In 1558, the ancient stones of Kingsbridge Cathedral look down on a city torn apart by religious conflict. As power in England shifts precariously between Catholics and Protestants, royalty and commoners clash, testing friendship, loyalty, and love.
Ned Willard wants nothing more than to marry Margery Fitzgerald. But when the lovers find themselves on opposing sides of the religious conflict dividing the country, Ned goes to work for Princess Elizabeth. When she becomes queen, all 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. Over a turbulent half century, the love between Ned and Margery seems doomed as extremism sparks violence from Edinburgh to Geneva. Elizabeth clings to her throne and her principles, protected by a small, dedicated group of resourceful spies and courageous secret agents.
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 what the cost.
Ending the series on a high note. This was definitely my favourite book of the original three, although to be fair it is very different to the first two. Very little of the story takes place in Kingsbridge, or even England, and there seem to be so many more characters this time around, even though this is also the shortest of the three books (although still over 900 pages so it’s all relative).
I do believe the storytelling and character development evolved in this instalment. The characters were more interesting and realistic and no longer caricatures of their historical counterparts. Once again the women are strong and brave and unique for the time period. And yes,
once again most characters receive the karma they deserve. Except for poor Sylvie. It mostly felt like they had to get her out of the way so Ned could finally be with Margery. She waited so long to fall in love (for real), never had children, and she was so inspiring. Sure, Margery was doing the same thing (for the other side) being brave and inspiring as well but she did spend many years lying about important information that could’ve saved Sylvie’s life. And while Rollo eventually was caught and punished, he lived a very full, terrible life hurting others before this. Same with Pierre. He lived happily for much too long.
So I guess I’ve been caught up in the bloody soap opera after all. I was very borderline with the first book, saw the second as a solid step up, and thoroughly enjoyed the third. I guess the question now is whether or not I want to go back in time and read the prequel…