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  • A Column of Fire

  • The Kingsbridge Novels, Book 3
  • Written by: Ken Follett
  • Narrated by: John Lee
  • Length: 30 hrs and 19 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (25 ratings)

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A Column of Fire

Written by: Ken Follett
Narrated by: John Lee
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Publisher's Summary

The saga that has enthralled the millions of fans of The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End now continues with Ken Follett's magnificent, gripping A Column of Fire.

Christmas 1558, and young Ned Willard returns home to Kingsbridge to find his world has changed.

The ancient stones of Kingsbridge Cathedral look down on a city torn by religious hatred. Europe is in turmoil as high principles clash bloodily with friendship, loyalty and love, and Ned soon finds himself on the opposite side from the girl he longs to marry, Margery Fitzgerald.

Then Elizabeth Tudor becomes queen and all of Europe turns against England. The shrewd, determined young monarch sets up the country's first secret service to give her early warning of assassination plots, rebellions and invasion plans.

Elizabeth knows that alluring, headstrong Mary Queen of Scots lies in wait in Paris. Part of a brutally ambitious French family, Mary has been proclaimed the rightful ruler of England, with her own supporters scheming to get rid of the new queen.

Over a turbulent half-century, the love between Ned and Margery seems doomed, as extremism sparks violence from Edinburgh to Geneva. With Elizabeth clinging precariously to her throne and her principles, protected by a small, dedicated group of resourceful spies and courageous secret agents, it becomes clear that the real enemies - then as now - are not the rival religions.

The true battle pitches those who believe in tolerance and compromise against the tyrants who would impose their ideas on everyone else - no matter the cost.

©2016 Ken Follett (P)2016 Pan Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

What listeners say about A Column of Fire

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gorgeous trip to a large far far away

Loved it... l ived it. the narrators voice was so captivating, I was hooked to the last word.

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Fiction + real people

It was insanely good. The depth and the coverage of the stories and characters is insane. Beyond wild. Just loved it

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Best performance

Excellent performance a great ending to a trilogy. I look forward to reading/listening to more Follett

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Great story and Narration

I have liked all three books of The Pillers of the Earth, it's great experience, the first part is close to my heart..

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  • Jussi Korhonen
  • 02-12-19

Not really part 3 of the Kingsbridge series

I thought I was going to listen to the third part of the Kingsbridge series, but instead this is more like a Ken Follett's history lesson. It starts off well in Kingsbridge, but suddenly changes completely - it is as if mr. Follett decided he doesn't want to continue the Kingsbridge series after all, but instead is just narrating history. There are several well known historical events, the characters are observing most of them and narrating them to the reader. While that is fairly interesting, it's not really historical fiction any more. This book is similar to the third part of the Century trilogy, where there is little story and the characters are just present in all important historical events.

I thought book 1 was great, and 2 good - 3 is a lesson of history not set in Kingsbridge (most of the time). As an audiobook, it is still quite good, thanks to the excellent John Lee.

3 people found this helpful

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  • John
  • 07-04-19

Educational and entertaining

For someone with only a vague grasp of the politics of England and Western Europe at this time, I enjoyed the historical backdrop to the story. I would understand people with good knowledge of this period being somewhat frustrated, but this book provided me a relaxed way to understand the background to what is the culture I inherited.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-10-17

Long awaited and ......greatly disappointing

Well known part of history with a few additional characters and a storyline without any real surprises or turns.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Nick
  • 15-12-20

Another classic Kingsbridge saga!

This was another classic Ken Follett read for me. Full of interesting characters on both sides of the historical divides which Ken is so good at depicting and washing over his fictional Kingsbridge, and its beloved townsfolk and characters.

I like his interpretation (fictional) of how the real events of the day unfolded, and why, and how the Kingsbridge folk were involved.

Some of the plot was a little bit predictable, but the characters were full of intrigue and listening to it on Audible with John Lee's narration and superb characterisation and accents - particularly of Piérre Ormonde de Geez ... who was an absolute sleaze! :-)

Thoroughly enjoyable read/listen! highly recommend for anyone who vaguely enjoyed Pillars of the Earth or World Without End, both of which are not a required pre-read at all.

1 person found this helpful

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  • emily
  • 12-11-18

Loved it

John Lee is a legend & the long awaited 3rd book was worth the wait! #religioustolerance #historical #europe #guyfawkes #tagsgiving #sweepstakes

1 person found this helpful

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  • KL
  • 25-03-18

A1

Listened to this book every waking moment I had! Great story by Ken Follett and great storytelling by John Lee!

1 person found this helpful

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  • stefan
  • 13-11-22

Doesn't live up to Pillars of the Earth

A mildly interesting story told by an OK narrator but doesn't live up to Pillars of the Earth or other Follett novels

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-04-22

Ken Follett

Transports one into the past and into living the story. Love his books and the pictures he creates as if you have a movie running in your minds eye.

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  • Henrik
  • 20-12-21

Love this story

once again i was enchanted by the lives lived in Kingsbridge. will miss it...maybe another book will come along

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-08-21

not sure what to make of it.

as always John Lee does an excellent job with the narration. I think he carried the book. the author tried to cover too many things in the book. obviously he was writing European history around the time of the English reformation, but he could have focused the story more. Also I have read Follet before and I believe he has a thing about one true love. whenever he introduces characters who start out as lovers come hell or high water no matter what they go through they always end up together. I find that annoying and too predictable.

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  • Steve
  • 19-10-17

A little let down

Firstly I am going to start by saying that this is a well written, well crafted Histofiction novel. I should also point out that the previous two Kingsbridge novels would always make my top ten list of favourites.

The issue I had with this book is that whilst the previous books were rooted deeply in Kingsbridge this one just seems to use it as a point of reference. The previous novels were as much about the growth and development of the settlement into a town as they were about the development of the main characters.This book aims to bring to life the much wider issues and events taking place during the time that the novel is set. By doing so it makes Kingsbridge into such an insignificant part that sadly for me this became just another (very good) histofiction book but not a Kingsbridge novel.

29 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 30-09-17

Another masterpiece

I've loved all three books in this series and this one is the best yet. A great story, brilliantly told. Audiobook gold !

16 people found this helpful

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  • R. A. C.
  • 09-11-17

Ruined by the narrator

Having listened to dozens of audible books and enjoyed almost all of them I can say without hesitation that the narrator of this book is terrible. He seems to be reading it in a style more suited to a children’s book. I mentioned my disappointment to friends over a meal the other day and there was a chorus of agreement, we had all been so looking forward to the book only to be disappointed with the narrator. One chapter in and I have given up, I will buy the book and read it myself.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Judith
  • 02-10-17

A great romp through history

I adored the previous books in this series and loved the detail about the cathedral and its building. This book takes us on and starts in the time of Queen Mary, Elizabeth and then King James. I love this period of history. There is great detail and explanation of how all the people and events linked together, told from a personal point of view of the characters. Narrator always excellent easy listening.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Kirstine
  • 07-04-18

Enjoyable and gripping historical fiction

I enjoyed this third part of the Kingsbridge series much more than the first part, which I thought a medieval soap opera populated by caricatures. I skipped part two but reading reviews of this third part gathered that it might be more to my taste and it was. It has far more historical content, albeit the very familiar Tudor period upon which many books and films have been based, but where this book scores is in bringing this turbulent period to life through the experiences of his fictional characters interacting with real people and events. The parallel stories of the fictional characters’ lives adds to the impact of the historical events. The recurring theme in this long saga is religious conflict and intolerance based on relatively small differences in doctrine leading to violence, cruelty and terrible suffering: all in the name of God!

Despite the outcomes being known, I was gripped by the author’s pacy reenactments of historical event such as the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre of protestants in Paris, the aborted invasion of the Spanish Armada and the Gun Powder Plot. Maybe to ease the endless stream of Man’s inhumanity to Man (and often Women) the author indulges in his penchant for raunchy sex scenes and lascivious descriptions of women’s bodies, particularly their breasts: a recurring theme in the author’s books.

Contrary to the views of some other reviewers I think the narrator is excellent.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Halfgirlhalfwotsit
  • 04-10-17

It's not 'Pillars of the Earth' - but close!

Having loved Pillars of the earth and subsequent A world without end, I was very excited to hear there was another Kingsbridge novel.
I'm not sure if it was the narrator that put me off? Maybe I should have read the book instead? but it just wasn't the same. Didn't ignite me as the previous books did?
Having said that, I still enjoyed this book and love the historical accuracies and drama of the era. The heroes and villains were there- but weaker versions of similar characters in both Pillars and World without end.
I would buy the next one he publishes anyway. His last trilogy was awesome!
I think it's just me? You can never read your favourite novel (a second or third time) and feel the same way you did when you turned the last page for the first time? For me that was 'The pillars of the earth' - that's just my opinion but essentially it's a great book! Buy it x

6 people found this helpful

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  • David Dougans
  • 29-09-17

Another history lesson with a good story thrown in.

The book is absolutely captivating. Although a similar set up to the other two book it is more adventurous with its locations. Took a lot of driving to to finish this book.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Helen
  • 16-02-18

Good story

The narrations by John Lee are fantastic. He takes you on a journey through the story.

4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Mary Carnegie
  • 27-09-17

It ain’t necessarily so!

If you want to know who committed all the unsolved crimes in history, look no further than Kingsbridge. The descendants of people we met in the first two volumes are let out on the wider world to behave as if they were clones of their antecedents, as if being a baddie were inevitable- biology as destiny!
Jon Lee struggles with the narration, can’t manage accents or pronounce French, makes most women in the early chapters sound inordinately snooty - time for a revolution maybe not just a reformation.
This historical period has already been done to death in fiction, film and TV. I had hoped for something new(ish) with mentions of Edinburgh and Geneva in the blurb, but I should have known better, given that the main male character was misnamed...
Follett has limited (and prejudiced) understanding of theology and perpetuates every calumny of that age, unless it applies to Anglicans! Catholics and Protestants keep your cool as you listen.
It turns out that Kingsbridgers are responsible for all the unsolved crimes of the age (except those carried out by Pierre, bastard son of a bastard priest fathered by a “nobleman” - that’s his “excuse”!)
Jack the Ripper, JFK, Archduke Franz Ferdinand - Kingsbridgers are in the frame!
This is written for the US market, with no concession to UK listeners. (The narration is decidedly mid-Atlantic.)
As if it’s not bad enough being told Carlisle and Newcastle are (were, actually) in northern England or that Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh Castle are (“were”) in Edinburgh, there’s that patronising postscript where he says he’s often asked which of his characters are real and which invented. There’s a list - Mary, Queen of Scots, Mary I and Elizabeth I of England, James VI & I, Walsingham, the Cecils and Guy Fawkes did exist, along with Philip of Spain, François II and the Guises, la Reine Margot, Coligny, whose murder triggered the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (Lord have mercy!) Admittedly this part of French history may be less well known to Anglophones, though it’s been well covered in film, though generally misrepresented as a result of the novel by Alexandre Dumas père. Follett does attribute ultimate blame differently from Dumas, but I suspect that’s more in the interests of his own plot, and increasing the list of crimes of his characters, than of historical accuracy.
There are few people to like, although the women are usually more sympathetic. The most decent men are in the “supporting cast”.
Naturally in any book set in this period there have to be horrific martyrdoms, but it seems to Follett that Elizabeth I didn’t really want to kill people.... She did execute almost as many folk as her half-sister “Bloody” Mary I. Follett admits in one sentence, only to affirm that Elizabeth I didn’t kill anyone for their religious beliefs. They were executed for “treason” and it’s only a coincidence that most were Catholic!
That’s the casuistry that later, talks of collateral damage, friendly fire and extraordinary rendition.

I do wish he’d lay off the violent sex scenes. Sex, chez Follett, is either blissful or revoltingly aggressive.

It wasn’t bad, certainly eventful. Nothing important could happen in Northern Europe, it would appear, without a Kingsbridger popping up to make history happen.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Fittpar
  • 04-03-20

Another great book

This the third book in this trilogy, I love them all, fiction mixed with fact extremely well. John Lee the very best narrator. You must read them in the right order to best enjoy all three.

2 people found this helpful

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  • RayNorris
  • 09-11-17

What a disappointment

I love ken follets’s writing, but the reader is terrible. Why on earth would audible employ someone reading it so mechanically, with no interpretation or feeling? I wondered if it was an AI algorithm, but apparently it is actually a human being. But I don’t think he took any notice of the words he was reading, and his inflections didn’t match the text. This was a total waste of money, I can’t stand listening to him any longer, and I guess I have to buy the book rather than an audible book.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Lauren Nelson
  • 11-10-17

Wonderful immersion in history.

Follett has done it again. A true master story teller with wonderful fictional characters woven into the lives of historic characters and epic events in history. Fabulous!

4 people found this helpful

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  • Radu Enache
  • 04-10-17

Excellent historical fiction

I really liked this book, it was a great addition to the trilogy. It feels quite different from the first two books as it is follows events from all over western Europe, while the first two are mostly set in Kingsbridge. Another difference is that this one reads a lot like a spy novel, with the central characters having a lot of influence over key political figures from history. This is not a detriment to the story however, as Ken is very experienced writing spy novels and I was engaged in the plot from start to finish. Once again the cast of characters is well fleshed out, with a great mix of fictional point of view characters and real historical figures. Seeing these characters experience key events in history was a pleasure, as always.

John Lee does a great job narrating, as he did for the first two books. This is the most demanding performance due to the varied accents of the characters but Lee does not skip a beat and embodies each character effortlessly.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Kevin
  • 09-10-17

What was real ?

Ken Follet has produced another masterpiece where real historical figures and events are interwoven so well I am left asking what was really real and what was the fiction. This third book also carries the stories from both of the first two books through this hostory/fiction tapestry.
This third book also came out of nowhere. After the first book I needed to know what happened next which the second book delivered. After the second I also wanted more but didn't know how the author could do it ...it was a long time but he did and it was good fortune to come across it. Surely though, even a master like Ken Follet can't take this further? Historical fiction has suited you well though Ken, perhaps you could apply your talent to a new book series ?

3 people found this helpful

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  • ben
  • 06-10-17

great

a great story . fantastic narrative a great finish to the world of Kingsbridge cathedral.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Paddington
  • 17-02-18

Worth finishing this trilogy

I am glad I finished this trilogy and it was entertaining but it drifted off the theme of the first two. I like those ones better.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Peter
  • 08-02-18

Another Follett Blockbuster

My only negative about this latest book is the sense of loss when it finished! Love the characters and the intertwined plots. Above all what a fabulous way to brush up on European history. John Lee is an excellent narrator and does superb justice to Follett’s characters. Overall a superb book - I probably might have enjoyed the two previous Kingsbridge books slightly more but that has not detracted from my thorough enjoyment of this book. Ken Follett sets a high standard. Thank you!!

2 people found this helpful

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  • dal
  • 27-10-17

Not kingsbridge

A great book, but it really is a stand alone book. The first two interlocked with each other and were based in and around the happenings of Kingsbridge, in this great novel kingsbridge has no real meaning, it's a place characters go sometimes, other than that it plays no part.
I love Follett and have never been disappointed in any of his books.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 19-01-22

Excellent listen

As usual Ken Follet does not disappoint
Great story to listen to, especially if your a history lover like myself

1 person found this helpful

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  • Dale Wilkins
  • 21-12-21

Sadly predictable

These books are easy listening. The minutiae are entertaining and the tie ins with history can be enthralling.
The main characters, however, are too predictable in their actions. Too cookie-cutter in their personalities. Too unfortunate in their setbacks. It makes for a frustrating read on such a long book. I wish Follett would allow his characters to change their morality due to circumstance. I wish the "smart" women would not always be the subject of stupid decisions due to said morality. Often ending in their deaths or unhappiness.

1 person found this helpful