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Summary

Summary

#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.


Author Notes

Ken Follett was born in Wales, United Kingdom on June 5, 1949. He received an Honours degree in philosophy from University College, London. He began his career as a newspaper reporter for the South Wales Echo and later with the London Evening News. He decided to switch to publishing and worked for a small London publishing house, Everest Books, eventually becoming Deputy Managing Director.

His first bestselling novel, Eye of the Needle, was published in 1978 and won the Edgar Award. His other works include Triple, The Key to Rebecca, The Man from St. Petersburg, Lay Down with Lions, The Pillars of the Earth, The Third Twin, The Hammer of Eden, Code to Zero, Whiteout, World Without End, The Century Trilogy, and A Column of Fire. Many of his novels have been adapted into films and television miniseries. He has won numerous awards including the Corine Prize in 2003 for Jackdaws. His nonfiction works include On Wings of Eagles.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Follett continues the best-selling Kingsbridge series with a fiery tale set in the latter half of the sixteenth century. As in Pillars of the Earth (1989) and World Without End (2007), the cathedral city of Kingsbridge serves as the unifying focal point for a saga that stretches across time and place. As a religious and political war rages across England, two would-be lovers are caught in the unforgiving crosshairs of historical circumstances that spin beyond their control. Fiercely in love with Margery Fitzgerald, Ned Willard finds himself on the the other side of a religious divide tearing friends, family, and the entire nation apart. As Catholics and Protestants square off against one another, a young but determined Elizabeth ascends to the throne, establishing the first royal secret service to protect herself from enemies both within and outside of England. Drawn into a web of espionage and intrigue, Ned is torn between loyalty to the crown and his unwavering love for a papist. As always, Follett excels in historical detailing, transporting readers back in time with another meaty historical blockbuster. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With the first in the series skyrocketed by the Oprah Book Club pick and a TV series and followed by the megasuccess of the second and a long wait for the third, readers will be avid as ads run and Follett tours the country.--Flanagan, Margaret Copyright 2017 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

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 © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Prologue 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 . . . Excerpted from A Column of Fire by Ken Follett All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.


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