Set in 14th century medieval England, World Without End by Ken Follett centers around the town of Kingsbridge and follows the lives of the descendants of Jack and Alien from Pillars of the Earth. Twenty years after Follett wrote Pillars of the Earth and after numerous requests from fans to write a sequel, Follett decided to revisit Kingsbridge, and in his latest historical fiction novel, he begins a new epic.
The Black Death lurks in the background of this tale, though aside from the major historical event, the story itself is not all that different from Pillars of the Earth. Many of the characters also mirror the characters in Pillars of the Earth — Merthin is Jack, Caris is Aliena, Ralph is William Hamleigh, Godwyn is Waleran.
What Follett does well is his ability to craft an intricate storyline with complex plots and twists, and his characters are multi-faceted, changing as the novel progresses for better or worse. Follett is able to establish a connection with his characters through good internal dialogue, and even though the reader doesn’t relate to the characters in World Without End as closely as in Pillars of the Earth, the characters are still interesting and engaging.
Like any historical fiction novel, World Without End takes its share of historical liberties, but I believe Follett’s greatest weaknesses in this particular novel are his lack of original characters (despite them being well-developed), his exchange of dialogue among the characters, as well characters’ motives for certain actions they take. As in Pillars of the Earth, Follett overuses the theme of sex — though the violent rape scense are less frequent — and in many instances, it seems it is put there just for the sake of having it, regardless if it makes sense for the scene or characters.
Overall, I rate this novel 3 out 5 stars. It’s worth the read, but unlike Pillars of the Earth, I’m not sure I would take the time to read it again.