Top positive review
A real Ken Follett – and that is great (with minor flaws)
Reviewed in the United States on September 12, 2017
We waited three years for a new Ken Follett novel and almost ten for the next, the third, book of his Kingsbridge story. So here is his new novel, the name is “A column of Fire” (I never get his naming) and it is a real Ken Follett – with all pros and cons. If you know novels by Ken Follett, you know what you get: Tension, entertainment, a lot of well researched knowledge – and unfortunately a little black and white where you expect more gray.
Two things first: Ken Follett gets back to Kingsbridge, his fictional town in England, for the third time, ten years after “World Without End” and 28 (!) years after “The Pillars of the Earth”. But it is not really a sequel. Yes, he makes a lot of references. But the plot is individual and you can read absolutely this book without even seeing the two others.
Second point: This is not a medieval novel, as some say. It plays in Modern History, right after the reformation by the German monk Martin Luther (these days exactly 500 years ago). It plays a little later in the 16th century when in England first the Catholics burnt the Protestants and then the Protestants burnt the Catholics on the stake. When France was devastated by terrible wars of religion. And when Spain reached the heyday of its power – and gave it away to an awakening England, powered by religious tolerance (kind of) and the beginning of democracy (kind of).
Main character is Ned Willard (I almost wrote Ned Flanders). He has a great future as a merchant. And because this is a Follett we would become of course an honest merchant with values that match perfectly our values in the 21st century. But there are evil villains, sexist and racist, very bad according to these our values and these guys giving him a hard time.
And that’s the problem with this Ken Follett like with (almost) every Ken Follett else: The good guys are almost perfect; the bad guys are just mean and without any good quality. Everything is black or white, good or evil. But experience told us that the world is gray and evil characters are more interesting if they are complicated.
If this is NOT your first Ken Follett novel you probably know what I mean. And if this is not your first Ken Follett novel you will also read this one. Because they are real page-turners. Because Follett is such a good writer that you never lose track, also there are so many persons and plots. This guy can write and he never stops thinking about his readers. Und you read this books because you can learn so much about history. Here as well: The most important events of the 16th century are described with many details. Yes, I love history. But with books like that everyone can experience the glamour of history. And after about 1150 pages you are sad that this is over. Not the common reaction to a history book.
You like that review? Than I am grateful for a vote. If not please leave a comment. Because to help other readers is the sole purpose of this review. And sorry for the English, not a native speaker (German).