"It is 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages. England is facing attacks from the Welsh in the west and the Vikings in the east. Those in power bend justice according to their will, regardless of ordinary people and often in conflict with the king. Without a clear rule of law, chaos reigns. In these turbulent times, three characters find their lives intertwined: A young boatbuilder's life is turned upside down when the only home he's ever known is raided by Vikings, forcing him and his family to move and start their lives anew in a small hamlet where he does not fit in. . . . A Norman noblewoman marries for love, following her husband across the sea to a new land. But the customs of her husband's homeland are shockingly different, and as she begins to realize that everyone around her is engaged in a constant, brutal battle for power, it becomes clear that a single misstep could be catastrophic. . . . A monk dreams of transforming his humble abbey into a center of learning that will be admired throughout Europe. And each in turn comes into dangerous conflict with a clever and ruthless bishop who will do anything to increase his wealth and power. Thirty years ago, Ken Follett published his most popular novel, The Pillars of the Earth. Now, Follett's masterful new prequel The Evening and the Morning takes us on an epic journey into a historical past rich with ambition and rivalry, death and birth, love and hate, that will end where The Pillars of the Earth begins"--
Which is a little surprising, since I really didn’t care much
Norman princess marries an English lord in the year 997, and becomes embroiled in a family power struggle. The princess is a strong feminist, facing the stepmother of her husband and her two sons, one a bishop, the other an evil dolt. Her husband has an ex-wife that he continued to sleep with and a Welsh slave girl that also enjoys his affections.
As you can imagine, the bishop is irredeemably wicked. The second major character is a young man with many talents, something of a medieval renaissance man. He befriends the princess and…you can imagine.
Much of the dialogue is atrocious. Many of the circumstances and events are unrealistic and verge on silly. I can’t imagine that the earlier works read similarly, or I would not have rated them so highly. I DO note that some of the author’s other work that I have read did not rate so highly and suffer from the same issues.
Now, this is a very large and heavy book. The story and the writing would seem to appeal to the kind of audience that might be intimidated by such a hefty tome. Either that, or be disappointed that it didn’t measure up to the others in the series.
After I was positive surprised by "A Column of Fire" after "A Worlds End" was such a smut fest, "The Evening and the Morning" is again a major let down.
I can see that Follett had the background story in his head ever since he came up with Pillars and wanted to finally write it down.
That he likes to have a happy ending for his heroes is one thing, but in this book it is just too much, both Ragna and Edgar are borderline Mary Sue (do they have any weakness?) and the villains are so comical that all they need is a top hat and a monocle to make it perfect. (Oh, and a handlebar mustache I guess.)
The jacket talks about that three lives are interwoven but we hardly hear anything of the third person. Everything which has to do with the growth of Dreng's Ferry to King's Bridge is basically ignored or only mentioned in passing.
The story is so thin, the only reason it ended up over 900 pages was the insane amount of smut and if there was no sex than there was violence, and in some cases both together.
I do not say no smut normally, if it is good written, but in this case, it felt like as if he had text modules from his previous works which he just reused, but then, the whole story felt like a weak third brewing, repeating a lot of ideas from the other three installments.
Even though this book is like a car crash where you have to look on (I took breaks from reading at times, as it was just too silly), I have to give it to Mr Follett that his writing is entertaining, and which is the only reason I did finish the book and why I added an extra half star.
If this would have been the first book I read about Kingsbridge, it would have been most likely my last.
A TIME OF CONFLICT
It is 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages, and England faces attacks from the Welsh in the west and the Vikings in the east. Life is hard, and
THREE LIVES INTERTWINED
Into this uncertain world three people come to the fore: a young boatbuilder, who dreams of a better future when a devastating Viking raid shatters the life that he and the woman he loves hoped for; a Norman noblewoman, who follows her beloved husband across the sea to a new land only to find her life there shockingly different; and a capable monk at Shiring Abbey, who dreams of transforming his humble abbey into a centre of learning admired throughout Europe.
THE DAWN OF A NEW AGE
Now, with England at the dawn of the Middle Ages, these three people will each come into dangerous conflict with a ruthless bishop, who will do anything to increase his wealth and power, in an epic tale of ambition and rivalry, death and birth, and love and hate.
I do prefer to listen
This story captivated me from the start with the Viking raid. And the intensity just did not let up. This is a masterful piece of work!
Need a fabulous historical saga…wow! Grab this one today! It is superb!
I received this novel from the publisher for a honest review.
This is classic Ken Follett in his "historical fiction" phase. There are plenty of characters that you love to hate and who seem to get away with all crimes no matter how bad. There are several characters who only try to do what right and seem to rarely get rewarded for it. The end of the book is satisfying.
The Evening and the Morning, though set in the tenth century is a completely modern novel with an abundance of explicit sex, a nod to homosexuality, sweet, sentimental romance, vicious villainy, wicked tyrannical men, and a number of strong, competent women. It is a brilliantly written historical novel which portrays medieval society vividly and details the ordinary details of life.
A family's destruction by the Vikings pushes them to leave all they know and move to a new place to live. Edgar plans on leaving with the love of his life on the night the Vikings arrive. His love dies and Edgar discovers he can kill if necessary. His father also dies, so his family move to some land they're told they can farm. Edgar's mother is a smart and strong woman. She knows a bit about farming as well as how to judge people and get the most from them. Edgar's brothers lack his intellect. They are much simpler men who require little in terms of intellectual pursuits. They're a bit whiny. I don't think they would survive without Edgar and their mother. Edgar and his brothers learned how to build boats from their father, so this new path in life has a large learning curve. Edgar thinks constantly; he has an engineering brain and can figure out how to make something work. He's creative and smart. He also doesn't follow every female. He loves one woman and she's dead. This new place, Dreng's Ferry, is pretty rural and crude. The people in charge lack character. It's a hard life for Edgar. The positive side of this life is Aldred, a local monk who wants to create a library at the abbey in Shiring. He doesn't have an easy time of it either, but like Edgar, he has dreams and desires to improve life. They represent the "good," the people who strive to help society advance as they care for others.
Ragna meets Wilwulf when he comes to France to discuss the Vikings. She falls for him immediately and agrees to marry him, moving to England. Life for women in this time period wasn't easy. Women were possessions. Ragna possesses great intellect and knows how to rule an area. She's considered a fair judge and a good manager. The men do not necessarily acknowledge this skill. After all, they are men and she's a woman. Men also aren't known for faithfulness; after all, men are men. They can pursue whatever they like as the superior gender. Ragna battles for power and control as effectively as she can. She's good at strategy and truly loves her husband. She finds Edgar, Aldred, and the sheriff Den helpful because they all want the same things and are reliable and trustworthy. Those who aren't as helpful include Wilwulf's family: Bishop Winston, Wigelm, and some extended family members.
To keep from giving anything away, I'll stop at this point. I really liked this novel. I liked the focused story; there weren't a lot of characters and the novel takes place in a small area. I loved learning how Dreng's Ferry became Kingsbridge. These early seeds make Pillars possible.
The picture that is painted of the world in the Dark Ages I found intriguing and educational. The characters of Edgar and Ragna where well fleshed out and easy to love. You pretty much know how it is going to end but it is the road there that makes it all worthwhile.
There is a definite story progression/trajectory with these books though. I
It is quite a privilege to read the latest Ken Follett book. This series is memorable as are the characters and worthy to be read
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. I appreciate the opportunity and thank the author and publisher for allowing me to read, enjoy and review this book. 5 Stars