The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
The Pillars of the Earth #1
Release Date: February 4, 2002 (This edition)
Publisher: NAL Trade
The Pillars of the Earth is an epic (seriously, it's over nine hundred pages) novel that basically is about a Cathedral. But don't be turned off the size and somewhat dubious subject matter - this is one of the best books I've ever had the pleasure to read.
Set approximately during the 12th Century, primarily in England, this is first and foremost a historical fiction; the novel accurately depicts the lives of people living at the time - this isn't a novel about court politics or royal intrigue, but the main characters are mostly ordinary people whose lives are affected by those in power. The rich description of buildings and townships reflect the fascination with archetiture that had developed from basic to dramatic and beautiful, all set against a backdrop of historical events.The imagery in this book is stunning - it's easy to close your eyes and see the towering Cathedral, or smell the streets of the towns and feel the wool that made up such an important part of the businesses of the time.
The story itself is engrossing, encompassing historical accuracy, political intrigue, action, romance and just a touch of the supernatural. As the years pass, the reader on a rich journey throughout 12th Century Europe, all the while rooting for the characters to reach their happy endings. If any of you are anything like me and are easily stressed out, there will be points during the novel where you will want to throw the book viciously against the wall out of sheer frustration. The plot twists and turns with every page, and nothing is predictable, right up until the very last page.
As for the characters, this book is long enough to fully flesh them out and it doesn't disappoint in that respect. The development of each character is done very well - the villains are truly vindictive but never boring, and the heroes remain heroic without losing their flaws. You want these characters to succeed if they're good and turn each page waiting for the comeuppance of the villains.
Basically, everyone should read this book, even if it's out of your comfort zone as a reader.
-----Reviewer X in an anonymous reviewer that I recruited due to their broad reading choices and excellent reviewing skills. I just had to have this on my blog! X will be reviewing everything from YA to classic novels, so I hope you enjoy these posts!