I am a big fan of Ken Follett's work, but know that most authors have occasional "duds", and at over 1000 pages (the British version I bought), I was concerned this would be a bloated, rambling disappointment. I also loved "Pillars of the Earth" when I read it many years ago but had forgotten all but being fascinated by learning cathedral construction techniques, so I was hesitant to read a "sequel" in case this book was dependent on remembering the first one. Still, because I read that this was a well researched and competent book, I decided to take a chance on it. I am happy to report that my concerns were unfounded. The book is long, but it has a lot going on and is not at all bloated. There are several stories being told, but they all interweave and the elimination of one would be a loss. Although it is set in the same location and refers back to some of the original characters, reading or remembering "Pillars" is not required. I enjoy learning about the construction and medical theories of the day and wish this aspect had been further expanded, but if a reader does not, there is not so much of it that it would be detrimental. All in all, if you like historical fiction with plenty of death, love and destruction, this book is highly recommended. The length of the book will dissuade some from trying it, but those who have longer attention spans will not be disappointed.
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