#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
“Absorbing . . . impossible to resist.” —The Washington Post
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.
Date of Birth:June 5, 1949
Place of Birth:Cardiff, Wales
Education:B.A. in Philosophy, University College, London, 1970
We hanged him in front of Kingsbridge Cathedral. It is the usual place for executions. After all, if you can’t kill a man in front of God’s face you probably shouldn’t kill him at all.
The sheriff brought him up from the dungeon below the guildhall, hands tied behind his back. He walked upright, his pale face defiant, fearless.
The crowd jeered at him and cursed him. He seemed not to see them. But he saw me. Our eyes met, and in that momentary exchange of looks there was a lifetime.
I was responsible for his death, and he knew it.
I had been hunting him for decades. He was a bomber who would have killed half the rulers of our country, including most of the royal family, all in one act of bloodthirsty savagery—if I had not stopped him.
I have spent my life tracking such would‑be murderers, and a lot of them have been executed—not just hanged but drawn and quartered, the more terrible death reserved for the worst offenders.
Yes, I have done this many times: watched a man die knowing that I, more than anyone else, had brought him to his just but dreadful punishment. I did it for my country, which is dear to me; for my sovereign, whom I serve; and for something else, a principle, the belief that a person has the right to make up his own mind about God.
He was the last of many men I sent to hell, but he made me think of the first . . .
Treasonous plots, family rifts, and international political intrigue abound in the third installment of Follett’s (Pillars of the Earth) Kingsbridge series of historical dramas. In the middle of 16th-century England, Kingsbridge Cathedral stands above a town divided by religious conflict. Queen “Bloody Mary” Tudor is killing Protestants. When 18-year-old nobleman Ned Willard loses his sweetheart Margery and his family’s importing business to Margery’s upward-climbing Catholic family after the queen condemns them for being pro-Protestant, he decides to join Protestant Princess Elizabeth Tudor’s secret service. Ned and Margery’s love for each other sustains itself despite decades and miles apart, but can it survive their ideological differences? This sweeping epic delivers suspense, history, and romance in equally satisfying, if sometimes heavy-handed, measures. Follett makes use of multiple winding plotlines and optimistic characters equipped to see any battle through to the end. The novel is 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. (Sept.)
★ 07/01/2017Library Journal
This third volume in Follett's "Pillars of the Earth" series takes place in the 16th century, approximately 200 years after the events of World Without End. Though it opens in the English town of Kingsbridge, where the first two books took place, Follett takes advantage of the period's zest for exploration and situates his cast of thousands all over the known world; from England to France, Spain, and beyond. Following the plague years, it was a time of great upheaval in Europe as a middle class began to rise and people became disenchanted with both the ruling class and the church. Then came the Protestant Reformation. At the heart of this great novel is Ned Willard, who wants desperately to marry Margery Fitzgerald, but their religious differences force the pragmatic Ned, who is Catholic, to throw his lot in with the young Queen Elizabeth while Margery risks her life to help spread the Protestant faith. Several climactic scenes—including a truly horrific execution and massacres in the streets of Paris—dramatize the vast social and religious divide of the era. VERDICT Though a few notes may be needed to help keep the characters straight, Follett has written another masterly historical novel that will keep readers enthralled well past bedtime.—Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage P.L., AK
A flying buttress of a book, continuing the hefty Kingsbridge saga historical novelist Follett began with Pillars of the Earth (1989) and World Without End (2007).It's not that Follett's been slacking between books: he's been working away at the Century Trilogy, set centuries later, and otherwise building on the legacy of high-minded potboilers he began with Eye of the Needle (1978). Here he delivers with a vengeance, with his Kingsbridge story, set in the shadow of a great provincial cathedral, now brought into the age of Elizabeth. Ned Willard, returning from the Continent on a boatload of "cloth from Antwerp and wine from Bordeaux," beats a hasty path through the snow and gloom to the lissome lass he's sweet on, Margery Fitzgerald. Her mom and dad are well-connected and powerful—but, alas, Catholic, not the best choice of beliefs in an age when Tudor Protestantism is taking a vengeful turn and heads are rolling. Rollo, Margery's brother, turns out to offer good cause for suspicion; having twitted and tormented Ned over the course of the story, he's sailing with the Spanish by the end. But will Ned keep his head and Margery hers? Or, as Margery wonders lamentingly, "Had Ned caught Rollo, or not? Would the ceremony go ahead? Would Ned be there? Would they all die?" Ah, it is but to wonder. Follett guides his long, overstuffed story leisurely through the halls of Elizabethan history; here Bess herself turns up, while there he parades the likes of Walsingham, Francis Drake, and the whole of the Spanish Armada, even as Margery yearns, the tall masts burn, and Follett's characters churn out suspect ethnography: "Netherlanders did not seem to care much about titles, and they liked money." It's all a bit overwrought for what is, after all, a boy-loves-girl, boy-swashbuckles-to-win-girl yarn, but it's competently done. Follett's fans will know what to expect—and they won't be disappointed.
Recommended reading by * The Washington Post * USA Today * New York Post * The Christian Science Monitor * The Philadelphia Inquirer *From the Publisher
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”