I read Pillars of the Earth a few years ago and before I was even halfway through, I bought World Without End, which is technical a sequel to PotE, but can be read before it and you wouldn’t be left behind (the novels are set hundreds of years apart). Essentially, WWE is the story of Merthin, the son of a disgraced knight who’s apprenticed to a builder in order to pay is father’s debts. The book is Merthin’s love story with both building bridges (and a dome) as well as his love story with Caris, a modern woman accused of witchcraft who is forced to become a nun. In the midst of all of this, the Plague strikes Europe, and if you were remotely awake during history in middle school and high school, you’ll know that didn’t end so well.
A lot of people who have reviewed this book on various sites have said its plot was similar to PotE, and to be fair, it has a lot of similarities. Perhaps Follett was capitalizing on his success with the earlier book and he realized he had a formula that worked. Or perhaps there are really only seven plots in the world and every story ever written is simply a variation of one of those plots. I don’t know. Either way, yes, the two books are similar, but that begs that question: does sharing similarities have to make the later book any less enjoyable? No, it doesn’t, and in fact, while I enjoyed both books, I enjoyed WWE more than PotE.
Follett’s prose is beautiful and detailed, which can be overwhelming for some readers, but I enjoyed it. Living in 21st century America, and being a reader who typically doesn’t read any kind of historical fiction, I thought his descriptions of England in the 1300s was lovely, and there is a great deal of history woven into the story as well (bam! A history lesson in an unsuspecting novel? I guess that’s why it’s called historical fiction!), not to mention the cast of supporting characters who help move the story along. Really, this is the kind of book that has something for everyone (love, adventure, war, disease, history, beautiful writing… this is just a small, small list!). If you’ve read Follett’s other works of historical fiction (PotE or the more recent Fall of Giants) or have ever looked at the book and wanted to read it – do it! I did (yeah, this book has been lying around my apartment for about two years now) and I don’t regret it!