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#1 New York Times Bestseller

“Absorbing . . . impossible to resist.” —The Washington Post

As Europe erupts, can one young spy protect his queen? Ken Follett takes us deep into the treacherous world of powerful monarchs, intrigue, murder, and treason with his magnificent epic, A Column of Fire—the chronological latest in the Kingsbridge series, following The Pillars of the Earth, World Without End, and the prequel, The Evening and the Morning.


In 1558, the ancient stones of Kingsbridge Cathedral look down on a city torn apart by religious conflict. As power in England shifts precariously between Catholics and Protestants, royalty and commoners clash, testing friendship, loyalty, and love. 
 
Ned Willard wants nothing more than to marry Margery Fitzgerald. But when the lovers find themselves on opposing sides of the religious conflict dividing the country, Ned goes to work for Princess Elizabeth. When she becomes queen, all Europe turns against England. The shrewd, determined young monarch sets up the country’s first secret service to give her early warning of assassination plots, rebellions, and invasion plans. Over a turbulent half century, the love between Ned and Margery seems doomed as extremism sparks violence from Edinburgh to Geneva. Elizabeth clings to her throne and her principles, protected by a small, dedicated group of resourceful spies and courageous secret agents.
 
The real enemies, then as now, are not the rival religions. The true battle pitches those who believe in tolerance and compromise against the tyrants who would impose their ideas on everyone else—no matter what the cost.
 
Exciting and ambitious, and set during one of the most turbulent and revolutionary times in history,  A Column of Fire will delight longtime fans of the Kingsbridge series and serve as the perfect introduction for readers new to Ken Follett.

Review

Recommended reading by * The Washington Post * USA Today * New York Post * The Christian Science Monitor * The Philadelphia Inquirer *

“Deeply researched . . . compelling . . . A Column of Fire is absorbing, painlessly educational, and a great deal of fun.”
—The Washington Post
 
“Follett’s historical epics, including this one, evoke the Romantic adventures of Alexandre Dumas. Derring-do and double-crosses . . . A Column of Fire burns bright throughout.”
—The Christian Science Monitor

“Full of adventure and suspense, A Column of Fire is an inspiring and thrilling portrait of one of Europe’s most perilous times in history.”
—BookPage

“Fans of Follett''s epic sagas The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, set in the Middle Ages in the fictional city of Kingsbridge, will be thrilled by this latest installment.”
—New York Post
 
“[Follett is a] master of the sweeping, readable epic.”
—The Philadelphia Inquirer

“English-history mavens will find much to savor in Follett’s third Kingsbridge novel.”
—AARP The Magazine
 
“A fiery tale set in the latter half of the sixteenth century . . . As always, Follett excels in historical detailing, transporting readers back in time with another meaty historical blockbuster.”
Booklist
 
“An immersive journey through the tumultuous world of 16th century Europe and some of the bloodiest religious wars in history. Follett’s sprawling novel is a fine mix of heart-pounding drama and erudite historicism.”
—Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Ken Follett is one of the world’s best-loved authors, selling more than 160 million copies of his thirty books. Follett’s first bestseller was Eye of the Needle, a spy story set in the Second World War.
 
In 1989 The Pillars of the Earth was published and has since become Follett’s most popular novel. It reached number one on bestseller lists around the world and was an Oprah’s Book Club pick.
 
Its sequel, World Without End, proved equally popular and the Kingsbridge series has sold 38 million copies worldwide.
 
Follett lives in Hertfordshire, England, with his wife Barbara. Between them they have five children, six grandchildren, and three Labradors.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Prologue

We hanged him in front of Kingsbridge Cathedral. It is the usual place for executions. After all, if you can’t kill a man in front of God’s face you probably shouldn’t kill him at all.

The sheriff brought him up from the dungeon below the guildhall, hands tied behind his back. He walked upright, his pale face defiant, fearless.

The crowd jeered at him and cursed him. He seemed not to see them. But he saw me. Our eyes met, and in that momentary exchange of looks there was a lifetime.

I was responsible for his death, and he knew it.

I had been hunting him for decades. He was a bomber who would have killed half the rulers of our country, including most of the royal family, all in one act of bloodthirsty savagery—if I had not stopped him.

I have spent my life tracking such would‑be murderers, and a lot of them have been executed—not just hanged but drawn and quartered, the more terrible death reserved for the worst offenders.

Yes, I have done this many times: watched a man die knowing that I, more than anyone else, had brought him to his just but dreadful punishment. I did it for my country, which is dear to me; for my sovereign, whom I serve; and for something else, a principle, the belief that a person has the right to make up his own mind about God.

He was the last of many men I sent to hell, but he made me think of the first . . .

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4.6 out of 54.6 out of 5
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Top reviews from the United States

Chris Melzer (ChrisDMelzer@aol.com)
5.0 out of 5 stars
A real Ken Follett – and that is great (with minor flaws)
Reviewed in the United States on September 12, 2017
We waited three years for a new Ken Follett novel and almost ten for the next, the third, book of his Kingsbridge story. So here is his new novel, the name is “A column of Fire” (I never get his naming) and it is a real Ken Follett – with all pros and cons. If you know... See more
We waited three years for a new Ken Follett novel and almost ten for the next, the third, book of his Kingsbridge story. So here is his new novel, the name is “A column of Fire” (I never get his naming) and it is a real Ken Follett – with all pros and cons. If you know novels by Ken Follett, you know what you get: Tension, entertainment, a lot of well researched knowledge – and unfortunately a little black and white where you expect more gray.

Two things first: Ken Follett gets back to Kingsbridge, his fictional town in England, for the third time, ten years after “World Without End” and 28 (!) years after “The Pillars of the Earth”. But it is not really a sequel. Yes, he makes a lot of references. But the plot is individual and you can read absolutely this book without even seeing the two others.

Second point: This is not a medieval novel, as some say. It plays in Modern History, right after the reformation by the German monk Martin Luther (these days exactly 500 years ago). It plays a little later in the 16th century when in England first the Catholics burnt the Protestants and then the Protestants burnt the Catholics on the stake. When France was devastated by terrible wars of religion. And when Spain reached the heyday of its power – and gave it away to an awakening England, powered by religious tolerance (kind of) and the beginning of democracy (kind of).

Main character is Ned Willard (I almost wrote Ned Flanders). He has a great future as a merchant. And because this is a Follett we would become of course an honest merchant with values that match perfectly our values in the 21st century. But there are evil villains, sexist and racist, very bad according to these our values and these guys giving him a hard time.

And that’s the problem with this Ken Follett like with (almost) every Ken Follett else: The good guys are almost perfect; the bad guys are just mean and without any good quality. Everything is black or white, good or evil. But experience told us that the world is gray and evil characters are more interesting if they are complicated.

If this is NOT your first Ken Follett novel you probably know what I mean. And if this is not your first Ken Follett novel you will also read this one. Because they are real page-turners. Because Follett is such a good writer that you never lose track, also there are so many persons and plots. This guy can write and he never stops thinking about his readers. Und you read this books because you can learn so much about history. Here as well: The most important events of the 16th century are described with many details. Yes, I love history. But with books like that everyone can experience the glamour of history. And after about 1150 pages you are sad that this is over. Not the common reaction to a history book.

You like that review? Than I am grateful for a vote. If not please leave a comment. Because to help other readers is the sole purpose of this review. And sorry for the English, not a native speaker (German).
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Rachael L Adamczyk
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Very Disappointing.
Reviewed in the United States on September 27, 2017
Pillars and World Without End are my favorite books of all time. I''m also very interested in religious history and persecution, so I highly anticipated the release of this book. Unfortunately, it was just really bad. The book had nothing to do with Kingsbridge,... See more
Pillars and World Without End are my favorite books of all time. I''m also very interested in religious history and persecution, so I highly anticipated the release of this book.

Unfortunately, it was just really bad. The book had nothing to do with Kingsbridge, which was disappointing, but I could have gotten over that, IF the book had contained rich characters and plots like the first two books. Instead, this book featured super boring characters who meandered their way through 900 pages of ABSOLUTELY NO PLOT. Additionally, there were about five new people introduced per page, all with similar names (Francis, Henri), and you never knew if they were going to be major characters, or if they would never be mentioned again. I seriously started taking notes. I have about five handwritten pages of names....and I''d say about 10% turned out to be recurring characters. The other 90% had no impact on the plot.

Unlike Pillars & WWE (and most of follett''s other wonderful books), I never cared about any of the characters, or knew what motivated them. I found myself constantly thinking "wait, why are they doing this?" Or "wait, when was the last time these two characters interacted with each other? It doesn''t make sense that they''re enemies!"

This was just a complete mess. I really looked forward to this book for months, and I hesitated to write this review until I was finished with the whole thing...hoping against hope that it would get better. It didn''t. I''m so disappointed.
272 people found this helpful
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R. R. Williams
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Ken Follett in all his glory....
Reviewed in the United States on September 14, 2017
So! The third installment of Kingsbridge is HERE and I am absolutely loving Column! 5 stars all the way, everything you''d want from Ken F. in a book. I want to talk directly to the reader who has not yet read any of the 3 Kingsbridge books. You must start with Pillars of... See more
So! The third installment of Kingsbridge is HERE and I am absolutely loving Column! 5 stars all the way, everything you''d want from Ken F. in a book. I want to talk directly to the reader who has not yet read any of the 3 Kingsbridge books. You must start with Pillars of the Earth. It''s the greatest book I''ve ever read and it unearthed my passion for historical fiction. Even IF you''re not into historical fiction, it''s impossible that you wouldn''t love this book or its series or any of Ken''s novels. Pillars has had a lifelong impact on me. It''s that book that just stays with you after you''ve finished the amazing journey it will lead you on. I''m not a master with words or reviews, but if you''ve yet to read any of these all I have to say is: you''re in for a treat!
534 people found this helpful
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Patricia
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Well done!
Reviewed in the United States on September 17, 2017
Though I''ve read the earlier novels in this series I was not and am not obsessed with them, nor am I obsessed with Ken Follett despite having read many of his books. Having said that THIS NOVEL IS JUST PLAIN EXCELLENT and sadly, very timely. The overall theme is... See more
Though I''ve read the earlier novels in this series I was not and am not obsessed with them, nor am I obsessed with Ken Follett despite having read many of his books. Having said that
THIS NOVEL IS JUST PLAIN EXCELLENT and sadly, very timely. The overall theme is tolerance vs. bigotry. Centered in Elizabethan England and peopled primarily with English characters, it portrays the conflicting views (not all that many when you come down to it) between Catholics and Protestants and the ensuing horrible bloodshed through much of the 16th century. A significant portion of the novel is set in France, with smaller episodes in Spain and the Netherlands.
Protagonist Ned, after witnessing Catholic excesses (triggered more by greed and hopes of material gain than by religious belief) decides to devote his life to promoting tolerance and fighting excesses. Joining up with Princess/Queen Elizabeth he works in multiple capacities to support her policy of comparative tolerance. Evil Pierre, whose entire being is permeated by greed rather than religion, conspires with supporters of Catholicism in France (who are power-hungry rather than religious believers), triggering multiple episodes of bloodshed.
Ned and Pierre are juxtaposed against one another as are the two women in Ned''s life. English Margery is a true believer in Catholicism and is ready to do what she can to preserve the faith, legal or not. French Sylvie is Protestant and ready to do whatever it takes to assist other Protestants. Both become involved in illegal activities because of their beliefs. They are essentially alike.
A host of other characters, some historical and others fictional, take the reader from the coronation of Elizabeth to the Guy Fawkes plot and hopefully remind readers that religious (and racial, too, for that matter) differences are really superficial and that a great deal more unites people than divides them. Take notice: World of 2017!
133 people found this helpful
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Texas Mom
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Not really a Kingsbridge novel
Reviewed in the United States on September 17, 2017
Spoiler alert.......I am a huge fan of Mr. Follett and have read many of his novels over the years. I was super excited about this novel and started reading it as soon as the book was delivered. I finished a few days later and am sad to say I had to force myself to finish... See more
Spoiler alert.......I am a huge fan of Mr. Follett and have read many of his novels over the years. I was super excited about this novel and started reading it as soon as the book was delivered. I finished a few days later and am sad to say I had to force myself to finish the book. I struggled to connect to any of the characters in the story......and sort of got lost with multiple storylines and minor characters. The love story between Ned and Margery started out promising.....but then became a minor plot point for most of the book. It was similar to the Jack/Aliena and Caris/Merthin plot lines (from the previous Kingsbridge books) but with much less detail. I found that I wasn''t even rooting for the romance to prevail. Let''s not forget the main character missing for most of the book.......Kingsbridge itself. Most of the story is in other places and I found myself constantly wondering what was going on back in Kingsbridge. I am going to reread the book, maybe it will be better the second time.
114 people found this helpful
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PussCat
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Compares Poorly to the other Kingsbridge books
Reviewed in the United States on October 12, 2017
Like so many, I am a tremendous fan of Ken Follett, and have read and re-read Pillars of the Earth and World without End. I enjoyed them as much for their rich characterization as for the splendid history immersion. Like many, I am very disappointed with Column of Fire and... See more
Like so many, I am a tremendous fan of Ken Follett, and have read and re-read Pillars of the Earth and World without End. I enjoyed them as much for their rich characterization as for the splendid history immersion. Like many, I am very disappointed with Column of Fire and also will not finish the book-it compares so poorly with the first two Kingsbridge books. There was a clue upon opening the book: the big, wide spaces between the lines of the type set. The book has as much empty space as the type set. Although there was, of course, the occasional Follett brilliance, overall the book seemed to be only a very good rough draft. Like another Reviewer, I was dismayed with the occasional use of modern slang. I am rating it 3 stars only because Follett at his worst is better than most at their best. This book will be donated to the library.
53 people found this helpful
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JunkyardDog
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Every bit as good as books one and two
Reviewed in the United States on October 25, 2017
I always read the negative reviews first. I realize that every book will have negative reviews and this one only has a small percentage. However, I can''t understand anyone loving the first two of this trilogy but hating this one. I couldn''t put it down. How Follett weaves a... See more
I always read the negative reviews first. I realize that every book will have negative reviews and this one only has a small percentage. However, I can''t understand anyone loving the first two of this trilogy but hating this one. I couldn''t put it down. How Follett weaves a mesmerizing tale around historical facts is a rare gift that only a few authors can do effectively. Only Gary Jennings and James Michener come to mind. And I think Follett is more accurate. I had to check with Google now and then to see how closely woven it actually was and it was amazingly close to actual events. His fictional characters are so believable and give a good insight into those times. Those who complain about the emphasis on religion in this book, well, that was rather prevalent and foreboding back then. Finally, the ending of the book was so perfect and you could really grasp the thoughts and actions of the people of that time and how religious beliefs guided so many actions that changed the course of history.
47 people found this helpful
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lintoinette
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Marketed as a Kingsbridge novel, not about Kingsbridge
Reviewed in the United States on September 16, 2017
I am deeply disappointed. I''ve been waiting for this book to come out for months: I''m about 25% through it and it''s abundantly clear that the book is not really about Kingsbridge. Some of the characters originate from there, but so far it takes place in other countries.... See more
I am deeply disappointed. I''ve been waiting for this book to come out for months: I''m about 25% through it and it''s abundantly clear that the book is not really about Kingsbridge. Some of the characters originate from there, but so far it takes place in other countries. There is no earthly reason these world events could not be described in the context of the town we grew to love over the past 25 years.

As others have mentioned, the frequent use of obviously modern language is jarring and lazy.

This may be a good stand alone book, but given that it was marketed and sold as a Kingsbridge book, I feel a bit cheated. I''m not entirely sure I will finish. I will update if this improves.

P.S.: A side note not to do with my review, but I think Follett missed a significant opportunity here. He could''ve placed this book in the late 1520s and developed the new characters, and taken us through the dissolution of the monasteries and how a prior would''ve dealt with that, and a town who depended on the Cathedral for business. COME ON! It was handed to you Follett!
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Top reviews from other countries

Bill
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Not a story of Kingsbridge Cathedral, more historic fact than fiction
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 15, 2018
I enjoyed reading this book for the most part, but what it is not, is a continuation of the previous ''Kingsbridge'' novels. I had rather imagined I was going to be reading about the troubles affecting the Cathedral and the people of Kingsbridge during the Dissolution of the...See more
I enjoyed reading this book for the most part, but what it is not, is a continuation of the previous ''Kingsbridge'' novels. I had rather imagined I was going to be reading about the troubles affecting the Cathedral and the people of Kingsbridge during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, but that major historic event seems to have passed us by and the book opens during the reign of Queen Mary. The Cathedral and Priory almost don''t feature at all in the 600+ pages within the book and the people of Kingsbridge only get a smattering of mentions. In fact, 3/4s of the book are set in France, Spain and Holland. What I found rather irritating was the constant and abrupt switching from one story line in France, to a completely separate story line in Spain and then to Holland and back to France. It was like an episode of EastEnders or Dallas constantly flipping between characters and scenes. And there are quite a lot of characters in this book! I also found that what I was reading was a factual history lesson interspersed with fictional characters - the ''story telling'' which made the previous books so enthralling, didn''t really evolve, it was simply a flowery version of historic fact. If I had wanted to read a history book I would''ve bought something by Simon Sharma. I also became rather annoyed when some of the main characters, in whom readers had invested quite a lot in the 600+ pages, came to what seemed like premature ends, almost as if Ken Follet got bored writing about them and finished them off without any significance. If it was meant to provide ''shockers'' it didn''t work - in fact I was rather disgusted with one characters unjustied end that I just slapped the book shut with an irritated ''hmph''. All that said, I quite enjoyed the book, but it just wasn''t what was expected or indeed what it should have been. I did learn something about the history of Protestant and Catholic issues in 16th Century Europe.
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Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great continuation of the Kingsbridge saga.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 21, 2017
A great continuation of the Kingsbridge Saga. Set in the Elizabethan era with less content about Kingsbridge and the priory and the conflict between the prior, townspeople and earls, and more about Queen Elizabeth''s secret service, and the battle between Catholicism and...See more
A great continuation of the Kingsbridge Saga. Set in the Elizabethan era with less content about Kingsbridge and the priory and the conflict between the prior, townspeople and earls, and more about Queen Elizabeth''s secret service, and the battle between Catholicism and Protestantism throughout Europe, and the plotting against the Queen. If you enjoyed the first two, you will definitely enjoy this one.
39 people found this helpful
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AliG
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
... fan of Ken Follett and Pillars is probably my favourite book. World Without End was ok but this ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 28, 2017
I''ve always been a fan of Ken Follett and Pillars is probably my favourite book. World Without End was ok but this was the literary equivalent of Forrest Gump - a bunch of random people who happen to be witnesses to major historical events. Whereas Pillars is primarily a...See more
I''ve always been a fan of Ken Follett and Pillars is probably my favourite book. World Without End was ok but this was the literary equivalent of Forrest Gump - a bunch of random people who happen to be witnesses to major historical events. Whereas Pillars is primarily a great story with strong characters which culminated in an actual historical event this reads like a docu-drama. I hope he returns to form soon as this was predictable and disappointing.
36 people found this helpful
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Chenaie
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Awful!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 27, 2017
I have read all of Ken Follett''s books and looked forward to this with eager anticipation. Normally, his books are ''page turners'' - this is a page burner! Way below his normal standard - too many characters in too many locations and not really very interesting. To...See more
I have read all of Ken Follett''s books and looked forward to this with eager anticipation. Normally, his books are ''page turners'' - this is a page burner! Way below his normal standard - too many characters in too many locations and not really very interesting. To paraphrase meatloaf - this book''s a lemon and I want my money back!
33 people found this helpful
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Evered
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
No smoke without fire
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 19, 2018
Certainly not as good as "Pillars of the Earth" . It seemed as if Ken Follett had a tick list of every event of note in Elizabethan & Jacobean times and just had to include his characters in them all. Spanish Armada, Gunpowder Plot , Execution of Mary Queen of Scots...See more
Certainly not as good as "Pillars of the Earth" . It seemed as if Ken Follett had a tick list of every event of note in Elizabethan & Jacobean times and just had to include his characters in them all. Spanish Armada, Gunpowder Plot , Execution of Mary Queen of Scots you name it his heroes and heroines were there. I was waiting for the execution of Charles 1st next but fortunately his main hero died of old age just in time. On the other hand if there are gaps in your knowledge of 16th century politics ( particularly the religious in fighting ) then this is an ideal book to get clued up without suffering from choosing the wrong side (Catholics, Protestants, Hugenots etc) like so many thousands did. And what horrible deaths!
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