World Without End, one of the great books I read about 3 years ago. I have to admit I came upon it quite by accident in the library. Usually my personality encourages me to do research before even considering reading a book of fiction, but the medieval setting more than piqued my interest.
This book was written by famed author Ken Folliet who took over 30 years to produce a sequel to Pillars of the Earth – once again, I was unaware at the time that a prequel even existed. Keep in mind that my brief review of this novel will keep spoilers to a minimum, but if you are completely xenophobic towards even slight spoilers then just skip to my brief summary at the end.
The story revolves around a man and woman. The man is a mason who has a passion for building as well as a duty of earning a living for himself and his wife. To further elaborate, he actually has a great interest in the construction of medieval architecture such as cathedrals, in this case. I had no idea what I was getting into as I traversed the pages of this novel. What I was presented with was a fascinating tale told through many years during the time period of the black plague (17th Century). So many events unfolded during this book. From traveling to cathedral building to love stories and betrayal – all told in an impressive fashion. The book placed so much emphasis on the art of cathedral building itself that I have reason to believe I have developed most of my intrigue in European architecture thanks to this novel.
Without giving too much away what really captivated me besides the cathedral building was the journey’s the main protagonists’ had to endure during their travels and how they were able to deal with the adversities that awaited them. These ranged from thieves, who sneak up on lonely travellers; illnesses, which suddenly occurred; and monetary issues, which plagued them during their travels. The character development in this book was astounding; character development is something I really appreciate in books of fiction.
During this time period it was quite a common occurrence to deal with issues such as high taxation amongst villagers. These events seen accurately portrayed in this novel and how chaos occurred amongst village people, as a result. Not only this, but the archaic system of medical treatments used during this time period; the belief in the 4 humours the human body holds and the bleeding of someone to cure the body of illnesses. The black plague was a terrible occurrence that Europe had to deal with which – as history portrays – killed millions of people.
What really makes this book enticing for the reader is how the author was able to mesh together historical facts into a wonderful work of fiction. I prefer not to delve into to many details as I feel I would be compromising the experience for the everyone. Keep in mind though that this book contains details such as: violence, sex, and religious exploitation.
I have taken it upon myself to read through Pillars of the Earth as well, but while it is still a good read I could not find it as riveting as World Without End. The prequel is not an exact necessity to enjoy World Without End, mind, since the characters in each tale are completely different.
I have yet to find a medieval book as good as this one which contains everything from love, sex, corruption, historical context and more. Although, I will be following up with another book review known as Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks which people online seem to recommend.