A Column of Fire

A Column of Fire

by Ken Follett

Overview: As Europe erupts, can one young spy protect his queen? International bestselling author Ken Follett takes us deep into the treacherous world of powerful monarchs, intrigue, murder, and treason with his magnificent new epic, A Column of Fire.

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. Ned Willard wants nothing more than to marry Margery Fitzgerald. But when the lovers find themselves on opposing sides of the religious conflict dividing the country, Ned goes to work for Princess Elizabeth. When she becomes queen, all Europe turns against England. The shrewd, determined young monarch sets up the country’s first secret service to give her early warning of assassination plots, rebellions, and invasion plans. Over a turbulent half century, the love between Ned and Margery seems doomed as extremism sparks violence from Edinburgh to Geneva. Elizabeth clings to her throne and her principles, protected by a small, dedicated group of resourceful spies and courageous secret agents.

The real enemies, then as now, 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 what the cost. Set during one of the most turbulent and revolutionary times in history, A Column of Fire is one of Follett’s most exciting and ambitious works yet. It will delight longtime fans of the Kingsbridge series and is the perfect introduction for readers new to Ken Follett.

Deanna Boe (03/28/18): Wow, another outstanding historical novel by Ken Follett. Will this be the last novel using the Kingsbridge Cathedral as background, which we first learned about in 1989? THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH was a 1000 page epic about the building of the Kingsbridge Cathedral in the 12th century; this was then followed by WORLD WITHOUT END written in 2007. The first two dealt with the Middle Ages and the community of Kingsbridge, England, whereas this novel progresses to the Elizabethan era and beyond to Scotland, France, Spain, the Netherlands and even a small part about the New World. It starts in 1558 and advances for another 50 turbulent years but Kingsbridge always remains part of the story. We see rulers come and go, all tied up with lots of intrigue. This era first fascinated me when I was in the 8th grade and it can still captivate my love for historical history.

The main ruler for this era was Elizabeth I. She inherited a religious mess in England, thanks to her father Henry VIII. If you recall, he had broken away from the Roman Catholic Church and formed the Church of England. Why? The Pope would not allow him to divorce his first wife and marry his mistress, which just happened to be Elizabeth’s mother. All of this set into motion the major conflicts between the Catholics and the Protestants. The foremost problems began when Henry’s oldest daughter, “Bloody Mary,” inherited the throne and was busy killing those who would not adhere to the Catholic faith. When she died it was a scramble to put Elizabeth on the throne since she was a Protestant; unfortunately most felt she was illegitimate. The Catholics were hoping to place Mary, Queen of Scots, on the throne. Elizabeth promised tolerance, but obviously couldn’t always remain true to that pledge. There are many reasons that we historically remember Elizabeth, unfortunately one of them is when she had Mary beheaded. But, who could blame her since Mary was in on a plot to overthrow Elizabeth and restore the Catholic faith. Mary was backed by the Pope and the King of Spain.

One of the most important dates in Western history is 1588, the defeat of the Spanish Armada. The King of Spain, along with the Pope’s blessing (and money,) plus other Catholic countries decided it was time to rid England of Elizabeth’s rule. England had but a very small navy (and no army to speak of,) whereas Spain had hundreds of sailing vessels that made up the Spanish Armada. Freeing England of Elizabeth meant invading the country and killing her. It is interesting to read about the amazing defeat of the Armada and how it changed the course of history for the Western world.

All the intolerance shown in this novel between the Catholics and the Protestants only brings to mind today’s world and what is happening now between Christians and Muslims in almost some of the same areas of Europe. Will we never learn? How can religion divide us this way? Where is the tolerance that is so often mentioned in this intriguing book? It has 900 pages but is fascinating to read since it is based on so much of our historical history.
Rating: *****

Dale Israel (10/25/17): In the beginning, there was The Pillars of the Earth. Then, there was World Without End. And today, there is A Column of Fire. Although not quite in the league of Pillars, Column of Fire is still vintage Follett full of characters you grow to love...or despise...whatever the case may be. I forced myself to portion out this 928 paged book hoping to make living in this alternate universe last just a little bit longer. Sadly, the end came way too early but thankfully it ended with a promise of another novel yet to come. If you loved Pillars, you will love this book as well. Now, to find another alternate universe to discover.
Rating: *****

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