A Column of Fire

A Column of Fire

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...

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Title:A Column of Fire
Author:Ken Follett
Rating:
Edition Language:English

A Column of Fire Reviews

  • Jen

    My love affair with Follett goes as far back as 13 years, when I was first enraptured by

    .

    Since then, you've tucked me into bed several nights with your fabulous stories of espionage, romance, historical fiction, and oh so much more.

    This series makes me sigh as It wraps around me much like a caterpillar In a cocoon. It is fabulously rich in character and plot development and leaves me longing for the next big book you write -especially during the 16th century.

    I loved

    My love affair with Follett goes as far back as 13 years, when I was first enraptured by

    .

    Since then, you've tucked me into bed several nights with your fabulous stories of espionage, romance, historical fiction, and oh so much more.

    This series makes me sigh as It wraps around me much like a caterpillar In a cocoon. It is fabulously rich in character and plot development and leaves me longing for the next big book you write -especially during the 16th century.

    I loved

    and

    . This one is just as magical.

    I won't say much about the storyline - just know If you want to be hypnotized and mesmerized by some wicked historical fiction, Follett is the Man. He is a master at crafting a story with all of its elements of characters, love, relationships, politics, religion/heretics and packaging it up in an epic sized story that will light you up like a

    .

    And so my love affair continues as I wipe off my drool from having just kissed this book with a whole lot Of ❤️

  • Matt

    Ken Follett again took a lengthy hiatus before penning this third novel in the series, which is reflected in the writing and shall be discussed below. Kingsbridge, with its cathedral and mighty bridge, again proves to be the initial backdrop of this thoroughly researched tome, set in the 16th century. The great community emerges in the opening pages of the novel, where the reader encounters Ned Willard, returning after a period away. As the snow falls, causing the great Cathedral to disappear, t

    Ken Follett again took a lengthy hiatus before penning this third novel in the series, which is reflected in the writing and shall be discussed below. Kingsbridge, with its cathedral and mighty bridge, again proves to be the initial backdrop of this thoroughly researched tome, set in the 16th century. The great community emerges in the opening pages of the novel, where the reader encounters Ned Willard, returning after a period away. As the snow falls, causing the great Cathedral to disappear, the symbolism of quick changes becomes apparent. However, there is more brewing in Kingsbridge and England as a whole, which pushes the narrative into a fiery discussion soon enough. Queen Mary Tudor is on the throne and has turned the country back to its Catholic foundation, which is causing some concerns amongst her subjects. Forced to flee Catholicism under Henry VIII, people took up with the new Church of England and sought to pave the way for Protestantism in the country. Kingsbridge monastery, so important in the first two novels, lost its firmament under the King and the monks were dispersed. However, as Queen Mary appears to be terminally ill, there is talk of the succession. Two camps emerge: those wanting continued Catholicism turn to Mary, Queen of Scots (and France); and those who seek to lessen the constraints of religious conformity turn to Princess Elizabeth Tudor, half-sister to the current queen. The battle lines are drawn and the choice turns the country against itself. Ned finds himself in an odd position as he witnesses this and takes up a post with the Elizabethan camp, only to become one of her most trusted advisors. Plots to kill Elizabeth emerge alongside attempts to get Scottish Mary to return to the land of her birth to claim what some feel will rightfully be hers. When the Queen dies, it is left to Parliament to make the choice, which Follett illustrates as being highly controversial and problematic, but Elizabeth soon ascends reigns as the first of her name. The new Queen riles up everyone by seeking tolerance and acceptance of any form of Christianity in England, choosing not to side with either Protestants or Catholics wholeheartedly. What follows is a collection of stories that emerge throughout Europe, using a handful of characters who illustrate the religious persecution of both Protestants and Catholics, using the Pope and various monarchs to play Christian chess with their subjects as they shed blood to see their branch of the religion succeed. Ned is placed in a position to not only try to win back the love of his life, but to accept fate and try to reinvent himself, while England is being torn apart. Follett illustrates this battle over decades, while the characters evolve but still have time to prove as scandalous as ever (what would a Kingsbridge novel be without some drama?!). By the end, Follett has shown that religious intolerance is by no means a new thing in the world, but that it can be traced back centuries, where ‘soldiers’ were blinded to acceptance and sought to outmanoeuvre their labelled enemies. A sensational addition to the Kingsbridge series, though it does not entirely fit with the other two novels. Fans of historical fiction will surely love this tome, alongside the most open-minded and ‘tolerant’ Kingsbridge series fans. Patience is a must before tackling this novel, so be wary if you seek a quick story and easy to decipher characters.

    When I read the preface to Pillars of the Earth, I learned that Follett was not entirely comfortable with the subject matter when he first wrote that book. He knew little of the religious nuances of the Church, but has shown that age and dedication to research have changed his abilities. While I have some issues with this book, I cannot deny that the research and thoroughly intricate cast of characters make this one a must read for dedicated readers and fans of history. Follett is again forced to use scores of characters to flesh out the story, some pulled from the history books and others completely of his own imagination. As with the previous two books, occupations are varied, as are the social standings of those who grace the pages of this book. However, the characters from history dominate and thereby lead the story, forcing the ‘nobody’ characters to fall into line. There is still a thread of love, romance, rape, and deception, but it proves to be a garnish in a larger story that speaks of intolerance at a time when religion in Europe was (d)evolving. The dedicated reader will surely find a few characters onto whom they can latch and find some solace, though there are an equal number who can be hated for their actions. The story of this novel is well developed and presented in a methodical way, such that the reader can see not only the issue at the core of the story, but its fermentation over the decades. This leads me to my primary issue with the book, which is that it does not fit nicely into how Pillars and World Without End places Kingsbridge at the centre. There is action in Kingsbridge and the Cathedral does bear mention on occasion, but a great deal of the story takes place elsewhere, which lessens the impact of the community that readers have come to love. For Follett fans, the influence of his recently completed Century series is blunt in this narrative and plot development. Follett develops mini-stories throughout Europe, presenting characters who exemplify the religious issues in Spain and France, as well as in England, the attentive reader will remember such ‘branch-offs’ over the aforementioned trilogy. The reader learns of these struggles and waits to see how the numerous spheres will come together and eventually meld into a single storyline. While I am not a professional author, I might suggest that Kingsbridge have remained the central focus of the story and Follett show how this continental war and numerous assassination attempts on the country’s monarch affected the locals. Alas, that was lost and Ned Willard, a Kingsbridgean, is the major glue that binds the story to being a part of this other trilogy. With numerous monarchs who flex their muscle throughout to show how Catholicism is the only way, I can easily find justification to have this work for my reading challenge and I can only hope that others will find the thread of my argument and agree. While I found this to be the weakest of the three novels in the series, I still enjoyed it a great deal. I would recommend it to those who have made their way through the others two, in hopes that they will find as much enjoyment in the historical references as I did.

    Kudos, Mr. Follett, for such a stellar piece of historical fiction. Some of those threads you left blowing in the wind might make for an interesting fourth novel, though I am not pushing for another round, unless you’re eager to return to Kingsbridge proper.

    This book fulfills Equinox I (A Book for All Seasons) Book Challenge for Topic #3: A Book About Royalty

    Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

    A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

  • Emily May

    I've had a whole month and 900+ pages to think about it-- and I just didn't enjoy

    as much as

    and

    .

    I think I know why, and I'll get to that in a second, but I'd first like to say that this isn't a bad book. I happily read right through to the end without feeling like it was a chore to finish. Some of Follett's tried and tested formula is present here - namely,

    - which keeps the pages

    I've had a whole month and 900+ pages to think about it-- and I just didn't enjoy

    as much as

    and

    .

    I think I know why, and I'll get to that in a second, but I'd first like to say that this isn't a bad book. I happily read right through to the end without feeling like it was a chore to finish. Some of Follett's tried and tested formula is present here - namely,

    - which keeps the pages turning, but I think this book overall is a move away from a style I really enjoyed in the previous books.

    This book didn't focus in-depth on the lives of the Kingsbridge citizens. Instead, I felt like it was hardly about Kingsbridge at all, but rather about the entire world at this time, and the wider struggles between Catholics and Protestants. Perhaps it is because, by this time, sea travel and exploration was much more common, but the effect was that I cared less about the individual characters; I felt less pulled into the nitty gritty of their everyday lives.

    operates on a bigger scale and with a wider scope than its predecessors. Larger political and religious battles dominate the narrative at the expense of characterisation.

    At times, it felt almost like an overview of history at this point and it's a history lesson that every British schoolchild learns early. Where

    and

    focused on chapters of the Middle Ages that were foreign to me, I can quickly name every single Tudor monarch, every wife of Henry VIII, and tell you about the religious struggles, even details such as what happened to Margaret Clitherow. And the gunpowder plot? We still light bonfires and fireworks and eat toffee apples every fifth of November in remembrance.

    In order for this book to work better on such an oft-explored area of history, it needed to go deeper into Kingsbridge and the characters' lives. The romance needed to be more exciting, more tragic, more like that of Aliena and Jack or Caris and Merthin.

    . I didn't get a sense that they were fighting to be together, or that they were particularly disheartened when circumstances tore them apart.

    This series has always seemed, to me, to be first and foremost about the characters. Their, lives, loves, tragedies and heartbreak. The politics happening in the background offered the stage on which the character drama played out, but it was not what the books were

    . Here, it was. And I simply didn't love/hate the characters I was supposed to love/hate as much as I was supposed to love/hate them.

    Oh, and for some reason, there was also a

    in this book that I never noticed in

    and

    . I read them both fairly recently so I don't think I'm just forgetting. Things like the use of "creepy" (I checked and this is used roughly 200 years too soon) and Ned uses the very modern phrase "hell yes". There were other examples I didn't note down. Perhaps this book just needed a few more rounds of editing.

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  • Bookdragon Sean

    I didn’t want to write this review, I’ve been weighing it up for a few days, but this book is so far removed from the previous two books that a negative review is unavoidable.

    is way too short and way too predictable, which is a sort of odd comment to make about a book over 750 pages long with a huge cast of characters. But let me explain.

    Ken Follet is at his best when he writes massive historical yarns. He mixes the political and social issues of the age with the lives of some

    I didn’t want to write this review, I’ve been weighing it up for a few days, but this book is so far removed from the previous two books that a negative review is unavoidable.

    is way too short and way too predictable, which is a sort of odd comment to make about a book over 750 pages long with a huge cast of characters. But let me explain.

    Ken Follet is at his best when he writes massive historical yarns. He mixes the political and social issues of the age with the lives of some very real people, people who could have existed within the eras in which he writes. And he did that here, at least, in part. The Willards and The Fitzgeralds fortunes rose and fell with the Catholic and Protestant rivalry, which came to a climax when Elizabeth I took England’s throne. Though I think this book’s greatest downfall is its sheer lack of depth and sense of crisis throughout.

    Let’s rewind and compare it to

    After every major section of the novel, something big happened. The Kingsbridge market was attacked by William Hamleigh (twice) the church roof collapsed, Tom Builder had to abandon his child and Prior Phillip found himself at the King’s mercy in France. The same sense of crisis was also apparent in

    With this book there was no real sense of danger for anyone (that I was made to feel for.) So it lacked the drama that made the previous two instalments so damn exciting.

    I found myself not caring at all about most of these characters or their lives for that matter. I didn’t know enough about them and when the story started moving they were never really built upon. Rollo Fitzgerald was awkwardly absent for large parts of the novel after initially being set up as a very important character. There were large transition periods between the characters’ lives that we seemed to miss and the story never fully came together as it needed to. Moreover, and most significantly, there was no sense of Kingsbridge community spirit. So that meant when danger did hit Kingsbridge, I yawned.

    Follet’s books are always driven by romance, and this one was no different. But, again, this was a let-down. In this case the initial few chapters on it were perfectly fine; it was set-up as you’d expect it to be. However, the aftermath was somewhat tepid. Where was the longing? Where was the heart wrenching emptiness when the lovers were separated? Sure, it was touched upon; though I think much more was needed to cement the mutual feelings. If this was Jack and Aliana or Merthin and Carris, then all parties concerned would have been beside themselves in agony. Ned and Margery seemed to suck it up and get on with their lives all too easily. And their ending was far too predictable at this stage. I needed so much more for this to work.

    Do I think

    could have been a good novel? Most certainly. It needed more editing. It needed to be padded out and certain sections expanded upon and revised. All in all, what I think

    needed most of all was time, time to grow and become the story it ought to have been. I feel like I’ve just read an early draft of a potentially great novel, most dissapointing indeed.

  • Melissa  I

    [email protected]%*+?!G!!!!!! Okay, please don't hate me for doing this in the review box, but just found out there's a third book in the "TPOTE" series and I'M DYING!!!!!!!!!! Book one was and still is such a love/hate for so many and I'm most definitely one of the diehard lovers of the first book, have the second and can't wait to read it and now A THIRD BOOK?!?!?!?! Just a little excited :-O I'm being a total book nerd and about to jump out of my skin!! Must get my hands on this ASAP!!!! I can't wait need

    [email protected]%*+?!G!!!!!! Okay, please don't hate me for doing this in the review box, but just found out there's a third book in the "TPOTE" series and I'M DYING!!!!!!!!!! Book one was and still is such a love/hate for so many and I'm most definitely one of the diehard lovers of the first book, have the second and can't wait to read it and now A THIRD BOOK?!?!?!?! Just a little excited :-O I'm being a total book nerd and about to jump out of my skin!! Must get my hands on this ASAP!!!! I can't wait need it now book! Time to read "World Without End"! OM*G so excited, lolol. Book nerd moments are so embarrassing xD

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