Tuesday 23 January 2018

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

From Goodreads: "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."

 A Column of Fire is the third in the series, and I read the first many moons ago, so can't really compare the two, it was too long ago. From what I do recall, this one contains fewer details on the construction of the cathedrals, not so many ups and downs for the characters, and is less focussed on the particular history of the town than the broader story of the world at the time. 

It's also set in a historical time about which so many books have been written. In a history we all know so well it's hard to be different, but Ken Follett does this part well. The religious tolerance in the centre of a world charged with overbearing egos and too much passion about was a different take. 

I loved Ned and Margery's story. It was long, but also unique in its content and strangely satisfying - maybe that's just me.

Hence three stars - probably four if Ken Follett hadn't written better books before. But immensely worthwhile. The Audible narration was excellent - John Lee does a superb performance.

3 stars

ISBN: 9780525954972

You may also enjoy Dancing the Death Drill by Fred Khumalo or The Constant Queen by Joanna Courtney.

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