So a few years ago I read Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I thought it was pretty good and decided it was about time I picked up the sequel, World Without End. Here’s what I thought.
World Without End is a rarity in a sequel, in that it continues the story begun in book one, but it could easily be read as a stand alone novel as well. Although it alludes to events in the first book, it takes place two hundred years later in the same medieval English town, with a cast of entirely new characters. Some things that Follett’s readers will find familiar: a host of intriguing characters both good and evil and somewhere in between, each with dreams of vast scope, all in conflict with each other. Like Pillars, this books ups and downs kept me thinking “how much more can happen to these poor people?”
I enjoyed the story, the characters, the vivid portrayal of life in the middle ages. The time period is one I like and this book brings it to life in a way many other books fail to do. I really understood the traditions of the time, both old and new, and the struggles that the characters faced. On the other hand, I failed to engage fully with the female protagonist, Caris, as I found her rather self-centred and unusually modern for the time period. While I’m sure there were some women who felt as she did in the middle ages, she is so different from what I expected and so opposed to my own mind that at first I had difficulty connecting with her. But as the story went on, she improved for me.
This book is good for anyone who likes rich history, complex plots, a bit of mystery, and lots of conflict. Be aware, however, there is a fair bit of the seedy underbelly of life in there, too. That being said, I’d recommend World Without End as an entertaining heavy-weight read.