The third historical novel set around the fictional city of Kingsbridge from the author of The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. 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.
While the first two volumes dealt with ambitious building projects — the cathedral in Pillars of the Earth, a bridge and hospital in World Without End — the new book proceeds from a more abstract premise: the radical notion of religious tolerance ... Follett moves these characters briskly along through 50 eventful years encompassing births, deaths, marriages, murders and assorted betrayals. But the real spine of the narrative is the deeply researched historical backdrop against which these private dramas play out. History has provided Follett with some spectacular dramatic moments, and he takes full advantage, recreating them with a historian’s eye for detail and a novelist’s gift for narrative suspense ... Like its predecessors in the Kingsbridge series, A Column of Fire is absorbing, painlessly educational and a great deal of fun.
What Follett does best he does again in A Column of Fire: Introduce a sizable and memorable cast, have them intermingle with historical figures and somehow hang on to just enough verisimilitude so that the Dickensian coincidences and callbacks captivate without distraction. Follett remains an old-fashioned storyteller in the best sense, avoiding, for the most part, excessive historical analysis and look-at-me-research in favor of revealing the hearts and minds of his characters. And he never, ever forgets the most important aspect of any story: keep it moving. Follett’s historical epics, including this one, evoke the Romantic adventures of Alexandre Dumas. Derring-do and double-crosses, as well as the sorrows of a more violent and precarious existence, abound. The new novel ends on a well-struck note, bittersweet but with a nod to future adventures that may or may not lead Follett down still another path of political and religious intrigue. In other words, A Column of Fire burns bright throughout.
As Catholics and Protestants square off against one another, a young but determined Elizabeth ascends to the throne, establishing the first royal secret service to protect herself from enemies both within and outside of England. Drawn into a web of espionage and intrigue, Ned is torn between loyalty to the crown and his unwavering love for a papist. As always, Follett excels in historical detailing, transporting readers back in time with another meaty historical blockbuster.