I tend to give historical fiction the side-eye, as so much of it is just romance with a historical overlay and bad writing. But this, and its predecessor, Wolf Hall, are two of the best novels I've read. I have a mental Venn diagram that I apply to books, similar to the Fast, Good, Cheap one that is often applied to work product. My book diagram includes Plot, Characterization, and Language. I often find books (that I fully enjoy!) that are strong on plot, but iffy on characterization, and downright pedestrian in language. Sometimes, I find books that are incredible on the language front, but with unbelievable characters and little to no plot. And, occasionally, there are even those with great characters stuck with lame plots and awful language (but, I suspect that's really hard to pull off.)
These two books by Hilary Mantel manage the trifecta! The plot is engrossing, the characters distinct, believable, and strong, and the language sublime.
I feel compelled to explain that I give it only 4 stars because I reserve 5 for those books that "blow my mind" in some way. Bring up the Bodies, being the second in this series, didn't quite hit that note, but it comes darned close.