This book is the prequel to The Pillars of the Earth, and you can see my review of that book here.
https://beingkevin.com/2020/12/05/the-pillars-of-the-earth-by-ken-follett/ The first book was excellent, and I can’t believe this, but I think this book might be better. Again this was also a massive novel, 915 pages.
Like the first novel, there were similar themes; church corruption, intrigue, power, deceit, and a bit of sex. Character development was very similar to Pillars of the Earth, a dedicated prior with a big dream, a low stature builder that falls in love with a high born girl, and a corrupt priest always at odds with the prior.
When I started this book, I was curious about how the author would bridge the two time periods and tie the pieces together. I first expect it to be some relationship to prior Phillip and the prior that saved him as a child, but that did not come into play. There was no real reference to the main town of Kingsbridge. The story had parallels and seemed independent of the first novel even though it was a prequel.
Unlike the first novel, there was more of a detachment to the King of England. The story introduced the Viking raids and the Normans of France. Like the first novel, there was a great storyline of alliances between characters with the usual feel of good vs. evil.
There were many similarities between the novels in how the characters interacted and developed. In both books’ central themes, the two main characters are in love and circumstances, keeping them apart, then venturing away to other lands only to come back.
While this was a great read and very engaging, the author did an outstanding job of bridging the two books without really bridging the characters’ histories. One way was how the author revealed how Kingsbridge’s saint was acquired, and the other was the establishment of Kingsbridge. I thought it was great how these two subtle but significant pieces linked the two time periods.
If you like historical period pieces and a book that hooks you on the first page or just a great story, grab this book; you will not put it down. I can’t say if you should read the prequel first or Pillars of the Earth both stand-alone perfectly, but if you want a surprise on how it ties together, then read Pillars first. Either way, you will love the story. I’m on to World Without End today. World Without End is another big novel 1000+ pages. I suspect just as good as the first two, and I’m dying to see how the story continues.