Church didn't want the common man to interpret the Bible in his own way and they weren't hesitant to burn men, women, and children to keep their hold and control on the text. According to Mantel and others, one of the most ardent burners and torturers of English heretics (before Henry's first-born, Bloody Mary) was Thomas More, who is portrayed at times in Wolf Hall as Cromwell's equal, mentor and great adversary. Mantel's More is a zealot and a man, not for all seasons, but lost in the past.
I was relieved that Wolf Hall didn't take me all the way to the end of Cromwell. It is clear as the book is two thirds through and Anne Boleyn has just been crowned queen that Mantel has lots more to tell about the Tudors and, especially, Thomas Cromwell. Luckily, she is writing a second book. Hopefully it won't take another five years to complete, but I wouldn't want her to rush it through either, as his fall deserves as rich a treatment as his rise.