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Century Trilogy #01: Fall of Giants

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Century Trilogy #01: Fall of Giants Cover

ISBN13: 9780451232571
ISBN10: 0451232577
Condition: Standard
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Excerpt

Chapter 1

In a broad valley, at the foot of a sloping hillside, beside a clear bubbling stream, Tom was building a house.

The walls were already three feet high and rising fast. The two masons Tom had engaged were working steadily in the sunshine, their trowels going scrape, slap and then tap, tap while their laborer sweated under the weight of the big stone blocks. Tom’s son Alfred was mixing mortar, counting aloud as he scooped sand onto a board. There was also a carpenter, working at the bench beside Tom, carefully shaping a length of beech wood with an adz.

Alfred was fourteen years old, and tall like Tom. Tom was a head higher than most men, and Alfred was only a couple of inches less, and still growing. They looked alike too: both had light-brown hair and greenish eyes with brown flecks. People said they were a handsome pair. The main difference between them was that Tom had a curly brown beard, whereas Alfred had only a fine blond fluff. The hair on Alfred’s head had been that color once, Tom remembered fondly. Now that Alfred was becoming a man, Tom wished he would take a more intelligent interest in his work, for he had a lot to learn if he was to be a mason like his father; but so far Alfred remained bored and baffled by the principles of building.

When the house was finished it would be the most luxurious home for miles around. The ground floor would be a spacious undercroft, for storage, with a curved vault for a ceiling, so that it would not catch fire. The hall, where people actually lived, would be above, reached by an outside staircase, its height making it hard to attack and easy to defend. Against the hall wall there would be a chimney, to take away the smoke of the fire. This was a radical innovation: Tom had only ever seen one house with a chimney, but it had struck him as such a good idea that he was determined to copy it. At one end of the house, over the hall, there would be a small bedroom, for that was what earls’ daughters demanded nowadays—they were too fine to sleep in the hall with the men and the serving wenches and the hunting dogs. The kitchen would be a separate building, for every kitchen caught fire sooner or later, and there was nothing for it but to build them far away from everything else and put up with lukewarm food.

Tom was making the doorway of the house. The doorposts would be rounded to look like columns—a touch of distinction for the noble newlyweds who were to live here. With his eye on the shaped wooden template he was using as a guide, Tom set his iron chisel obliquely against the stone and tapped it gently with the big wooden hammer. A small shower of fragments fell away from the surface, leaving the shape a little rounder. He did it again. Smooth enough for a cathedral.

He had worked on a cathedral once—Exeter. At first he had treated it like any other job. He had been angry and resentful when the master builder had warned him that his work was not quite up to standard: he knew himself to be rather more careful than the average mason. But then he realized that the walls of a cathedral had to be not just good, but perfect. This was because the cathedral was for God, and also because the building was so big that the slightest lean in the walls, the merest variation from the absolutely true and level, could weaken the structure fatally. Tom’s resentment turned to fascination. The combination of a hugely ambitious building with merciless attention to the smallest detail opened Tom’s eyes to the wonder of his craft. He learned from the Exeter master about the importance of proportion, the symbolism of various numbers, and the almost magical formulas for working out the correct width of a wall or the angle of a step in a spiral staircase. Such things captivated him. He was surprised to learn that many masons found them incomprehensible.

After a while Tom had become the master builder’s right-hand man, and that was when he began to see the master’s shortcomings. The man was a great craftsman and an incompetent organizer. He was completely baffled by the problems of obtaining the right quantity of stone to keep pace with the masons, making sure that the blacksmith made enough of the right tools, burning lime and carting sand for the mortar makers, felling trees for the carpenters, and getting enough money from the cathedral chapter to pay for everything.

If Tom had stayed at Exeter until the master builder died, he might have become master himself; but the chapter ran out of money—partly because of the master’s mismanagement—and the craftsmen had to move on, looking for work elsewhere. Tom had been offered the post of builder to the Exeter castellan, repairing and improving the city’s fortifications. It would have been a lifetime job, barring accidents. But Tom had turned it down, for he wanted to build another cathedral.

His wife, Agnes, had never understood that decision. They might have had a good stone house, and servants, and their own stables, and meat on the table every dinnertime; and she had never forgiven Tom for turning down the opportunity. She could not comprehend the irresistible attraction of building a cathedral: the absorbing complexity of organization, the intellectual challenge of the calculations, the sheer size of the walls, and the breathtaking beauty and grandeur of the finished building. Once he had tasted that wine, Tom was never satisfied with anything less.

That had been ten years ago. Since then they had never stayed anywhere for very long. He would design a new chapter house for a monastery, work for a year or two on a castle, or build a town house for a rich merchant; but as soon as he had some money saved he would leave, with his wife and children, and take to the road, looking for another cathedral.

He glanced up from his bench and saw Agnes standing at the edge of the building site, holding a basket of food in one hand and resting a big jug of beer on the opposite hip. It was midday. He looked at her fondly. No one would ever call her pretty, but her face was full of strength: a broad forehead, large brown eyes, a straight nose, a strong jaw. Her dark, wiry hair was parted in the middle and tied behind. She was Tom’s soul mate.

She poured beer for Tom and Alfred. They stood there for a moment, the two big men and the strong woman, drinking beer from wooden cups; and then the fourth member of the family came skipping out of the wheat field: Martha, seven years old and as pretty as a daffodil, but a daffodil with a petal missing, for she had a gap where two milk teeth had fallen out and the new ones had not yet grown. She ran to Tom, kissed his dusty beard, and begged a sip of his bear. He hugged her bony body. “Don’t drink too much, or you’ll fall into a ditch,” he said. She staggered around in a circle, pretending to be drunk.

They all sat down on the woodpile. Agnes handed Tom a hunk of wheat bread, a thick slice of boiled bacon and a small onion. He took a bite from the meat and started to peel the onion. Agnes gave the children food and began to eat her own. Perhaps it was irresponsible, Tom thought, to turn down that dull job in Exeter and go looking for a cathedral to build; but I’ve always been able to feed them all, despite my recklessness.

He took his eating knife from the front pocket of his leather apron, cut a slice off the onion, and ate it with a bite of bread. The onion was sweet and stinging in his mouth. Agnes said: “I’m with child again.”

Tom stopped chewing and stared at her. A thrill of delight took hold of him. Not knowing what to say, he just smiled foolishly at her. After a few moments she blushed, and said, “It isn’t that surprising.”

Tom hugged her. “Well, well,” he said, still grinning with pleasure. “A babe to pull my beard. And I thought the next would be Alfred’s.”

“Don’t get too happy yet,” Agnes cautioned. “It’s bad luck to name the child before it’s born.”

Tom nodded assent. Agnes had had several miscarriages and one stillborn baby, and there had been another little girl, Matilda, who had lived on two years. “I’d like a boy, though,” he said. “Now that Alfred’s so big. When is it due?”

“After Christmas.”

Tom began to calculate. The shell of the house would be finished by first frost, then the stonework would have to be covered with straw to protect it through the winter. The masons would spend the cold months cutting stones for windows, vaults, doorcases and the fireplace, while the carpenter made floorboards and doors and shutters and Tom built the scaffolding for the upstairs work. Then in spring they would vault the undercroft, floor the hall above it, and put on the roof. The job would feed the family until Whitsun, by which time the baby would be a half year old. Then they would move on. “Good,” he said contentedly. “This is good.” He ate another slice of onion.

“I’m too old to bare children,” said Agnes. “This must be my last.”

Tom thought about that. He was not sure how old she was, in numbers, but plenty of women bore children at her time in life. However, it was true they suffered more as they grew older, and the babies were not as strong. No doubt she was right. But how would she make certain that she would not conceive again? he wondered. Then he realized how, and a cloud shadowed his sunny mood.

“I may get a good job, in a town,” he said, trying to mollify her. “A cathedral, or a palace. Then we might have a big house with wood floors, and a maid to help you with the baby.”

Her face hardened, and she said skeptically: “It may be.” She did not like to hear talk of cathedrals. If Tom had never worked on a cathedral, her face said, she might be living in a town house now, with money saved up and buried under the fireplace, and nothing to worry about.

Tom looked away and took another bite of bacon. They had something to celebrate, but they were in disharmony. He felt let down. He chewed the tough meat for a while, then he heard a horse. He cocked his head to listen. The rider was coming through the trees from the direction of the road, taking a short cut and avoiding the village.

A moment later, a young man on a pony trotted up and dismounted. He looked like a squire, a kind of apprentice knight. “Your lord is coming,” he said.

Tom stood up. “You mean Lord Percy?” Percy Hamleigh was one of the most important men in the country. He owned this valley, and many others, and he was paying for the house.

“His son,” said the squire.

“Young William.” Percy’s son, William, was to occupy this house after his marriage. He was engaged to Lady Aliena, the daughter of the earl of Shiring.

“The same,” said the squire, “And in a rage.”

Tom’s heart sank. At the best of times it could be difficult to deal with the owner of a house under construction. An owner in a rage was impossible. “What’s he angry about?”

“His bride rejected him.”

“The earl’s daughter?” said Tom in surprise. He felt a pang of fear: he had just been thinking how secure his future was. “I thought that was settled.”

“So did we all—except Lady Aliena, it seems,” the squire said. “The moment she met him, she announced that she wouldn’t marry him for all the world and a woodcock.”

Tom frowned worriedly. He did not want this to be true. “But the boy’s not bad-looking, as I recall.”

Agnes said: “As if that made any difference, in her position. If earls’ daughters were allowed to marry whom they please, we’d all be ruled by strolling minstrels and dark-eyed outlaws.”

“The girl may yet change her mind,” Tom said hopefully.

“She will if her mother takes a birch rod to her,” Agnes said.

The squire said: “Her mother’s dead.”

Agnes nodded. “That explains why she doesn’t know the facts of life. But I don’t see why her father can’t compel her.”

The squire said: “It seems he once promised he would never marry her to someone she hated.”

“A foolish pledge!” Tom said angrily. How could a powerful man tie himself to the whim of a girl in that way? Her marriage could affect military alliances, baronial finances… even the building of this house.

The squire said: “She had a brother, so it’s not so important whom she marries.”

“Even so…”

“And the earl is an unbending man,” the squire went on. “He won’t go back on a promise, even one made to a child.” He shrugged. “So they say.”

Tom looked at the low stone walls of the house-to-be. He had not yet saved enough money to keep the family through winter, he realized with a chill. “Perhaps the lad will find another bride to share this place with him. He’s got the whole county to choose from.”

Alfred spoke in a cracked adolescent voice. “By Christ, I think this is him.” Following his gaze, they all looked across the field. A horse was coming from the village in a gallop, kicking up a cloud of dust and earth from the pathway. Alfred’s oath was prompted by the size as well as the speed of the horse: it was huge. Tom had seen beasts like it before, but perhaps Alfred had not. It was a war-horse, as high at the wither as a man’s chin, and broad in proportion. Such war-horses were not bred in England, but came from overseas, and were enormously costly.

Tom dropped the remains of his bread in the pocket of his apron, then narrowed his eyes against the sun and gazed across the field. The horse had its ears back and nostrils flared, but it seemed to Tom that its head was up, a sign that it was not completely out of control. Sure enough, as it came closer the rider leaned back, hauling on the reins, and the huge animal seemed to slow a little. Now Tom could feel the drumming of its hooves in the ground beneath his feet. He looked around for Martha, thinking to pick her up and put her out of harm’s way. Agnes had the same thought. But Martha was not to be seen.

“In the wheat,” Agnes said, but Tom had already figured that out and was striding across the site to the edge of the field. He scanned the waving wheat with fear in his heart but he could not see the child.

The only thing he could think of was to try and slow the horse. He stepped into the path and began to walk toward the charging beast, holding his arms wide. The horse saw him, raised its head for a better look, and slowed perceptibly. Then, to Tom’s horror, the rider spurred it on.

“You damned fool!” Tom roared, although the rider could not hear.

That was when Martha stepped out of the field and into the pathway a few yards in front of Tom.

For an instant Tom stood still in a sick panic. Then he leaped forward, shouting and waving his arms; but this was a war-horse, trained to charge at yelling hordes, and it did not flinch. Martha stood in the middle of the narrow path, staring as if transfixed by the huge beast bearing down on her. There was a moment when Tom realized desperately that he could not get to her before the horse did. He swerved to one side, his arm touching the standing wheat; and at the last instant the horse swerved to the other side. The rise’s stirrup brushed Martha’s fine hair; a hoof stamped a hole in the ground beside her bare foot; then the horse had gone by, spraying them both with dirt, and Tom snatched her up in his arms and held her tight to his pounding heart.

He stood still for a moment, awash with relief, his limbs weak, his insides watery. Then he felt a surge of fury at the recklessness of the stupid youth on his massive war-horse. He looked up angrily. Lord William was slowing the horse now, sitting back in the saddle, with his feet pushed forward into the stirrups, sawing on the reins. The horse swerved to avoid the building site. It tossed its head and then bucked, but William stayed on. He slowed it to a canter and then a trot as he guided it around in a wide circle.

Martha was crying. Tom handed her to Agnes and waited for William. The young lord was a tall, well-built fellow of about twenty years, with yellow hair and narrow eyes which made him look as if he were always peering into the sun. He wore a short black tunic with black hose, and leather shoes with straps crisscrossed up to his knees. He saw well on the horse and did not seem shaken by what had happened. The foolish boy doesn’t even know what he’s done, Tom thought bitterly. I’d like to wring his neck.

William halted the horse in front of the woodpile and looked down at the builders. “Who’s in charge here?” he said.

Tom wanted to say If you had hurt my little girl, I would have killed you, but he suppressed his rage. It was like swallowing a bitter mouthful. He approached the horse and held its bridle. “I’m the master builder,” he said tightly. “My name is Tom.”

“This house is no longer needed,” said William. “Dismiss your men.”

It was what Tom had been dreading. But he held on to the hope that William was being impetuous in his anger, and might be persuaded to change his mind. With an effort, he made his voice friendly and reasonable. “But so much work has been done,” he said. “Why waste what you’ve spent? You’ll need the house one day.”

“Don’t tell me how to manage my affairs, Tom Builder,” said William. “You’re all dismissed.” He twitched a rein, but Tom had hold of the bridle. “Let go of my horse,” said William dangerously.

Tom swallowed. In a moment William would try to get the horse’s head up. Tom felt in his apron pocket and brought out the crust of bread he had been eating. He showed it to the horse, which dipped its head and took a bite. “There’s more to be said, before you leave, my lord,” he said mildly.

William said, “Let my horse go, or I’ll take your head off.” Tom looked directly at him, trying not to show fear. He was bigger than William, but that would make no difference if the young lord drew his sword.

Agnes muttered fearfully, “Do as the lord says, husband.”

There was dead silence. The other workmen stood as still as statues, watching. Tom knew that the prudent thing would be to give in. But William had nearly trampled Tom’s little girl, and that made Tom mad, so with a racing heart he said: “You have to pay us.”

William pulled on the reins but Tom held the bridle tight, and the horse as distracted, nuzzling in Tom’s apron pocket for more food. “Apply to my father for your wages!” William said angrily.

Tom heard the carpenter say in a terrified voice: “We’ll do that, my lord, thanking you very much.”

Wretched coward, Tom thought, but he was trembling himself. Nevertheless he forced himself to say: “If you want to dismiss us, you must pay us, according to the custom. Your father’s house is two days’ walk from here, and when we arrive he may not be there.”

“Men have died for less than this,” William said. His cheeks reddened with anger.

Out of the corner of his eye, Tom saw the squire drop his hand to the hilt of his sword. He knew he should give up now, and humble himself, but there was an obstinate knot of anger in his belly, and as scared as he was he could not bring himself to release the bridle. “Pay us first, then kill me,” he said recklessly. “You may hang for it, or you may not; but you’ll die sooner or later, and then I will be in heaven and you will be in hell.”

The sneer froze on William’s face and he paled. Tom was surprised: what had frightened the boy? Not the mention of hanging, surely: it was not really likely that a lord would be hanged for the murder of a craftsman. Was he terrified of hell?

They stared at one another for a few moments. Tom watched with amazement and relief as William’s set expression of anger and contempt melted away, to be replaced with panicked anxiety. At last William took a leather purse from his belt and tossed it to his squire, saying: “Pay them.”

At that point Tom pushed his luck. When William pulled on the reins again, and the horse lifted its strong head and stepped sideways, Tom moved with the horse and held on to the bridle, and said: “A full week’s wages on dismissal, as is the custom.” He heard a sharp intake of breath from Agnes, just behind him, and he knew she thought he was crazy to prolong the confrontation. But he plowed on. “That’s sixpence for the laborer, twelve for the carpenter and each of the masons, and twenty-four pence for me. Sixty-six pence in all.” He could add pennies faster than anyone he knew.

The squire was looking inquiring at his master. William said angrily: “Very well.”

Tom released the bridle and stepped back.

William turned the horse and kicked it hard, and it bounded forward onto the path through the wheat field.

Tom sat down suddenly on the woodpile. He wondered what had got into him. It had been mad to defy Lord William like that. He felt lucky to be alive.

The hoof beats of William’s war-horse faded to a distant thunder, and his squire emptied the purse onto a board. Tom felt a surge of triumph as the silver pennies tumbled out into the sun-shine. It had been mad, but it had worked: he had secured just payment for himself and the men working under him. “Even lords ought to follow customs,” he said, half to himself.

Agnes heard him. “Just hope you’re never in want of work from Lord William,” she said sourly.

Tom smiled at her. He understood that she was churlish because she was frightened. “Don’t frown too much, or you’ll have nothing but curdled milk in your breasts when that baby is born.”

“I won’t be able to feed any of us unless you find work for the winter.”

“The winter’s a long way off,” said Tom.

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Edward Hahn, November 5, 2013 (view all comments by Edward Hahn)
I am an unabashed Follett fan. While this book did not measure up to the two medieval novels, it was a very readable story. I finished it quickly and picked it up whenever I had a spare moment.

It follows the fortunes of five families through the run-up, main event, and result of WW I. Each family, British, Welsh, German, Russian and American are impacted differently by the events of the time. Follett does a good job of moving from focusing on one area to the other. The aspect of members of each family coincidentally running into one another throughout the book detracts from the believability of the story.

He does a good job, though, of weaving together the major themes of the time: class differences, political reform in Great Britain, social upheaval in Russia, U.S. emergence as a world power and, of course, the Great War as it was called then.

I had some trouble with the romances he develops as people seem to fall in love at the drop of a perfumed handkerchief. Upon reflection, though, given the restraints of society in those days, these instant, emotional connections made more sense.

With Follett's attention to accurate historical detail, the book deserves a recommendation. I look forward to reading the next volume in the trilogy, "Winter of the World".
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Amy BookGirl, June 4, 2013 (view all comments by Amy BookGirl)
The story begins in the year 1911. Unbeknownst to the civilized world, it is on the cusp of the first World War. A Bosnian Serb student, Gavrilio Princip, assassinated the heir to the Austrian throne; thereby knocking over the first domino that ticked through diplomatic efforts so pathetic as to be tantamount to a farce, drawing in Germany to support Austria. Then the regrettably located, France. Dominoes ticked through trade routes pulling in the resource and leadership poor Russia. Then pompous England waved their flag, while then the dominoes clattered through the minor powers, finally drawing in a reluctant United States. The tumbled dominoes are then erected as tombstones for the nearly ten million fallen soldiers. An atrocity that precipitates the fall of the remaining major aristocracies. The Fall of Giants. Indeed.

Had I not read two of Ken Follett’s other historical novels, I never would have even set my finger on the binding to pull it from the shelf. I have long believed that war doesn't decide who is right; only who is left. The gore of the battlefield is too real in my overactive imagination, war strategy too far beyond my intellect and our world leaders are too oft obstinate old men who happily trade their country's brave young soldiers for mangled corpses, all to play some great game.

Despite all that, I loved this book.

The characters compelling and real. As I watched events spiral through their eyes, I found myself hopeful that events already written in the tomes of world history wouldn't happen. I despaired with them as it all happened anyway. I felt the percussion of mortar blasts as I curled up in my dugout. I heard the whiz of bullets as I leapt from mortar hole to mortar hole. I felt the hunger that compelled soldiers to sit and eat captured food stores as corpses cooled on the ground.

I felt exalted as the Russian people rose up against the Tsar and their ridiculously corrupt government. I held Lenin in equal parts awe and distaste, and was saddened when the revolution went sour. I felt proud of my fellow American, Gus, when he stopped a Russian policeman from brutalizing a peasant girl, then treated her with kindness. “No Russian would address a peasant so courteously.”

I cheered for Billy Twice when he spoke against the English aristocracy with the wisdom to effect change while avoiding outright revolution. I cheered for Ethel and Maud as they fought for women’s suffrage and equal rights for women workers. I was relieved when Germany signed the armistice and was disappointed when the allies used it as an opportunity to revile Germany and impose impossible reparations, making World War II an all but foregone conclusion.

I learned more about this time period than ever before because I wasn't subjected to some dry, third person, Americans-are-so-great version of events, I lived it through these remarkable, albeit fictitious, characters.


Synopsis

This story begins in a fictional small mining town called Aberowen, England, where we meet our first two main characters, newly initiated miner, Billy and his sister, Ethel. Then we follow Ethel to Earl Fitzherbert's country estate where she works as the head housemaid. At Fitz’s estate we meet his Russian princess wife, Bea, his feminist sister, Maud, his boyhood companion,Walter, who is also a German diplomat, and an American diplomat, Gus. Later, we follow Gus to Russia where we meet Grigori and Lev, two young men that work for Putilov Machine Works building wheels for locomotives. Each of these strategically placed characters revealed a view of everyday life and politics from a new angle giving a fairly balanced view of the war.

Billy (Welsh)
From Billy we see life as a coal miner living in a community of prefabricated homes working on a mine owned by an English earl. Mining coal in the early 20th century is incredibly hard labor and ridiculously dangerous. The mine operators are far more willing to sacrifice miners than they are willing to part with the funds to provide even the most basic safety equipment. Laborers are a commodity of inexhaustible supply.

Billy doesn't particularly favor being a commodity. He is bright, brave and a natural leader. Once drafted, these qualities keep him and most of his Aberowen Pals alive during their service in the war. He exposes the ineptitude of the aristocracy that commanded them in battle and fights to end their power.

Ethel (Welsh - Sister to Billy)
Ethel’s quick wit and passionate visage captivates Earl Fitzherbert. After a short romance she becomes pregnant. Fitz attempts to pay Ethel off in attempt to discard her and the scandal that grows in her womb. She spend the rest of the story fighting for women’s suffrage and equal rights with Fitz’s sister, Maud, while also raising her son.

Earl Fitzherbert (English Earl owner of the land containing Aberowen)
Fitz is a generally likable enough guy. He is courageous and believes what he does is the right thing, even when it isn't. You almost can’t blame him because he comes from a long line of aristocrats and to a large degree was born (or made) that way. He suffers from an inferiority complex in which his constant desire to prove he’s worthy of his title drives him to make bad decisions.

Princess Bea (Russian born wife of Fitz)
Through Princess Bea we see how the Russian royalty holds the peasantry in utter disdain. They don’t believe themselves simply separated by class so much as separated by species. Through her, we also feel the pain of the loss of her heritage and the brutal death of her brother during the Russian revolution.

Maud (Sister to Earl Fitzherbert)
Maud’s is a woman for the people, but certainly not a woman of the people. She has an enviable intellect, poise and bottomless pocketbook thanks to her indulgent brother, Fitz. I had to excuse her hypocrisy in favor of what she was trying to accomplish. She befriends Ethel to further her causes but never sees her as an equal, though both women are formidable. She and Walter fall in love prior to the war and spend most of the book in anguish as they remain loyal to their countries, while doing all they can for peace.

Walter (German diplomat and friend to Fitz)
I had the most empathy for his character. Walter is an intelligent man with a good heart, whose ideas and maneuvering for peace are ignored again and again to the ruin of his beloved homeland, Germany. He spends the war separated from Maud and in a constant state of deprivation as he serves as an intelligence agent in the front lines of the war.

Grigori (Russian metal worker and soldier)
Easily the toughest and most earnest character, Grigori raised his younger brother Lev, after his father was hanged for the crime of grazing his cattle land belonging to Princess Bea, and his mother was shot during a protest march in front of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Soon after the war begins, he is drafted in to the military and we see first hand the brutality of the officers, rampant corruption as the military supplies are sold on the black market, and terrible strategic moves as they waste the lives of their soldiers. We see the growing dissent of the soldiers which culminates into mutiny and revolution, of which Grigori's point of view provides a front row seat.

Lev (Russian, Grigori’s brother)
Lev is all charisma and no scruples. He takes Grigori’s seat on the boat to America to escape the Russian police. The boat lands in Cardiff, England and he realizes he (well, his brother) has been conned. He eventually makes his way to America and we see life for a Russian immigrant working for a Russian mob boss.

Gus (American diplomat)
Gus is easy to like. Tall, gangly, idealistic, and wicked smart he keeps the reader abreast of what is happening in the U.S. Government during this time. Through him we meet Woodrow Wilson, whom I admired and disliked all at once. He was a brilliant leader with the utmost of integrity, but growing up in the South left him bigoted. He conceived of the idea for a League of Nations that would later become the U.N., for the purpose of resolving conflicts between great nations.

Once the United States joins the war effort, Gus enlists as an officer. Gus arrives in France as an officer in the Expeditionary Force and through him we witness the famous battle, Chateau-Thierry.


The heroes in this particular story aren't forged in the heat of battle against the enemy. They are the peasants, mine workers, factory workers and soldiers who fought their respective imperial rulers to form a new government that would allow their children to grow up served by their government rather than exploited by it; where leaders are chosen by virtue of their abilities and ethics rather than their breeding.

Imperfect as democracy is, I’ll take it, and I extend my deep gratitude for all of the lives lost fighting during our own revolution and civil war to make our country free, and to those who defend it to this day.

Now for two minor gripes:
Ken Follett, writes a scene where Lev is nearly molested by a priest. I know this sort of thing happens, clearly, from his other books, but it seemed gratuitous. It makes me wonder if he has a personal bias as it was otherwise irrelevant to the story. He gets another dig in when Grigori is talking to a girl about the incident and she says something to the effect of, well--duh.

I thought it a bit odd how many women were lost their virginity in this book. The scenes were fairly graphic too. Almost as if "Phil" from the marketing group said, “Ken our demographic for this book is xyz, so you need to write in more sex scenes and make ‘em virgins. …and go.” Then he punches him in the arm and winks at him. Ken, next time tell that guy to go get bent.
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luvisnotluv, January 28, 2013 (view all comments by luvisnotluv)
I was hooked from the beginning. This is a great book!
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780451232571
Author:
Follett, Ken
Publisher:
New American Library
Author:
tt
Author:
ollett, Ken
Author:
F .
Author:
Ken Folle
Subject:
Historical
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Suspense
Subject:
Thrillers
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Mass market paperback
Series:
Century Trilogy
Series Volume:
1
Publication Date:
20110831
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Endpaper map
Pages:
1008
Dimensions:
9 x 6.16 x 1.65 in 2.52 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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Century Trilogy #01: Fall of Giants Used Trade Paper
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$14.95 In Stock
Product details 1008 pages New American Library - English 9780451232571 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
In 1989 Ken Follett astonished the literary world with The Pillars of the Earth, a sweeping epic novel set in twelfth-century England centered on the building of a cathedral and many of the hundreds of lives it affected. Critics were overwhelmed—“it will hold you, fascinate you, surround you” (Chicago Tribune)—and readers everywhere hoped for a sequel.

World Without End takes place in the same town of Kingsbridge, two centuries after the townspeople finished building the exquisite Gothic cathedral that was at the heart of The Pillars of the Earth. The cathedral and the priory are again at the center of a web of love and hate, greed and pride, ambition and revenge, but this sequel stands on its own. This time the men and women of an extraordinary cast of characters find themselves at a crossroad of new ideas— about medicine, commerce, architecture, and justice. In a world where proponents of the old ways fiercely battle those with progressive minds, the intrigue and tension quickly reach a boiling point against the devastating backdrop of the greatest natural disaster ever to strike the human race—the Black Death.

Three years in the writing, and nearly eighteen years since its predecessor, World Without End breathes new life into the epic historical novel and once again shows that Ken Follett is a masterful author writing at the top of his craft.

"Synopsis" by ,
Make this your next book club selection and everyone saves.

Get 15% off when you order 5 or more of this title for your book club.

Simply enter the coupon code FOLLETPILLARS at checkout.

This offer does not apply to eBook purchases. This offer applies to only one downloadable audio per purchase.

Ken Follett has 90 million readers worldwide. The Pillars of the Earth is his bestselling book of all time. Now, eighteen years after the publication of The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett has written the most-anticipated sequel of the year—World Without End.

View our Ken Follett feature page. In 1989 Ken Follett astonished the literary world with The Pillars of the Earth, a sweeping epic novel set in twelfth-century England centered on the building of a cathedral and many of the hundreds of lives it affected. Critics were overwhelmed—“it will hold you, fascinate you, surround you” (Chicago Tribune)—and readers everywhere hoped for a sequel.

World Without End takes place in the same town of Kingsbridge, two centuries after the townspeople finished building the exquisite Gothic cathedral that was at the heart of The Pillars of the Earth. The cathedral and the priory are again at the center of a web of love and hate, greed and pride, ambition and revenge, but this sequel stands on its own. This time the men and women of an extraordinary cast of characters find themselves at a crossroad of new ideas— about medicine, commerce, architecture, and justice. In a world where proponents of the old ways fiercely battle those with progressive minds, the intrigue and tension quickly reach a boiling point against the devastating backdrop of the greatest natural disaster ever to strike the human race—the Black Death.

Three years in the writing, and nearly eighteen years since its predecessor, World Without End breathes new life into the epic historical novel and once again shows that Ken Follett is a masterful author writing at the top of his craft.

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