Follett builds an absorbing epic in Pillars of the Earth. Review by S.K. Slevinski

Book Cover
Pillars represents for Ken Follett a divergence from his usual modern day and near history suspense novels. He has missed his calling as a medievalist.

Follett takes the reader to High Medieval England and delivers intricately plotted, character centered story. As we open, Tom the Builder and his family find themselves destitute, roaming from town to town in search of work, while Tom dreams of someday serving as master builder on his own cathedral. A monk named Phillip returns to the monastery where he grew up and finds that its prior has died and that the monks of the priory look to Phillip as strong contender to the post. William Hamleigh, a spoiled lordling, seeks revenge on the earl's daughter who broke their betrothal. The lives and fates of these characters, and many more, collide in this intergenerational saga of war, betrayal and passion.

Perhaps Follett's most stunning achievement in this novel is his interlocking of fast-paced plot with compelling characters. Using an alternating third person Point of View, Follett takes us into the lives of several different characters, showing us how the choices of one character have consequences for the lives of others. The conflicts of Follett's characters are intertwined, not only with the lives of other of his fictional characters, but also with the events of history and the people who effected war and politics in twelfth century England. The author masterfully weaves the lives of the characters at fictional Kingsbridge into the tides of history. He paints in exquisite detail the hardships and joys of the unforgiving medieval landscape. This is a novel about war, revenge, catastrophe and love. You will find some romantic subplots in this book, but they are not overemphasized. And they are countered by frequent disappointment and violence for our characters. In other words, despite the love stories, this is no romance novel.

Readers of historical fiction and medieval fantasy (there's even a little witchcraft) alike will enjoy this satisfying epic saga. His detailed recreation medieval history and everyday life will enthrall you. Follett's skills as a suspense writer will make you eager to discover what plot twist is around the next corner.

S.K. Slevinski is senior editor for ARWZ Literary Magazine and a long time reader of alternative reality fiction. She is currently a graduate student, specializing in folklore.