Christmas 1558, and young Ned Willard returns home to Kingsbridge to find his world has changed.
Europe is in turmoil and Ned soon finds himself on the opposite side from the girl he longs to marry, Margery Fitzgerald.
When Elizabeth Tudor becomes queen, all of Europe turns against England. The young monarch sets up the country's first secret service to give her early warning of assassination plots, rebellions and invasion plans. She knows that alluring, headstrong Mary Queen of Scots lies in wait in Paris. Mary was proclaimed the rightful ruler of England and her own supporters are scheming to get rid of Elizabeth.
Over a turbulent half-century, the love between Ned and Margery seems doomed, as extremism sparks violence from Edinburgh to Geneva. With Elizabeth clinging precariously to her throne and her principles, protected by a small, dedicated group of resourceful spies and courageous secret agents, it becomes clear that the real enemies are not the rival religions.
The true battle pitches those who believe in tolerance and compromise against the tyrants who would impose their ideas on everyone else - no matter the cost.
Review by Sarah McDuling
There are some books that must be smashed through in a single sitting, while others are best savoured over weeks or even months. I tend to smash more often than savour, and yet it took me over a month to finish Ken Follet’s latest epic, A Column of Fire.
If this sounds like a criticism, let me be clear … I loved stretching this book out over the past month, returning to the 16th Century again and again, enjoying the luxury of a slow, absorbing read. If I could have made this book last longer, I would have done it. I really didn’t want it to end and now that it’s over I’m honestly feeling a bit bereft.
Column of Fire is the third book in the Kingsbridge series. The first book, The Pillars of the Earth, introduced us to the fictional city of Kingsbridge in 12th century England, during the time of The Anarchy. It’s been over ten years since I read it, and it remains one of my favourite historical fictional novels of all time.
In the sequel, World Without End, we revisited Kingsbridge in the 14th Century during the time of the Black Death and The Hundred Years War. And now, with A Column of Fire, we’re back again! This time we return to Kingsbridge in the 16th Century, during the time of The Reformation.
Kingsbridge Cathedral is still standing and the people of Kingsbridge are living lives full of hardship and turbulence. Europe is in a state of upheaval with deep tension and hatred between Protestants and Catholics. When Elizabeth Tudor is crowned Queen, she must face constant threats and challenges to keep her throne – not the least of which is the danger posed by Mary Queen of Scots. Elizabeth must build a loyal network of trusted spies in order to protect herself.
Of course, amidst all this turmoil and religious strife, we have a pair of unlucky lovers whose story seems to perfectly mirror the struggles of the age. The romance between Ned Willard and Margery Fitzgerald is every bit as ill-fated, star-crossed and wonderfully angst-ridden as that of Jack and Aliena (The Pillars of the Earth) and Caris and Merthin (World Without End). Readers will suffer through heartache and anguish alongside Ned and Margrey, even as they find themselves caught up in a sweeping tale of European politics, international espionage, court intrigue and religious conflict.
About the Kingsbridge Novels
The Kingsbridge series is a richly detailed and wholly absorbing journey into the past. Each book takes readers to the fictional town of Kingsbridge and introduces a massive and colourful cast of characters - both fictional and based on real historical figures.
The first book, Pillars of the Earth, is set in the 12th century during The Anarchy and is a thumping great epic involving everything from murder, mystery, betrayal, deceit and star-crossed love through to civil war, political intrigue, religious conflict and family drama - all focused around the the construction of a grand Cathedral.
We return to Kingsbridge in the 14th century for World Without End and again in the 16th century with the latest instalment, Column of Fire. Each time we return we meet the descendants of characters we have known and loved, living in the shadow of the great Cathedral we saw built in Pillars of the Earth. With each book we get a wonderfully detailed snapshot of history, thrumming with passion and drama, giving readers to a stunning glimpse into an age long since passed.
"Follett has once more lit the touch paper of English history and allowed it to explode across the pages in in all its vivid technicolour." - Lancashire Evening Post
"A thundering ride through history." - Peterborough Evening Telegraph
"A huge read, perfect for long winter nights." - Choice
"The characters, both fictional and real, are fascinating, and the Tudor period setting holds its own special allure. This is a novel that fans of historical fiction will savour and cherish." - National
"A sumptuous slice of swashbuckling Elizabethan romance." - Mail on Sunday
"This triumphant saga, begun almost 30 years ago with The Pillars Of The Earth, moves across England to Scotland, France and the New World." - Sunday Express
"Deploying a substantial cast of characters, Follett unrolls a familiar history of religious and political ferment and turns it into accessible and enjoyable fiction." - Daily Mail
"Follett's storytelling skills make their adventures riveting." - The Times
“Deeply researched... compelling... A Column of Fire is absorbing, painlessly educational, and a great deal of fun.” - The Washington Post
“Follett’s historical epics, including this one, evoke the Romantic adventures of Alexandre Dumas. Derring-do and double-crosses... A Column of Fire burns bright throughout.” - The Christian Science Monitor
“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.” - BookPage
“Fans of Follett's epic sagas The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, set in the Middle Ages in the fictional city of Kingsbridge, will be thrilled by this latest installment.” - New York Post
“[Follett is a] master of the sweeping, readable epic.” - The Philadelphia Inquirer
“English-history mavens will find much to savor in Follett’s third Kingsbridge novel.” - AARP The Magazine
“A fiery tale set in the latter half of the sixteenth century... As always, Follett excels in historical detailing, transporting readers back in time with another meaty historical blockbuster.” - Booklist
“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.” - Publishers Weekly