It was probably about twenty years ago that I cracked open my first historical fiction book by Ken Follett: Pillars of the Earth. The beauty of this book is that in two decades, it's lost none of its appeal. It's great story-telling, set amid the cathedral-building mania in the Medieval period. Follett needed a fictitious town in which to place his characters and the cathedral they'd wind up building, so he crafted a place called Kingsbridge--and it's most believable. So much so, in fact, the I looked for it on a map of England after first reading the book! (The joke's on me, Mr. Follett!)
Splendid world-building, memorable characters, and excellent use of real history were all elements interwoven into the story. Therefore, if you've not read this book--RUN to a library or bookstore and seek it out! Or, just begin with The Evening & the Morning after reading my review. It's followed by sequels. Needless to say, when I heard that Follett was writing a PREQUEL to this series, I was jumping up and down, clapping! I ordered it in January, and discovering that I'd be having surgery in the summer, I kept it so I could savor it during my recovery time. It didn't disappoint, so here is the review I've written for The Evening & the Morning by Ken Follett.
Buster Ancient Farm, Wikimedia Commons
The Evening & the Morning
Reviewed by Brook Allen
Follett is truly a master writer, and has proven it once more. What I found intriguing in this book was that he used the three exact character types as he did in Pillars of the Earth: a young builder who possesses genius, a young noblewoman, a priest, and oh, yeah—the evil BISHOP! However, the way he plotted this one was quite different and it moved along very nicely. Though I wondered toward the end whether it could have been shortened, I was enthralled the entire time.
Ragna is a young woman who is somewhat ahead of her time. She’s intelligent, eager to take the reins of power herself, and she is on the lookout for the perfect husband. Aldred, as a priest, has an Achilles heel that he must keep reined in to succeed—a fondness for men. He’s a hero though—knowing right from wrong and placing his love and honor for God above all things. That made him all the more heroic in my eyes. Edgar is the son of a boat-builder, but has a mind that works much more pliantly than most peasants. When his village is attacked by Vikings, he suffers horrible loss that haunts him for half of the book.
West Stow Anglo-Saxon
Sutton-Hoo Helmet Replica
Follett develops three brothers who become incredible antagonists in Follett’s plot, each excelling in a different form of suffering and evil. One is driven by privilege and has no problem dishonoring anyone for his self-serving ways. Another is power-hungry and corrupt beyond measure, willing to do anything in a grasp for power, and the third is brutally violent and doles out cruelty with no hesitation, despite being an utter fool.
Vikings: Odin riding his eight-legged horse.
The story takes place at the beginning of a new millennium and the reader will enter the Anglo-Saxon world of Viking raids, when England was still an infant nation, ruled by Ethelred “the Misled” (known by some as Ethelred the Unready). It’s a time of ale-houses, starving peasants, leper colonies, and slavery. In an age of little or no technology, burgeoning minds were just beginning to awaken and learn to build, rule justly, and worship devoutly. Follett admits in his author's notes that he didn't always heed the advice and information he had gleaned from scholars of the period. So here's the disclaimer for an Anglo-Saxon purists! However, since I fall far from that category, I truly relished every page of this book and Follett has given his Kingsbridge trilogy yet another magnificent chapter, encompassing the dark Anglo-Saxon era. Don’t miss this one!
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***Learn more about Ken Follett at: https://ken-follett.com/