12th century England is a brutal world engaged in a ceasless battle between the oppressed and the oppresser. Peasants constantly find themselves at the mercy of their unscruplous overlords, ambitious clergymen, even the very earth seems to be set against them as they are ravished by famine time and time again. It is in this world that a talented mason is raising his family, travelling from building site to building site in pursuit of his dream - building a cathedral. Who would have ever expected that such a humble man would find himself embroiled in fight after fight with incredibly powerful men, set to destroy everything he holds dear. This epic novel chronicles forty of the most important years in English history, detailing events of sweeping consequence that would change the monarchy forever.
This is a long novel. Really long. At nearly 1000 pages it was daunting to say the least when I first picked up my copy. It didn't read like 1000 pages though. Ken Follett told the story masterfully with an amazing detail and accuracy in his depictions of the people, architecture and events. The story really grabs you right from the beginning and doesn't let go until the very last word. However, some of the novel left me cold. There were frequent descriptions of sex, both loving and rape, yet they were all crudely written. I'm no prude, but I found all of these scenes distasteful. Certain of the characters I never developed any affection or even caring for, they were almost one-dimensional in their personalities, though they played pivotal roles. In all I would certainly recommend the book, it was a fascinating look into a period of history that seems, regrettably, to have been almost forgotten.