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.
A Column of Fire, Follett’s newest novel, is a nearly-thousand-page doorstop focused on the religious wars of 16th-century England, with plenty of detours ... As is typical for a historical novel, Follett centers the era’s pivotal moments on a small group of invented characters ... Follett also makes a point of showing how clever aristocrats used Christianity to gain an edge in business disputes ... The novel covers so much ground and has so many voices that its characters can sometimes come off as a little less than three-dimensional ... A Column of Fire ends with the promise of a Puritan voyage on the Mayflower. I suspect more than a few of Follett’s readers will be happy if he brings them to the New World in his next epic.
A Column of Fire is set in Elizabethan England. It ranges well beyond Kingsbridge into the wider world of a divided Europe, propelling a large cast of characters through England, Scotland, France, Spain, and the Netherlands ...the new book proceeds from a more abstract premise: the radical notion of religious tolerance ... Follett moves these characters briskly through 50 eventful years of 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 ...a historian's eye for detail and a novelist's gift for suspense...absorbing, painlessly educational, and a great deal of fun. Follett uses the tools of popular fiction to great effect, illuminating a nation's gradual progress toward modernity.
Full of adventure and suspense, A Column of Fire is an inspiring and thrilling portrait of one of Europe’s most perilous times in history ... Follett is a master of historical fiction, with meticulous research, adept storytelling and an ability to capture the reader’s interest with colorful, smooth language. As captured in his previous books in the Kingsbridge series, Follett’s characters are lively, full of emotion and relatable, making the book’s length of no great concern for old fans or new readers alike.
Ken Follett, king of the epic historical novel, delivers another absorbing masterpiece with A Column of Fire, the latest in his Kingsbridge series ...delivers exactly the same type of tale that has drawn so many readers in the past: fascinating characters and sweeping drama set against a backdrop of historical intrigue ... Although A Column of Fire is part of the series, the story picks up years after action in the previous novels and the deeply satisfying tale can be read without knowledge of previous books — although many new readers will likely be inspired to try others in the series.
If the reader’s idea of worthwhile literary entertainment is to read Ken Follett’s made-up account of Catherine of Medici, Queen of France, instructing a lady-in-waiting of Mary, Queen of Scots on how Mary might fake the taking of her virginity by French King Henri II, if he were not able to on their wedding day, then A Column of Fire might be considered tasty reading ... It takes actual historical events, peopled by real historical figures, and then mixes into the story fictional characters that he has invented. The stories of the fictional characters, and sometimes even the real characters woven together produce a reasonable historical account of the period... For readers who like to read either history or fiction, with a clear line between them, A Column of Fire is definitely not for you ...a perhaps better informed picture of life in the period, with key social factors examined to a degree.
Follett guides his long, overstuffed story leisurely through the halls of Elizabethan history; here Bess herself turns up, while there he parades the likes of Walsingham, Francis Drake, and the whole of the Spanish Armada, even as Margery yearns, the tall masts burn, and Follett’s characters churn out suspect ethnography: 'Netherlanders did not seem to care much about titles, and they liked money.' It’s all a bit overwrought for what is, after all, a boy-loves-girl, boy-swashbuckles-to-win-girl yarn, but it’s competently done. Follett's fans will know what to expect—and they won’t be disappointed.
This sweeping epic delivers suspense, history, and romance in equally satisfying, if sometimes heavy-handed, measures. Follett makes use of multiple winding plotlines and optimistic characters equipped to see any battle through to the end. The novel is an immersive journey through the tumultuous world of 16th-century Europe and some of the bloodiest religious wars in history. Follett’s sprawling novel is a fine mix of heart-pounding drama and erudite historicism.