Badkittyuno’s #CBR5 Review #69: World Without End (The Pillars of the Earth #2) by Ken Follett

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World Without End is billed as the sequel to Pillars of the Earth, but you don’t need to read the first one to understand the second (you should anyway though–it’s pretty good). World Without End takes place two centuries later, in the same priory of Kingsbridge. The great cathedral built by Prior Phillip is starting to fall apart, and now a new student of masonry, Merthin, is trying to figure out why. The book revolves around his quest to understand buildings, as well as his desire to create a new bridge for the priory.

Over several decades, we follow Merthin (basically Jack the Builder from Pillars of the Earth), as well as his sociopath brother (Ralph, who reminded me quite a bit of Jack’s stepbrother Alfred) and his girlfriend Caris, who rejects the monks’ idea of medicine and longs to pursue her own.
Like I mentioned in the character profiles, there’s a lot here that’s reminiscent of Pillars of the Earth. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing — Follett expands on these characters and makes them interesting all over again. The historical details in these novels are always fascinating, and I was personally fascinated by a man who was focused on building something to last centuries, as opposed to more modern buildings that are slapped together and fall apart after a few decades. Caris’s pursuit of medicine, savvy in business and her rejection of religion at a time when you could be hanged for it made her a pretty interesting character as well. And as always, there’s plenty of backstabbing and deal making among the monks and royals to enjoy.

Badkittyuno’s #CBR5 Review #66: The Pillars of the Earth (The Pillars of the Earth #1) by Ken Follett

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“Having faith in God did not mean sitting back and doing nothing. It meant believing you would find success if you did your best honestly and energetically.”

This book has been sitting on my “to-read” shelf for probably a year. I’ve been waiting for the right time to tackle it and its equally enormous sequel. Maternity leave seemed like an appropriate time. I read its thousand pages in big gulps while the baby napped, and eagerly began the sequel the moment I finished. For such a large tome, it moves rapidly and I found it difficult to put down.
The Pillars of the Earth takes place in the twelfth century, primarily in an English village called Kingsbridge. The main focus is the building of a cathedral, but its scope is much larger, encompassing all of the many people who must be involved in the project, which takes place over decades. Follett teaches the reader about Gothic architecture as his characters fight and scheme to make it happen (or not). Of course, it is a Ken Follett novel, so expect a lot of violence, including some rapes. I did love that he included some strong female characters though, especially the high-born Aliena. And his prior Phillip is a wonderfully interesting and sympathetic character.
In many ways, The Pillars of the Earth reminded me of Game of Thrones. It’s expansive, contains many characters and a lot of backstabbing. The focus here is church politics, but the royalty definitely play into it. I wouldn’t say Follett’s writing is as good as Martin’s, but if you enjoy Game of Thrones, I’d suggest picking this up as well.

Valyruh’s #CBR5 Review #76: The Third Twin by Ken Follett

A heady mix of science, politics, thriller and romance, Follett’s The Third Twin is about the not-so-distant possibility of human cloning, and forces us to look at some of the ethical,social, and political ramifications of going there.

Jeannie Ferrami is a young scientist working at a respected Ivy League school and using corporate funding to look at the genetics of criminals through the study of twins. Steve Logan, a smart, mature and well-adjusted young man who is invited to join her study denies that he is a twin, but his parents vehemently deny that he is as well. Nonetheless, Jeannie’s brilliantly-conceived software has turned up Steve’s identical twin, who just happens to be a psychotic killer in jail but whose parents also deny that he was a twin. A mystery, for sure, but they are the perfect pair for her study on nature-vs-nurture, she thinks, until her university sponsor freaks at her discovery and plugs the plug on her project, and then on her career. But not before a “third twin” turns up, and the count-down begins on whether Jeannie can uncover the mystery and stay alive at the same time while the bad guys escalate their threats to protect their decades’ long illegal project..

Follett introduces the “third twin” in a rather contrived way, unfortunately—he’s a crazed rapist who just happens to enter Ferrami’s campus and rape her best friend. When the police get a description of the rapist, it fits Steve perfectly, of course, and he gets framed for the attack.  But Jeannie has interviewed Steve and is convinced he doesn’t fit the rapist profile, and goes to bat for him. Their budding romance adds to the plot, as Jeannie is stalked by the rapist and has to rely on her cunning (and our suspension of disbelief) to distinguish him from Steve.

Follett’s exciting writing and fully-developed characters enhance a challenging plot, more than making up for some of the contrivances he is forced to use to pull all his threads together. An enjoyable read.