Sometimes authors will surprise you. I speak, in this case, of Ken Follett and his upcoming novel, A Column Of Fire. As a voracious reader, it is seldom that I am without reading material, but I have recently stagnated with new books and writers. I’ve tried a plethora of unknown authors and their works, but none have sated my current needs, my hunger to read. Therefore, it was almost stunning when I was offered the chance to shine a spotlight on this book, one that I have not, as of yet, read. But there is more to the Kingsbridge series and its creator than one might think. I hold a special place in my heart for Follett that I will try to put into words.
I can clearly remember when Follett released the first book in the series, The Pillars Of The Earth, back in the late eighties. I was not precisely a fan of his work prior to this novel, but I had enjoyed a few of his tales. Little did I know he had the ability to weave a tapestry of words that embodied so many emotions and thoughts which would impact me for years to come. From his beautiful narrative there arose a love of world building that I had never felt prior, though I was always a lover of history, a student of architecture, and an avid bibliophile. No, this was something different; this was an amalgamation of all of those things and more. One could posit that others had done it prior, but none presented it so well, so personally. This caused me to seek out other books and dive head first into new genres. Any true book lover will tell you that inspiration to seek new authors comes from the strangest places, but this story, at least to me, was an epiphany.
As I explored new books by new authors, I found myself exposed to even more new ideas, new thoughts, that quite literally changed who I was, who I am. When I heard there was a sequel coming, of course I was excited, to say the least. I cannot recall what I was expecting from this new story, entitled World Without End, but in my capacity as a manager for Waldenbooks at that time, I knew it had great potential and would be a bestseller quickly. We, of course, received an advanced reader copy so we could recommend the book when its street date finally arrived. Truth be told, I was underwhelmed, as it did not resonate with me the same way Pillars did. I was, in fact, quite disappointed. Not to say it was not a good read, merely that it failed to ignite the same flame as its predecessor.
The Pillars of the Earth was set in the 12th century and spanned nearly a century, focusing in on the Kingsbridge Cathedral and the people that brought it into being. It was a myriad of stories and intrigue, of love and passion, politics and betrayal. But it seemed that, throughout it all, there was a feeling of growth. I do not speak necessarily of the construction itself, but the growth of community, of family, of the human spirit. It is, succinctly put, a book that was perfect for me as I transitioned from teenager to young adult. Not everyone I know loved this story, but I know of no one who truly hated it, which says a lot since my friends are quite passionate about their books, too.
Half a lifetime later, Follett’s World Without End dropped into the world at large and was hailed as a masterpiece by most everyone I know. Set more than century after the first book, this novel revolved around an eclectic group of characters that seems to fall prey to the same cyclical patterns of prosperity and misfortune that we witnessed in the previous tale. Now, I understand the 14th century was harsh and this was commonplace, I just do not care for recurring themes often. I liked the tie in with the rebuilding of the cathedral. I loved the setting and the innumerable references to the Kingsbridge of the past and way it portrays the severity of life during those times. So, in short, there were unique pieces and parts that gave it a life all its own.
I was initially offered the chance to read this newest and, from what I understand, final book in the series, but was disinclined based on my experience with the second novel. However, after sitting down to write this I have changed my mind. My perception of World may have been tainted by events in my life and it would be remiss of me to not give this new book a fair shake. Perhaps this could be a game changer like Pillars was. Only through exposure and persistence do we change and grow, right? A Column of Fire is set in the 16th century and seems to be more strife focused than interpersonal, or at least that is my takeaway.
So, there you have it. There is a new Ken Follett book coming out. A Column of Fire is the third and last of the Kingsbridge stories that have spanned half a millennium. Through them we have followed the construction and repairs of a massive piece of architecture, the rise and fall of numerous people and families, and the hopes and dreams of an entire culture. These books are epic in their own rights, each one is a massive tome nearing a thousand pages for the first and over a thousand in the case of the second; this newest offering is nearly as long, too. Hands down, you will feel something when reading these books, for good or for ill. I am willing to delve into this current one hoping to rekindle that feeling the original caused to burn so bright for so long. Trust me, folks, you will want to check this series out if you have yet to read them. One of the best parts seems that you can read any one book without a need to read the previous one or ones first.
International bestselling author Ken Follett has enthralled millions of readers with The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, two stories of the Middle Ages set in the fictional city of Kingsbridge. The saga now continues with Follett’s magnificent new epic, A Column of Fire.
In 1558, the ancient stones of Kingsbridge Cathedral look down on a city torn apart by religious conflict. As power in England shifts precariously between Catholics and Protestants, royalty and commoners clash, testing friendship, loyalty, and love.
Ned Willard wants nothing more than to marry Margery Fitzgerald. But when the lovers find themselves on opposing sides of the religious conflict dividing the country, Ned goes to work for Princess Elizabeth. When she becomes queen, all Europe turns against England. The shrewd, determined young monarch sets up the country’s first secret service to give her early warning of assassination plots, rebellions, and invasion plans. Over a turbulent half century, the love between Ned and Margery seems doomed as extremism sparks violence from Edinburgh to Geneva. Elizabeth clings to her throne and her principles, protected by a small, dedicated group of resourceful spies and courageous secret agents.
The real enemies, then as now, are not the rival religions. The true battle pitches those who believe in tolerance and compromise against the tyrants who would impose their ideas on everyone else””no matter what the cost.
Set during one of the most turbulent and revolutionary times in history, A Column of Fire is one of Follett’s most exciting and ambitious works yet. It will delight longtime fans of the Kingsbridge series and is the perfect introduction for readers new to Ken Follett.