Tag Archives: Kingsbridge

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.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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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!


Book Review: A Column of Fire by Ken Follett (4/5)

5 Nov

I was so excited when I heard that there was going to be a third Kingsbridge book. I was a huge fan of the first two and I was excited to see what Follett would do to bring the town into the 1500s. This wasn’t my favorite book in the trilogy but I can’t say I disliked the book.

Cover image via Goodreads

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

Other books by Follett reviewed on this blog:

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

Summary 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.

I came into this book with unreasonably high expectations. I adored the first two books in this series and they blew me away. The character development was great, the arc was amazing, and the setting took on a life of its own. I adored everything about them. So I think it was inevitable that this book would fall a bit flat. Follett moved away from Kingsbridge too much in this book. The familiar setting of the town and the cathedral there was abandoned, only playing guest appearances. Politics, which had always had a small part, became central in this book. The relationships between Kingsbridge citizens were secondary to the lives of the nobility and powerful in England, France, and Spain. This book was far too overreaching in its scope and there’s no wonder it stretched as long as it did.

Yet again, Follett created amazing characters. Ned Willard is an honorable and wonderful man and it’s no wonder Margery loves him. The villains in this book are equally believable and driven by their own sense of duty and devotion. I found them all true to their time as well. Education wasn’t common and many of these characters knew only what they learned from their parents and church. Few people made radical decisions.

Ned was easy to like and a great lead character. I enjoyed following him as the followed Queen Elizabeth and learned about international politics. He was fair and smart, though not so ahead of his time as to be unbelievable. He also wasn’t radicalized to either side of international politics or religion like so many of the characters were. He was patient and in a 900-page novel, that kept him interesting.

I found Margery very relatable. She holds her religious convictions close but she doubts what she’s taught about others who are different from her. She’s a very modern woman for someone of her time. She is able to think independently and even though men rule over her, she has a strong spirit. I liked how fiercely she loved her family, it made me admire her, even if I didn’t agree with her.

Ken Follett
Image via the author’s website

Sylvie’s story was my favorite. I knew, from what I know about Follett books, that she would die eventually, but I still loved her (Follett’s lovers always end up together). Her bravery was admirable and I thought the way Pierre tricked her was one of the worst things I’d ever heard of. She and her mother had a great relationship which reminded me of my mother.

The end of the book really frustrated me. I felt like Follett kept it going just long enough to weave in another important historical event that had nothing to do with the characters’ development and I wish it had been cut. I won’t give away too much more here, but it was obvious to anyone who knows that part of history what was going to happen and I could have dealt with one fewer chapter.

My audiobook was narrated by John Lee. I loved the narration he did and I think he served Follett well. His female voices weren’t offensively high or weak, which is often a fault of narrators in my opinion. He used accents well which would have been quite the challenge with the wide origins of these characters. They were never distracting but helped me know who was talking and remember a character’s origin.

Ned’s love is tested in this book. He loves Margery, his mother Alice, Sylvie, and Queen Elizabeth. At different times, these women pull his attention in different directions and away from the others and tries him. The book talks about conflicting loyalties in many senses. Religion and love, country and ruler. I think Ned made the right choices at the times he needed to, but it was never easy and far from simple. That’s the best we can hope for.

Writer’s Takeaway: Writing historical fiction can be overwhelming. You lose control over some of the pacing of a book when history dictates how things happened. I think Follett let history guide this book too much. There were elements of it, such as Queen Mary, that had nothing to do with the main plot. It added length, but no depth. The story has completely moved away from Kingsbridge and I honestly miss it. History made the cathedral less important which I find quite sad.

This book is amazingly written and I think I would have enjoyed it more as a stand-alone novel instead of anticipating stories from Kingsbridge Cathedral. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the 1500s time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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A Column of Fire- Ken Follett | thebookfeed
Review: A Column of Fire by Ken Follett | Diary of a Bookfiend