Ken Follett entertained millions with The Pillars of the Earth, and now he returns to Kingsbridge with his latest epic novel, set in the revolutionary 1790s.
The story follows a disparate group of Kingsbridge people. In a large cast, several stand out. There is spinner Sal Clitheroe, who tragically loses her husband in an accident caused by the squire’s obnoxious son. She bravely forges on, doing what she can for her young son, Kit, to survive in the uncaring society he has been born into. Weaver David Shoveller yearns for a better society, as unprecedented industrial change makes the average worker’s life a misery. Clothier Amos Barrowfield battles to run the family business.
Life is brutal for the main characters, with a society dominated by greedy businessmen, boorish bishops and judges intent on hanging or deporting people who have committed petty crimes purely in an attempt to survive. There are many people to dislike, with the top villain spot going to businessman Hornbeam, who is arguably the most despicable.
Joining the army to avoid going to prison, or for one character, repaying gambling debts, allows many of the characters to have a front seat as warfare edges towards the mighty battle between Bonaparte and Wellington at Waterloo. There are murders and illicit love affairs, but also decent people fighting for a future without oppression.
The Armour of Light is a doorstop of a book, but such is Ken Follett’s skill it’s a riveting, pacey read that I devoured in a short space of time. An ambitious but utterly brilliant and entertaining novel.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan
This review also was published in the Sunday Star Times.