World Without End Review

World Without End by Ken Follet is the second of five novels in his popular Kingsbridge series. We are once again transported back to Kingsbridge, but 200 years later. Pillars of the Earth was a joy to read, and its sequel here follows the exact same formula, so I’m not expecting different results. Sure enough, the thousand pages or so were read in a breeze. This again I attribute to the author’s ability to create characters that the readers genuinely either care for and want for their lot to improve, or others that they just want to reach out and strangle. It’s through all this roller coaster of emotions that the reader goes through that provides so much soul and attachment to the Kingsbridge series.

“You’ll learn that men of power never show gratitude. Whatever we give them, they accept as their right.”

Mother Cecilia

Here in the sequel, we start off with Merthin and Caris during their childhood and as the days, months and years go on, will ultimately be responsible for the operation and prosperity of Kingsbridge for centuries to come. The series wouldn’t be what it is without the Kingsbridge cathedral, along with the various monks and nuns that run the place. Luckily for us readers, this takes center stage once again. As repairs for the grand cathedral are required, Merthin will ultimately discover that regardless of how brilliant of a designer and builder he is, the amount of politics and roadblocks he must face never seems to end.

We’re all good when it suits us, he used to say: that doesn’t count. It’s when you want so badly to do something wrong–when you’re about to make a fortune from a dishonest deal, or kiss the lovely lips of your neighbor’s wife, or tell a lie to get yourself out of terrible trouble–that’s when you need the rules.

Mair’s father

It’s a bit eerie that in a post Covid world, we have to remember that human centuries ago have faced a similar crisis and probably none other as popular as the illness dubbed The Black Death. The plague makes its introduction in World Without End. In a world where religion and praying is the dominant factor in curing all sickness, unorthodox and radical methods of preventing the spread of the plague can lead one to be shunned and accused of witchcraft. The prevention of trying out new methods and sticking to conservatism due to the monk’s and churches power is a major theme throughout the book and likely the Kingsbridge series in general. I’m guessing this will get relaxed a little as the years and centuries go on but for now, having men of power dictating and controlling all aspects of life for the people of Kingsbridge regardless of its consequences is what makes my blood boil but, in a good way. Characters such as Ralph and Philemon are so slimy that it’s hard for me to imagine them as not actually slithering their way around rather than walking.

“I never trust anyone who proclaims his morality from the pulpit. That high-minded type can always find an excuse for breaking his own rules. I’d rather do business with an everyday sinner who thinks it’s probably to his advantage, in the long run, to tell the truth and keep his promises.”

Edmund Wooler

Readers of Pillars of the Earth should feel right at home with World Without End, and I can only assume for the rest of the series as well. As mentioned earlier, his formula of creating characters along with throwing all sorts of obstacles along their path in order to be able to achieve their goals for the greater good is extremely well put together. However, I find it best to wait a while prior to starting the next novel in the series. It was a while since I’ve read Pillars of the Earth, and it seems as if knowledge of the previous novel’s events isn’t exactly required to continue with the next in the Kingsbridge series.

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