Top critical review
Not a story of Kingsbridge Cathedral, more historic fact than fiction
15 March 2018
I enjoyed reading this book for the most part, but what it is not, is a continuation of the previous 'Kingsbridge' novels. I had rather imagined I was going to be reading about the troubles affecting the Cathedral and the people of Kingsbridge during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, but that major historic event seems to have passed us by and the book opens during the reign of Queen Mary. The Cathedral and Priory almost don't feature at all in the 600+ pages within the book and the people of Kingsbridge only get a smattering of mentions. In fact, 3/4s of the book are set in France, Spain and Holland.
What I found rather irritating was the constant and abrupt switching from one story line in France, to a completely separate story line in Spain and then to Holland and back to France. It was like an episode of EastEnders or Dallas constantly flipping between characters and scenes. And there are quite a lot of characters in this book! I also found that what I was reading was a factual history lesson interspersed with fictional characters - the 'story telling' which made the previous books so enthralling, didn't really evolve, it was simply a flowery version of historic fact. If I had wanted to read a history book I would've bought something by Simon Sharma. I also became rather annoyed when some of the main characters, in whom readers had invested quite a lot in the 600+ pages, came to what seemed like premature ends, almost as if Ken Follet got bored writing about them and finished them off without any significance. If it was meant to provide 'shockers' it didn't work - in fact I was rather disgusted with one characters unjustied end that I just slapped the book shut with an irritated 'hmph'.
All that said, I quite enjoyed the book, but it just wasn't what was expected or indeed what it should have been. I did learn something about the history of Protestant and Catholic issues in 16th Century Europe.