Top critical review
Entertaining but trite
Reviewed in the United States on September 20, 2020
I sometimes imagine that Ken Follett's process for writing his Kingsbridge series is to sit down in a well-lit house, with a cozy drizzle outside and a cup of warm tea on the desk inside, open a drawer and pull out a series of folders, each containing the key characters for the new book, to be fleshed out a bit more in the book. We have the plucky, clever young heroine (and yes, she does get raped, as do all plucky, clever young heroines); the precocious young builder/stone mason/prodigy who goes away to France (or Italy) and then comes back to be reunited with the heroine; the kindly, orderly church man/prior/monk; the evil, greedy bishop who gets away with most things until he suddenly does not; the evil man of violence with the evil mother (who may become repentant because she is scared of God, or because she sees how everyone else got their comeuppance); and a random assortment of Good/Righteous people and Bad/Selfish people.
The story is still entertaining, and it's a nice dip back into the world of Kingsbridge, where everything is soothingly familiar. I enjoyed reading it.
What I did not enjoy reading is a middle-aged male author's attempt at writing women, where they are either greedy, base creatures doing their usual womanly wiley things, or sympathetic, take-charge smart people where, except for their well-described large bosoms, they might as well be a man. Follett in particular excels at writing rape/sex scenes where it is painfully clear, that Follett is not a woman, has never felt what it feels like to have sex with a man as a woman, and apparently never found it prudent to ask any of the women in his life about it.
Would I recommend reading the book? Yes, if you, like me, enjoy rereading books you've enjoyed before. Reading this book is like rereading Pillars of the Earth but with just enough new twists to make it fun