It is 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages. England is facing attacks from the Welsh in the west and the Vikings in the east. Those in power bend justice according to their will, regardless of ordinary people and often in conflict with the king. Without a clear rule of law, chaos reigns.
In these turbulent times, three characters find their lives intertwined: A young boatbuilder’s life is turned upside down when the only home he’s ever known is raided by Vikings, forcing him and his family to move and start their lives anew in a small hamlet where he does not fit in . . . A Norman noblewoman marries for love, following her husband across the sea to a new land. But the customs of her husband’s homeland are shockingly different, and as she begins to realize that everyone around her is engaged in a constant, brutal battle for power, it becomes clear that a single misstep could be catastrophic . . . A monk dreams of transforming his humble abbey into a center of learning that will be admired throughout Europe. And each in turn comes into dangerous conflict with a clever and ruthless bishop who will do anything to increase his wealth and power.
This has been by far my favourite book in this series. Even though it’s technically a prequel and you could read it first, I would highly recommend reading the books in the order they were published. Not only do they get better as you go this way, but you also get to see the evolution and growth in the author’s writing over the more than 30 years it has taken for them to come out.
Ragna is incredible. She is the most well-rounded, strong, and intelligent female character in this series. She perseveres and thrives throughout so much hardship and she is incredibly talented inspiring.
This story is exciting and I was hooked almost from the first page. I love how much time these books span and you feel you get to live with these characters throughout their lifetimes and see them age and mature and change. It’s an interesting time period as a setting and it’s nice getting a view into how Kingsbridge, which is a central setting throughout the series, was founded.
As usual, the good guys are rewarded and the villains are all punished in the end. I think both the rewards and the punishments are of greater magnitudes than the other books, which is exciting, but still all tied up a little too neatly along the lines of good and evil.