Review: A Column of Fire

Series: Kingsbridge: #3

The simple idea that people should be allowed to worship as they wished caused more suffering than the ten plagues of Egypt.

Four hundred years later… Sometimes things are better. And sometimes things feel like they’ll never change.

Long story1 short: It just didn’t feel like a Kingsbridge novel.

It’s kind of a bummer, since the setting should be fascinating. The Protestant Reformation2. Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots. The Gunpowder Plot. A period of history that is absolutely fascinating, especially in England. And yet, I think that’s actually the core of the issue.

Very little of this story actually takes place in Kingsbridge. The main characters are mostly from there, but for the most part, we have scenes all over Europe and even in the new world, spanning pretty much the entire second half of the 16th century. The scope is huge… but far less deep.

It’s an interesting story and if it wasn’t the third in the series, I think I would have liked it more. I know, I know, but it’s something I just can’t avoid thinking about when reviewing a book.

Plus, there’s not even a bridge this time…

Places such as Kingsbridge changed only slowly, Ned supposed: cathedrals and bridges and hospitals were built to last.

It’s all politics.

On top of that, I just could not care about the the ‘star crossed lovers’ this time around. Ned is a solid protagonist, but I just could care less about Margery and do not understand at all what they see in each other. We have lines throughout the book about how much they care for each other… but decades have passed.

“Isn’t it a sin to lie with a man you hate?”

“No, that’s not part of the church’s teaching.”

“Well, it should be.”

“You Protestants always want to revise God’s laws.”

“I’m not a Protestant! Is that what this is about?”


“What have they done? How did they get to you? Were you threatened?”

“I was reminded of my duty.”

Move on already. Again2.

Villianwise, we continue Follett’s tendency for the baddies to be pretty much nonredeemable, but at least they get what’s coming for them in the end. Pierre is cartoonishly evil and Rollo has built a life around a half century of hatred. Just move on. But so far as book villains… sure.

On top of that, the ending is weak. Plots are foiled, people die, and the entire Gunpoweder plot is resolved in the span of a few chapters, all it feels just because the book had to end. In a book like this, things have to turn out how they actually turned out3

Queen Mary Tudor departed her earthly life gradually and majestically, like a mighty galleon inching out of its berth.

…but it still feels uneven.

Overall, it’s a fine book. It would be better if it stood alone and just dropped the Kingsbridge moniker entirely, with that, it’s the weakest of the series. I’m glad it’s the last book for now. And I’ll probably still give the prequel a chance when it comes out.

Random thought (NSFW):

The king’s cock is short and fat—adorable, but not long. He wasn’t putting it in far enough, and my maidenhead had never been broken, so the spunk didn’t go all the way up. The doctor broke the membrane with a special implement, and a month later I was pregnant with Francis. Pronto.

Well that’s blunt.

But it really makes me wonder. Did people really talk between themselves like that back then? Heck, do average people talk like that even now?

  1. Nearly a thousand pages? I think it counts… ↩︎

  2. Especially when my own family does this song and dance all the time. If I’m anything, I’m agnostic/does-it-matter?-istic with a Protestant background married to a Catholic. I totally get the arguments Ned and Margery are having and it works for us… but it works for us because we both try to be flexible and understanding. If you want to have a successful partnership in life, you have to find someone you can live with. ↩︎ ↩︎

  3. But wouldn’t it be interesting if they didn’t? ↩︎