A Column of Fire is the third book in Ken Follett’s Kingsbridge series. If you have not already read, “The Pillars of the Earth” and “World Without End” then you must do so immediately. At 909 pages, A Column of Fire is packed full of lively characters, drama, history and action. Ken Follett is such an amazing and talented writer.
The book takes place in 16th century England in a time of violence and religious turmoil. It spans from 1558 to 1606. There is always someone scheming to murder the queen or king and there is a constant battle for power between the Catholics and Protestants. I am not a fan of historical fiction and care nothing about politics. The characters are what I loved best about this book.
Ned Willard is the hero of the book. Ned has all the characteristics of your typical hero. He is kind, honest, clever, trustworthy, determined, handsome and courageous. He becomes a man of power and importance as he spends his life fighting for Queen Elizabeth. All Ned wants is peace between the Catholics and Protestants. Ned: “What we did that momentous year of 1558 caused political strife, revolt, civil war and invasion. There were times in later years, when in the depths of despair I would wonder whether it had been worth it. The simple idea that people should be allowed to worship as they wished caused more suffering than the ten plagues of Egypt. So if I had known then what I know now, would I have done the same? Hell, yes.”
The book also has many romances and a heart breaking love story. At the beginning of the book, the woman Ned is in love with is forced to marry someone else. Margery is one of the heroines of the book. She has a willful and rebellious nature but she is “deeply pious at heart,” and she feels it is her duty to God to obey her parents. Her parents arrange her marriage to someone that will bring prestige and nobility to their family, even though Margery despises their choice. She devotes her life to doing clandestine work for England’s deprived Catholics. Her and Ned spend a lifetime in love with one another.
There are so many characters that I can’t begin to write about all of them and I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone else. The huge cast of hero/heroines and villains in this book do not disappoint. They endured so much loss, death, hardship, and heartbreak. There were also many despicable characters that I just wanted to see destroyed.
“Evil men always frustrated the efforts of the peacemakers.”
“There are no saints in politics. But imperfect people can still change the world for the better.”
Another masterpiece by Follett. I can’t imagine how much research he had to do to be able to include so many historical details and even though I am easily bored with history, I truly enjoyed this thrilling epic saga. Well done, Mr. Follett!