Book Review: The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett (4/5)

18 Apr

I’ve loved the Kingsbridge series and I was excited to see a prequal was released. Follett’s books are always a commitment, but it’s one I’m willing to make!


Cover image via Amazon

The Evening and the Morning (Kingsbridge #0) by Ken Follett

Other books by Follett reviewed on this blog:

Pillars of the Earth (Kingsbridge #1)
World Without End (Kingsbridge #2)
Column of Fire (Kingsbridge #3)

Summary from Amazon:

It is 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages. England is facing attacks from the Welsh in the west and the Vikings in the east. Those in power bend justice according to their will, regardless of ordinary people and often in conflict with the king. Without a clear rule of law, chaos reigns.

In these turbulent times, three characters find their lives intertwined. A young boatbuilder’s life is turned upside down when his home is raided by Vikings, forcing him and his family to move and start their lives anew in a small hamlet where he does not fit in. . . . A Norman noblewoman marries for love, following her husband across the sea to a new land, but the customs of her husband’s homeland are shockingly different, and it soon becomes clear to her that a single misstep could be catastrophic. . . . A monk dreams of transforming his humble abbey into a center of learning that will be admired throughout Europe. And each in turn comes into dangerous conflict with a clever and ruthless bishop who will do anything to increase his wealth and power.

This was a great story. It had highs and lows and it spanned years. One of the things I like about Follett is that he doesn’t make it easy for his characters. When your opening scene is a deadly Viking raid, you know it’s not going in a great direction. The audiobook was over 24 hours and I enjoyed the entire time. I don’t think this had quite the same joy to it as the first and maybe second in the series, but that’s an almost impossibly high bar and this was still a delightful read.

Follett draws wonderful characters. His villains are a bit stereotypically evil, but they have motivation if not morals. It was fun to hate Winston and his ambition. But it was also easy to cheer for Edgar and Ragna. I had some favorite side characters along the way, especially Aldred and Edgar’s mother. It was fun to see those we loved succeed.

Ragna was my favorite character. I loved her commitment to her children and how strong she was. She was smart, which was almost a disadvantage in this time period. She was a great heroine to cheer for and I could see why everyone loved her so much.

Ragna was also easy to relate to. I think as a mom and someone who has to deal with family politics (though thankfully not as devilish!), it was easy to put myself in her shoes and think like she did. I was cheering for her happiness all along. I only wish it didn’t take so long for it to arrive.


Ken Follett Image via the author’s website

I enjoyed the front half of this book best, when Edgar was playing a larger role. The second half seemed to be where Ragna took over a bit more and while I liked her, Edgar’s adventures were more fun to me. I liked his solutions to problems and how he managed to deal with bullies and set backs. I was a bit disappointed when he left the story for a while and I think that’s part of what made this book only Four Stars for me.

This is a bit of a spoiler so skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to read it. When Ragna and her boys were kidnapped, I grew really uncomfortable with the book and wasn’t enjoying that part. It seemed to me like the King was being very neglectful and the lack of law and order to be followed was frustrating. Seeing a strong and smart woman like Ragna reduced to nothing was infuriating and that she saw no justice for it enraged me. I understand why it happened, but as a modern reader, it was really uncomfortable.

The audiobook was narrated by John Lee who has done the other books in the series as well. I love when there’s consistency like that! He was a brilliant narrator and I loved listening to him read to me. His inflections for Wilf and his brothers were great. I thought his women’s voices were very appropriate and I enjoyed listening to the story unfold. It’s good to have such a talented narrator for a 24 hour book!

There was always someone to get in Edgar’s way. If it wasn’t Dreng, it was his own brothers or other women. The same can be said for Ragna and her ongoing feud with Winston and all his hangers-on. It wasn’t easy, but so few things are. It was great to see them fight and push forward and finally see the just rewards they deserved come their ways. It’s a good reminder that the end is far off and if we’re suffering, hopefully we’re in the middle of our stories and there’s room for things to change.

Writer’s Takeaway: This book was a nail biter for 24 hours. That’s a huge accomplishment. Follett had ups and downs in the story and there were times things looked bleak. But there were also moments of triumph and joy and genuine happiness that were great to experience. There’s an overall arc to the story, but there are so many side plots and minor arcs that it felt something was always starting and something else ending so I was engaged the entire time.

This was a great read, but hard to hold a candle to the original book in the series. Four out of Five Stars

This book fulfilled the Pre 1200 time period in the When Are You Reading? Challenge 2023.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
The Evening and the Morning | My Reading Journal
Historical Fiction Readathon: The Evening and The Morning by Ken Follett Mini Book Review | Sohinee Reads & Reviews
“The Evening and the Morning” by Ken Follett | Swift Coffee Book Blog
The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett ~Audiobook Review~ | Amanda’s Book Review!


One Response to “Book Review: The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett (4/5)”

  1. Janette April 18, 2023 at 10:38 AM #

    This is a great review Sam. I’m glad that you enjoyed it so much. And another tick on the When are you reading challenge!!

    Liked by 1 person

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