I feel that this is the strongest entry in the series. Unlike Pillars of the Earth, where it was at times dragging here I feel that the world came alive, and I cared for almost every character here. Regardless of who they were.
And it all begins when a boy becomes a carpenter’s apprentice. Merthin is the main character, the one who has everything at him. But it doesn’t just centre around him, there is Caris who debates about having children all her life and the possibility that she might die in childbirth. Her own dilemma about her own life.
It is a story where there are no true happy endings. Every one merely needs to forgive the grievances of the past. Such as Merthin helping his brother, and forgiving his own parents for neglecting him. To becoming one of the best builders and eventually an alderman.
Their relationship is warm, even is one of them is an absolute monster. To Godwyn, for all his ambitions and skill he has accomplished nothing at the end. And earned the name of coward and never remembered by many.
It is also a story where people get what they want albeit in ways they didn’t intend to. Ralph gets his end, albeit by someone that he doesn’t want to have. Metherin married Caris, only after many many years of waiting.
Caris never has children, but never spends most of her adulthood happily married. Instead she is a nun, and forced to take up the mantle to avoid death.
Gwenda gets her dream of having her children free. Albeit at the cost of losing them in their own way. Wulfuric gets his father’s land back, only when the plague wiped everyone out and leaving no one to cultivate it.
It is a story that often is marred by tragedy, something is gained but not in the way they always wanted. Such is the way of life. Even the most despicable people here came alive, Elfric, Ralph and Godwin. They were the ones who I found revolting, through their actions more than anything else.
And this is why I found this the strongest. There is no good or bad. Caris wants but can’t decide at times, leaving Metherin waiting for a long long time. He tries to move on, twice in fact and having two children born from another marriage.
Gwenda makes a deal to have Wulfuric get back his own lands. Ralph eventually shows a shred of humanity. Godwyn maneuvered his way to the top, in a way that I actually liked how it was done.
If anything, this was a story that told of people with faults, but simply grow to make do with one another during a time of great panic.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5,