The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett

The Evening and the Morning Cover

Publisher: Macmillan (Hardcover – 15 September 2020)

Series: Kingsbridge – Book 0

Length: 819 pages

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Following three long years of waiting, one of the best authors of historical fiction in the world today (and one of my all-time favourite authors), Ken Follett, returns with another historical epic, The Evening and the Morning.

Follett is a highly acclaimed author who has written a number of impressive bestsellers over his 45+ year writing career.  After starting off with thriller novels, Follett really hit his literary stride when he moved on to massive historical fiction novels.  After experiencing great success with the iconic The Pillars of the Earth, he has gone on to produce several other epic books, including two sequels to The Pillars of the Earth and the outstanding The Century trilogy.  I have been a major fan of Follett for years ever since I had the great pleasure of reading The Century trilogy.  This was followed up with the second sequel to The Pillars of the Earth, A Column of Fire, which was easily one of my favourite books of 2017.  Thanks to how overwhelmingly compelling each of these previous novels were, I have been eagerly waiting to read his latest novel, The Evening and the Morning, for a while now, and it has been one of my most anticipated novels for the second half of 2020.

The Evening and the Morning is a character driven historical fiction novel that is set near the end of the Dark Ages of England.  The novel actually serves as a prequel to Follett’s bestselling The Pillars of the Earth and is part of Follett’s Kingsbridge series.  The Kingsbridge novels are all set within the fictional town of Kingsbridge, which each novel exploring a different period of English history (for example The Pillars of the Earth is set between 1123 CE and 1174 CE, while its sequel, World Without End, starts in 1327 CE).  This prequel is once again set in the same area, with the novel running between 997 CE and 1007 CE.

At the end of the 10th century, England is far from settled and faces attack from external threats.  One particularly vicious Viking raid causes untold damage at the town of Combe, near the city of Shiring, and sets off a chain of events that will change the area forever.

Following the raid, one of the survivors, a young boat builder named Edgar is forced to abandon his home and follow his family to the small hamlet of Dreng’s Ferry.  Living amongst the unwelcoming locals and corrupt landlord, the brilliant Edgar chafes and tries to find a new way to provide for his family.  At the same time, a Norman noblewoman, Ragna, falls in love with the ealdorman of Shiring and travels to England to marry him.  However, she soon discovers herself engulfed in a brutal battle for power with her husband’s family, and any misstep could cost her everything.  These characters are joined by Aldred, a young and ambitious monk who wishes to turn the abbey at Stirling into an academic hub.  However, his strong sense of right and wrong gets him into trouble as he searches for justice in all the wrong places.

As all three of these characters try to survive the troubles of the location, they find themselves drawn into each other’s lives.  Together they have the power to solve each of their problems and prosper together.  However, each of them has run afoul of the area’s corrupt Bishop, who is determined to gain power and influence no matter the cost.

Unsurprisingly, I absolutely loved this new novel from Follett, who has once again composed an outstanding historical epic.  The Evening and the Morning is another exceptional book that takes the reader on a powerful and captivating ride through an exciting period of English history with an addictive story told through the eyes of several great characters.  I had an outstanding time reading this book, and despite its length (at 800+ pages, it is one of the longest novels I have ever read), I powered through this book in relatively short order as I found the compelling narrative that Follett produced to be deeply addictive and hard to put down.  This was a fantastic read, and it gets a full five-star rating from me.

The Evening and the Morning contains an impressive and addictive character driven narrative that sees three distinctive protagonists attempt to change their destiny and the destiny of the people they love over a period of 10 years.  Set during a turbulent period of England’s history, The Evening and the Morning follows these characters as they attempt to survive Vikings, hunger, bandits and the machinations of a dangerous bishop.  The scope of this book’s story is truly epic as Follett ensures that his protagonists are forced to contend with all manner of challenges and tragedies, from political intrigue, direct attacks, imprisonment and so much more.  The resulting story is deeply compelling, extremely intelligent and wildly entertaining, especially as Follett comes up with a ton of unique and intriguing scenarios for his characters to work around.  I had an incredible time reading The Evening and the Morning’s story and it proved extremely hard to put down.

As I mentioned above, The Evening and the Morning is part of the Kingsbridge series and serves as a prequel to the first book in the series, The Pillars of the Earth.  Despite this, I would say that readers really do not need to have any prior knowledge of the rest of the Kingsbridge books to enjoy The Evening and the Morning.  This latest novel from Follett is extremely accessible, and as it is set more than 100 years before the events of The Pillars of the Earth, readers really should consider this a standalone novel that any historical fiction fan can easily enjoy (that is true for every entry in this series).  That being said, long-term fans of Follett and the Kingsbridge series will no doubt really appreciate seeing this early version of this iconic fiction setting, especially as the author includes a number of clever connections to the future novels in the series.  I particularly liked seeing how the titular Kingsbridge of the series was created, and you also get more of a look at how important the clergy were to the early inhabitants of the town, which is fascinating if you consider how the relationship between the church and the townspeople changes over the course of the series.  As a result, I would say that The Evening and the Morning is a book that most readers will be able to enjoy, while also serving as an intriguing entry in the Kingsbridge series.

The Evening and the Morning’s story follows three major point-of-view characters, Edgar, Ragna and Aldred, and shows the reader 10 key years of their lives.  These three characters form the heart of this story, and it does not take long for you to get really drawn into their individual stories.  Each of these characters has their own intriguing and emotionally charged story arcs, such as the creative Edgar’s attempts to rebuild his life in a hostile new village after experiencing a series of terrible losses, Ragna’s marriage and the subsequent battle to gain power and influence, and Aldred’s bid for justice and knowledge.  I really enjoyed each of these character’s individual arcs, but their real strength lies in the way that their stories and lives tie into one and other.  All three major characters becoming incredibly entwined as the book continues, as they form a strong friendship between themselves and attempt to help each other come the various struggles they encounter.  These separate character storylines come together extremely well into one powerful and cohesive narrative which sees the reader become deeply engrossed in all their lives.  You really grow to care for all three of these characters as the story progresses, becoming deeply invested in their wellbeing and happiness.  While this is evidence of some outstanding writing on Follett’s behalf, it is a little unfortunate as a lot of bad things happen to each of these characters (especially Ragna), and it makes for some emotionally hard reading at times.  There is also a rather intriguing love triangle between these three characters with some interesting LGTB+ elements attached, which adds an additional level of drama to the story.  I ended up being quite satisfied with how these character arcs unfolded, and readers are going to have an incredible time seeing how they turn out.

In addition to the main three characters, there is also another major point-of-view character, Wynstan, the Bishop of Shiring.  Wynstan is the book’s main antagonist, a cunning and ruthless manipulator who is desperate to gain power and influence at the expense of others.  Wynstan is the half-brother of Ragna’s husband, who uses his familiar connections and his corrupted followers to control much of Shiring and the surrounding area.  Follett has created an extremely despicable and aggravating villain with Wynstan, who comes into conflict with all three major protagonists, as each of them cross him in some way or another.  Wynstan is an extremely vengeful and dangerous opponent, who manages to do some fairly evil deeds throughout the book, while avoiding too many repercussions.  I found myself really growing to hate Wynstan and his followers as the book progressed, becoming fairly aggravated whenever he managed to weasel his way out of trouble.  This emotional response to Wynstan is exactly what you want when you write an antagonistic character, and I think that he helped add a lot to the overall narrative.

Follett has also loaded up his story with a ton of side characters who the point-of-view characters interact with throughout their lives.  There are quite a substantial number of side characters in this book, but thanks to Follett’s excellent writing the reader is able to keep track of each of them; at no point during this book did I become lost working out who someone was.  Many of these supporting characters have their own minor story arcs throughout the book, and it is interesting to see how they evolve and change over the years.  While quite a few of them are fairly despicable (indeed, at times it seems like the three main characters are the only decent or sensible people in the story), you do grow attached to them and become wrapped up in what happens to them.  That being said, readers are advised not to get too attached to them, as they have a much higher mortality rate, although there are a few happy endings in there which are guaranteed to satisfy.  Overall, Follett does an exceptional job with all the characters in this novel, and watching their lives unfold was a real emotional rollercoaster.

I also quite enjoyed the author’s fascinating depiction of England (with a bit of Normandy thrown in for good measure) during the late 10th and early 11th century.  While the setting of this book, Shiring and its surrounding environs, are fictional, they come across as period-appropriate settlements and the reader gets a real sense of what life in the various villages and towns would have been like.  Due to the broad scope of the story and what the characters witness, the reader gets a look at a huge range of different people who would have existed during this period, including the nobility, the various members of the clergy, the common people and even slaves.  Follett does an amazing job of highlighting how these various characters would have lived, what their professions or stations were like and the problems they would have typically experienced.  The author really replicates the hard nature of the times, allowing the reader a fascinating glimpse into the harsh and dangerous lives of our ancestors.  Follett also works in some broader historical elements, such as the increased attacks from the Vikings and the political situation at the time.  A lot of these historical inclusions, such as having King Ethelred the Unready appear as a minor character, proved to be really intriguing, and I loved how the author dived back into history to enhance his tale.

With The Evening and the Morning, Ken Follett has once again shown why he is one of the top historical fiction authors in the world today.  This latest novel presents the reader with an exceptional and captivating tale of love, connection and triumph over adversity at the end of England’s dark ages.  Serving as a prequel to Follett’s bestselling The Pillars of the Earth, The Evening and the Morning contains an amazing story that follows some driven and likeable protagonists during this dark period.  The end result is an epic and incredibly addictive read that comes highly recommended and is easily one of the best books of 2020.  There is a reason why Follett is one of my favourite authors of all time, and I cannot wait to see what elaborate novel he comes up with next time.

WWW Wednesday – 4 November 2020

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Star Trek: Discovery: Die Standing by John Jackson Miller (Audiobook)

Die Standing Cover

I was in the mood for a good tie-in novel so I thought I would check out this intriguing Star Trek: Discovery novel.  Die Standing is an extremely fun and well-written novel that follows a dark protagonist on a dangerous and unique espionage mission.  This is one of the best Star Trek novels of 2020 and I am really enjoying listening to it. I have made some good progress on this book and should finish it off in the next couple of days.

What did you recently finish reading?

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett (Hardcover)

The Evening and the Morning Cover

I just finished reading this book a little while ago and boy was it a good read. I’m hoping to get a review for this book up soon but it is really worth checking out.

Assault by Fire by Lt. Col. H. Ripley Rawlings IV. USMC (Audiobook)

Assault by Fire Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly (Trade Paperback)

The Law of Innocence Cover

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

WWW Wednesday – 28 October 2020

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett (Hardcover)

The Evening and the Morning Cover

I only just started reading the latest epic piece of historical fiction from bestselling author Ken Follett a couple of hours ago but I am already 100 pages into it and I only stopped so I could put this post up.  The Evening and the Morning is an impressive and well-written novel that serves as a prequel to Follett’s iconic The Pillars of the Earth.  I am deeply enjoying this excellent novel and I don’t think it is going to take me too long to get through all 800+ pages.

Assault by Fire by Lt. Col. H. Ripley Rawlings IV. USMC (Audiobook)

Assault by Fire Cover

I finally got around to listening to Assault by Fire, the action packed solo debut novel from H. Ripley Rawlings IV, who previously cowrote last year’s awesome action thriller, Red Metal.  This is an exciting and fast-paced military thriller that is set around a Russian invasion of the United States.  I have made substantial progress on this book and should finish it off in the next day or so.

What did you recently finish reading?

Map’s Edge by David Hair (Trade Paperback)

Map's Edge Cover 2

Battle Ground by Jim Butcher (Audiobook)

Battle Ground Cover

Battle Ground was a heck of a read and easily one of the best books of 2020.  Review to follow soon.

Hidden in Plain Sight by Jeffrey Archer (Trade Paperback)

Hidden in Plain Sight Cover

The Champagne War by Fiona McIntosh (Trade Paperback)

The Champagne War Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly (Trade Paperback)

The Law of Innocence Cover

Top Ten Tuesday – Books on my Spring 2020 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this Top Ten Tuesday, participants need to list the top releases that they are looking forward to reading in Fall (or Spring for us down here in Australia).  This is a fun exercise that I have done for each of the preceding seasons, and it is always interesting to highlight the various cool sounding books that are coming out in the next few months.

For this list I have come up with 10 of the best novels that are coming out between 1 September 2020 and 30 November 2020.  I have decided to exclude novels that I have already read, or I am currently reading, so that took a couple of key books off the list.  Still, this left me with a rather substantial pool of cool upcoming novels that I am excited for, which I was eventually able to whittle down into a great Top Ten list (with a few honourable mentions).  I have previously discussed a number of these books before in prior Top Ten Tuesdays and Waiting on Wednesday articles and I think all of them will turn out to be some really impressive and enjoyable reads.

Honourable Mentions:


A Deadly Education
by Namoi Novik – 29 September 2020

A Deadly Education Cover


Battle
Ground by Jim Butcher – 29 September 2020

Battle Ground Cover


The Emperor’s Exile
by Simon Scarrow – 12 November 2020

The Emperor's Exile Cover

Top Ten Tuesday:


The Evening and the Morning
by Ken Follett – 15 September 2020

The Evening and the Morning Cover


The Trouble with Peace
by Joe Abercrombie – 15 September 2020

The Trouble with Peace Cover


Total Power
by Kyle Mills (Based on the series by Vince Flynn) – 15 September 2020

Total Power Cover


Dead Man in a Ditch
by Luke Arnold – 22 September 2020

Dead Man in a Ditch Cover


Assault by Fire
by Hunter Ripley Rawlings IV – 29 September 2020

Assault by Fire Cover


The Devil and the Dark Water
by Stuart Turton – 1 October 2020

The Devil and the Dark Water Cover


War Lord
by Bernard Cornwell – 15 October 2020

War_Lord_cover.PNG


The Law of Innocence
by Michael Connelly – 10 November 2020

The Law of Innocence Cover


Ink
by Jonathan Maberry – 17 November 2020

Ink Cover


Call of the Bone Ships
by R. J. Barker – 24 November 2020

Call of the Bone Ships Cover

The last entry in this article is the fantastic-sounding Call of the Bone Ships by R. J. Barker.  Call of the Bone Ships is the sequel to one of my favourite books from last year, The Bone Ships, and looks set to continue the adventures of a crew of a damned ship in a dark fantasy world.  Based on how awesome the first novel in the series was, I am very excited to read this upcoming novel and I have no doubt that it will be one of the best books of the year.

Well that is the end of my Top Ten list.  I think it turned out pretty well and it does a good job of capturing all my most anticipated books for the next three months.  Each of the above should be pretty epic, and I cannot wait to read each of them soon.  Let me know which of the above you are most excited for and stay tuned for reviews of them in the next few months.

Book Haul – 19 September 2020

It has been a while since I have done a Book Haul post, so I figured it was a good time to look back at some of the amazing books that I have received in the last couple of weeks.  I have actually received quite an impressive haul recently, made up of a number of exciting and intriguing books, including a few novels that I have been looking forward to for some time.  Each of the books below have a lot of potential and I am really keen to check them all out as soon as I can.

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising by Timothy Zahn

Thrawn Ascendancy - Chaos Rising Cover

The first entry on this book haul had to be the book that I am most looking forward to reading, Chaos RisingChaos Rising is the first novel in a brand new Star Wars trilogy from the amazing Timothy Zahn that focuses on the early days of his most iconic character, Grand Admiral Thrawn.  This is one of my most anticipated reads for 2020 due to how much I loved all three novels in Zahn’s previous Thrawn trilogy (Thrawn, Alliances and Treason), and it is sure to be an outstanding and epic read.

Dead Man in a Ditch by Luke Arnold

Dead Man in a Ditch Cover

Dead Man in a Ditch is the intriguing sounding follow-up to the urban fantasy novel, The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold.  The Last Smile in Sunder City was a great book that came out earlier in the year and I cannot wait to see how Arnold follows it up in this second novel.

Lionhearts by Nathan Makaryk

Lionhearts Cover

A cool and awesome sounding retelling of the legend of Robin Hood, Lionhearts should make for a pretty epic read.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

A Deadly Education Cover

The House of Lamentations by S. G. Maclean

The House of Lamentations Cover

The House of Lamentations is a compelling historical thriller that will serve as the final book in MacLean’s fantastic Damien Seeker series.  I really enjoyed reading the previous two entries in this series, Destroying Angel and The Bear Pit, and I cannot wait to see how the story ends.

The Tower of Fools by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Tower of Fools Cover

Another intriguing series from Andrzej Sapkowski, author of The Witcher novels, yeah, now that is something I need to check out.  This new release is the first English translation of The Tower of Fools, which Sapkowski wrote some years ago.  It sounds pretty damn awesome and I cannot wait to see how it turns out.

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett

The Evening and the Morning Cover


Battle Ground
by Jim Butcher

Battle Ground Cover

Battle Ground is the 17th entry in the acclaimed urban fantasy series from Jim Butcher, The Dresden Files.  I have been meaning to get into The Dresden Files for some time now, and this could be a good opportunity to check it out.

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

The Bone Shard Daughter Cover

This is an intriguing sounding fantasy debut from a new author that could be worth checking out.  The Bone Shard Daughter has a fantastic plot synopsis behind it and I really love the book’s elaborate cover.  Hopefully this turns out to be an epic and enjoyable read and I am looking forward to reading it.

River of Gold by Anthony Riches

River of Gold Cover

The latest entry in a long-running and enjoyable Roman historical fiction series.  It has been a while since I have read an Anthony Riches novel, but River of Gold sounds like a great new entry and I think I may try and read it next.

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London Cover

The final entry in this post is The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, a new standalone young adult fantasy novel from talented Australian author Garth Nix.  Nix is an amazing author who I have been a fan of for years.  I really enjoyed his last standalone novel, Angel Mage, and this new book also sounds really fun.

Well that’s the end of this latest Book Haul post.  As you can see I have quite a bit of reading to do at the moment thanks to all these awesome books that have come in.  Let me know which of the above you are most interested in and make sure to check back in a few weeks to see my reviews of them.

Top Ten Tuesday – Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. For this latest Top Ten Tuesday participants need to list their top anticipated releases for the second half of 2020.

2020 has so far been a pretty amazing year for books, with some outstanding and impressive novels coming out and blowing me away. However, the year is far from over, and there are a number of incredible and epic-sounding novels set for release in the second half of 2020. In order to fill out this list I have scoured my list of anticipated upcoming releases and tried to work out which of the books coming out between the start of July and the end of December I am most looking forward to.

This proved to be a rather hard list to finalise, mainly because of how many awesome novels are coming out in the next six months. I had to make some hard decisions for this list, and I ended up cutting out several upcoming releases that I am really looking forward to. Despite this, I am rather happy with the eventual choices that I made, and I think that this upcoming list reflects which upcoming novels I am going to have the most fun reading. Due to how impressive they sound and because they have already caught my attention, several of these books in my weekly Waiting on Wednesday articles, and some of them also appeared on my recent Winter TBR list. However, there are also some interesting new books that I am discussing for the first time here, so that should give this list a bit of variety. So let us get to my selections and find out which upcoming novels are my most anticipated releases for the second half of 2020.

Honourable Mentions:


Total Power
by Kyle Mills – 15 September 2020

Total Power Cover


The Devil and the Dark Water
by Stuart Turton – 1 October 2020

The Devil and the Dark Water Cover


Hollow Empire
by Sam Hawke – 26 November 2020

Hollow Empire Cover 2

Hollow Empire was a book that I was really hoping to read last year, but it has faced some delays. Luckily it looks set for release in a few months time and I am rather excited to check it out, especially after how much I enjoyed Hawke’s first novel, City of Lies.


Colonyside
by Michael Mammay – 29 December 2020

This is the third book in the incredible Planetside series of science fiction thriller novels that I have been having an outstanding time reading the last couple of years. The first book in this series, Planetside, is one of my favourite debuts of all time, and last year’s follow-up book, Spaceside was also really impressive. Colonyside is set to be another amazing addition to this series, and I cannot wait to see what sort of complex and clever space mystery Mammay cooks up this time.

Top Ten Tuesday (By Release Date):


Demon in White
by Christopher Ruocchio – 28 July 2020

Demon in White Cover 1


The Gates of Athens
by Conn Iggulden – 4 August 2020

The Gates of Athens Cover

I actually got a copy of this book last week and I am planning on reading it soon. Gates of Athens is set to be one of the top historical fiction releases of the year, and it should prove to be an epic and detailed read.

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It by K. J. Parker – 18 August 2020

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It


Thrawn Ascendancy
: Chaos Rising by Timothy Zahn – 1 September 2020

Thrawn Ascendancy - Chaos Rising Cover

The Evening and the Morning
by Ken Follett – 15 September 2020

The Evening and the Morning Cover


The Trouble with Peace
by Joe Abercrombie – 15 September 2020

The Trouble with Peace Cover 2

I used The Trouble with Peace’s more recent cover for this article because it looks extremely cool and is a nice contrast to the cover I used in the linked Waiting on Wednesday article.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini – 15 September 2020

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars Cover


Assault by Fire
by Hunter Ripley Rawlings IV – 29 September 2020

Assault by Fire Cover

I just want to point out that Assault by Fire is the only debut novel that I have featured in this article. Not only does it have an awesome and exciting story concept behind it, but I really loved the book that Rawlings cowrote with Mark Greaney last year, Red Metal. If Rawlings’ first solo book is anything as good as Red Metal, then this should prove to be a fantastic read that I know I am going to enjoy.

 

The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly – 10 November 2020

I have been really enjoying Michael Connelly’s books over the last couple of years, including Dark Sacred Night and The Night Fire, both of which were exceptional pieces of crime fiction. I am also in the middle of reading his latest book, Fair Warning, which is so far pretty amazing. Because of this, I was rather excited when I heard that Connelly had another book coming out later this year. The Law of Innocence sounds extremely interesting as it sees the return of the Lincoln Lawyer, Mickey Haller, as he faces the trial of his life. Also set to feature his most iconic protagonist, Harry Bosch, The Law of Innocence should be a particular impressive read and I am very much looking forward to it.


Call of the Bone Ships
by R. J. Barker – 24 November 2020

The final book on this list is a book that I know that I am absolutely going to love, and which is pretty much guaranteed to get a full five stars from me. Call of the Bone Ships is the upcoming sequel to one of the best books of 2019, The Bone Ships, by the always amazing R. J. Barker. This new book will continue the epic nautical fantasy adventures started in The Bone Ships, and I for one am extremely eager to see what outstanding and inventive new narrative that Barker comes up with this time.

 

That’s the end of this list. I am extremely happy with how my latest Top Ten Tuesday article turned out, and my Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020 list contains an intriguing list of upcoming books that should prove to be incredible reads. I think that every one of the books I mentioned above has the potential to get a full five-star rating from me and I cannot wait to see what amazing and exciting stories they contain. While I am waiting to get my hands on these books, why not let me know if any of the above interest you, and let me know what your most anticipated releases for the next six months are in the comments below.

Waiting on Wednesday – The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings. Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them. For my latest Waiting on Wednesday article I am going to look at an ambitious and massive upcoming novel that is probably going to be the best historical fiction books of 2020, The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett.

The Evening and the Morning Cover

Ken Follett is an absolute legend of an author who has been writing since the 1970s. While he has written several acclaimed thriller novels, he is probably best known for his epic works of historical fiction that follows the lives of several compelling fictional characters as they traverse some major historical events. My first experience with Follett’s work was with the impressive Century trilogy, which chronicled some of the biggest events of the 20th century, including World War I, World War II and the Cold War. While each of the books in the Century trilogy were massive volumes, I gamely read through them and quickly found myself getting drawn into these incredible pieces of historical fiction. Since the Century trilogy has finished, Follett has only released one other book, A Column of Fire, but that was enough to make him one of my absolute favourite authors, and I have been eagerly waiting to read his next book.

Well it looks like my wait is finally over, as the next novel from Follett, The Evening and the Morning, is set to be released later this year in mid-September. The Evening and the Morning is actually part of the same series as A Column of Fire, which is known as the Kingsbridge series, as all the books are set around the fictional town of Kingsbridge. This is probably Follett’s most popular and well-known historical fiction series, with all three books getting very positive reviews, and the first two novels in the series, The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, have both been adapted into television miniseries, with The Pillars of the Earth miniseries having a particularly impressive cast to it. The Evening and the Morning will serve as a prequel to the entire Kingsbridge series, and it will be set over 100 years before the events of The Pillars of the Earth.

Synopsis:

A TIME OF CONFLICT
It is 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages, and England faces attacks from the Welsh in the west and the Vikings in the east. Life is hard, and those with power wield it harshly, bending justice according to their will – often in conflict with the king. With his grip on the country fragile and with no clear rule of law, chaos and bloodshed reign.

THREE LIVES INTERTWINED
Into this uncertain world three people come to the fore: a young boatbuilder, who dreams of a better future when a devastating Viking raid shatters the life that he and the woman he loves hoped for; a Norman noblewoman, who follows her beloved husband across the sea to a new land only to find her life there shockingly different; and a capable monk at Shiring Abbey, who dreams of transforming his humble abbey into a centre of learning admired throughout Europe.

THE DAWN OF A NEW AGE
Now, with England at the dawn of the Middle Ages, these three people will each come into dangerous conflict with a ruthless bishop, who will do anything to increase his wealth and power, in an epic tale of ambition and rivalry, death and birth, and love and hate.

Thirty years ago we were introduced to Kingsbridge in The Pillars of the Earth, and now in this masterful prequel international bestseller Ken Follett will take us on a journey into a rich past, which will end where his masterpiece begins.

It looks like this latest book will once again tell an elaborate and multilayered tale that will follow these new protagonists through the early 11th century. Based on how Follett usually writes his novels, this story will be set over a period of many years, and will see the protagonists encounter all manner of hardships, opportunities, betrayals and other life experiences as their separate narratives become more and more connected through the course of the book. This will inevitably result in an ultra-captivating tale as the reader becomes attached to the characters and watches them engage in action, intrigue and drama. This book will also serve as a prequel of sorts to the other books in the series, as the characters featured within The Evening and the Morning will be some form of ancestors to the characters of The Pillar of the Earth, and it will be interesting to see how they are all connected.

While I am looking forward to seeing what stories and characters Follett comes up with for this book, I am especially keen for his portrayal of the historical period that the book is set in. Follett is a master of depicting and exploring history, and I have loved his takes on some of the periods featured within his previous novels. The early 11th century setting for The Evening and the Morning should prove to be particularly intriguing, as you will have Viking raids, troubles with the Welsh, Norman settlers and all manner of other fantastic historical elements that should prove fascinating to explore. I am extremely excited to see Follett’s take on this historical era, and I know that I am going to love it.

Based on how much I have enjoyed Follett’s previous books, I know that The Evening and the Morning is going to be an outstanding historical epic which I will have an amazing time reading. Making it a prequel to his previous impressive novels and setting it at the start of the medieval period should help to make this book even more enjoyable, and I am looking forward to the author’s trademark deep dive into history. This is going to be a pretty lengthy book that will no doubt take me a while to get through (trust me, all of Follett’s previous books made my Longest Novels I Ever Read list). However, I have no doubt that it will be worth it, as this upcoming book has immense potential. I am already certain that The Evening and the Morning is going to get a full five-star rating from me, and I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy.

Make sure to check out my review of The Evening and the Morning here.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books on my TBR I Predict Will Be 5 Star Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly series that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. In this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, we need to list the top ten upcoming books on our to-read list that we think will be five-star reads. To that end, I have scoured through those upcoming books that I want to read for those exceptional sounding entries that I think I will end up awarding a full five stars rating to.

There are actually quite a few novels I am planning to read that I think have the potential to get a five-star rating from me. I have already identified several of these books in my Waiting on Wednesday posts, as well as in my prior Top Ten Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020 list. Not only do all of these books have amazing-sounding plots, but quite a few of them are either written by an author I really like or part of a series that contains entries that I have previously awarded five-star reviews to.

There were quite a few upcoming books that I felt could have been included this list, but I ended up culling it down to my top ten favourites (in addition to my usual honourable mentions section). I decided to only include those books whose titles and plot synopsis have been officially revealed, as that made it easier to determine whether I am likely to award it a five-star rating. This does mean that I had to exclude several books that are coming out in the next year which have not been officially announced or which we know very little detail about. This includes sequels to some of my favourite books of 2019, include Rage, The Bone Ships, Starsight and A Little Hatred, which, while I know nothing about them now, I am extremely confident that they are going to be incredibly awesome. In the end, I was able to come up with a great list of books that I am happy with, so let us get to it.

Honourable Mentions:


The God Game
by Danney Tobey – 14 January 2020

The God Game Cover

The only book on this list that I currently have a copy of, The God Game sounds like an amazing read, and I have heard some great things about it from some other reviewers. I am planning to read this book next, and based on its cool plot, I think this book has a real shot of getting a full five stars from me.

Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett – 21 April 2020

Shorefall Cover


The Kingdom of Liars
by Nick Martell – 7 May 2020

The Kingdom of Liars Cover


Daughters of Night
by Laura Shepherd-Robinson – 25 June 2020

Daughters of Night

Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s debut book, Blood & Sugar, was an outstanding piece of historical crime fiction that got a full five stars from me and was one of my favourite debuts of 2019. This second book is set to explore another intriguing murder in 18th century London, and I am hopeful that the author’s second novel will be just as good as her first.

Top Ten List (By Release Date):


False Value
by Ben Aaronovitch – 20 February 2020

False Value Cover


Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising
by Timothy Zahn – 7 May 2020

Thrawn Ascendancy - Chaos Rising Cover


The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
by Suzanne Collins – 19 May 2020

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Cover


The Obsidian Tower
by Melissa Caruso – 2 June 2020

The Obsidian Tower Cover


Demon in White
by Christopher Ruocchio – 9 July 2020

Demon in White Cover 1


Queen of Storms
by Raymond E. Feist – 14 July 2020

Queen of Storms Cover

This is the sequel to 2018’s excellent King of Ashes, which is written by one of my favourite authors, Raymond E. Feist. I am a huge Feist fan and I have been looking forward to this book for a long time. I really enjoyed the intriguing new story that Feist came up with in his previous novel and I cannot wait to see where the story goes from here.

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It by K. J. Parker (cover not yet released) – 25 August 2020

One of my favourite books of 2019 was Parker’s exceptional fantasy novel, Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, which featured a desperate attempt to save a besieged city by a bunch of engineers and their duplicitous commander. This new novel, How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It, appears to contain a similar story, except that this time the book will focus on a playwright whose talents are utilised to win a siege. Based on how incredible his previous novel with, I am really excited for this upcoming book, and I fully expect it to be another funny and compelling five-star read.

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett – 15 September 2020

The Evening and the Morning Cover

There is absolutely no way that the new epic novel from Ken Follett is not going to get a full five stars from me when it comes out later this year. Follett is another one of my favourite authors, and he has produced some incredible pieces of historical fiction over the years. The Evening and the Morning is the prequel to Follett’s iconic The Pillars of the Earth, and is set over 100 before during the Dark Ages. This is sure to be another captivating examination of history that explores the lives of several great characters over a period of years, producing a truly compelling story. This is going to be a massive read, but I am sure I will deeply enjoy every single page of it.
Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff – 17 September 2020

Empire of the Vampire precover

The next book on my list is an incredible-sounding novel from Australian author Jay Kristoff. Kristoff, who is best known for his young adult fiction, is working on an adult fantasy novel which focuses on a world where vampires rule after the sun failed to rise one day. This book will apparently chronicle the life of the last vampire hunter, who attempted to save the world but is now imprisoned by the vampires and awaiting his execution. I have to admit that I really like the sound of this upcoming book, and I think that Kristoff is onto a real winner with this intriguing story.

Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke – 1 December 2020

Hollow Empire Cover

Hawke’s debut novel, City of Lies, was a fantastic story about a family of poison experts as they tried to win a siege and keep their king safe from treachery, which was easily one of my favourite books of 2018. I have been looking forward to Hawke’s sequel for a while now, and Hollow Empire is currently set for release later this year. I have really high hopes for this sequel, especially as Hawke is apparently branching out into witchcraft and war in this new book.

Well, that’s it for this week’s list. I truly think all of the above books have the potential to be five-star reads, and I cannot wait to get my hands on all of them. Let me know what you think of the above books in the comments below, and tell me which upcoming pieces of fiction you think have the potential to be five-star reads.

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Longest Novels That I Have Ever Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. For Tuesday the 5th of November 2019 participants in Top Ten Tuesday are supposed to list the Top Ten Books That Give Off Autumn Vibes. However, I am going to be posting up a Top Ten list I put together last week but couldn’t post due to my internet being down (the ultimate horror in this day and age). For last week’s Top Ten Tuesday, participants got a Halloween freebie, meaning that I can make a Top Ten List on any topic of my choosing. While this list should probably have been Halloween themed, I am honestly not a massive fan of the horror genre, so I would struggle to produce any sort of list that would require at least 10 horror books. That being said, I would strongly recommend a few horror books such as Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant, or some of the Joe Ledger books by Jonathan Maberry such as Patient Zero, Code Zero or Assassin’s Code if you want a scary read. Instead, I decided to list the longest novels I have ever read (if you are desperate for a Halloween theme you could say that they are scary long). This is a bit of a continuation of the Top Ten Longest Audiobooks list that I did back in March of this year (and which I might do a follow-up list of in a few months).

In order to work out what was the longest book I ever read, I decided to go off the total number of pages contained within a book. I went through the longest books in my personal collection and took down the number of pages. I also went online to Goodreads to work out the page count of some books I borrowed from the library or previously owned. That means that in most cases, I am going of the versions that I have at home or using an online word count for the version I think I read, and hopefully this accurately reflects most printings of that book. I realise that this is not the most scientific method for working out which is the longest book I have ever read, especially as a number of factors such as formatting, font and print size could all come into play here, but I am personally happy that this is a mostly accurate way of working this out.

This list will only feature books that I have physically read and completed (so none that I have only listened to on audiobook), and hopefully it produces an interesting and varied list. Before I even started collecting the data for this, I had a few predictions about which books will be at the top (I assumed a few of the Ken Follett books I have read are going to make an appearance). There is also likely to be some crossover with this list and my Top Ten Longest Audiobook list, as I would have read the physical copies of several books the first time, and then relistened to them on audiobook. Let’s have a look and see which book tops this list:

Top Ten List:

1. Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan – 1011 pages

Lord of Chaos Cover.jpg


2. Edge of Eternity
by Ken Follett and The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan – 1007 pages

Edge of Eternity, The Shadow Rising Cover.png


3. The Fires of Heaven
by Robert Jordan – 989 pages

The Fires of Heaven Cover.jpg


4. Tombland
– C. J. Sansom – 866 pages

Tombland Cover


5. Inheritance
by Christopher Paolini and Mistress of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurst – 860 pages

Inheritance, Mistress of Empire Cover.png

6. Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb – 853 pages

Assassin's Fate Cover.jpg


7. Assassin’s Quest
by Robin Hobb – 838 pages

Assassin's Quest Cover.jpg


8. Servant of the Empire
by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurst – 827 pages

Servant of the Empire.jpg


9. The Priory of the Orange Tree
by Samantha Shannon – 825 pages

The Priory of the Orange Tree Cover


10. Winter of the World
by Ken Follet – 819 pages

Winter of the World Cover.jpg
This turned out to be a pretty intriguing result for me. I am a little surprised that the Robert Jordan books took two of the top three spots on the list. It has been a very long time since I read Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, but I honestly do not remember them being that long. The rest of the books on the list are not a massive surprise, though. Follett has created some amazingly long historical fiction novels over the years which, despite their length, are all incredible reads that always find a way to hook the reader. The same could be said of C. J. Samson, and there is a reason that both he and Follet made my Top Ten Auto-Buy Authors List. I am also not too surprised that some books by Raymond E. Feist (another autobuy author of mine) and Janny Wurst’s Empire books made it in, same with Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle books. While they seemed like smaller reads when I was younger (possibly because I wanted to power through them as soon as I got them), they all scored fairly highly on my Top Ten Longest Audiobook list, so I figured they would have a high page count. Assassin’s Fate and The Priory of the Orange Tree were books I reviewed in the Canberra Weekly, and I am glad they made the cut. Not only were they pretty epic reads, but it was good to see some more recent books I have read make the list.

While I enjoyed figuring out the top ten, I am still curious to see where some of the other books I read fit in my overall ranking. So as a bit of bonus material, and because I already spent all that time working out how many pages there were, here are the next top 15 books as an Honourable Mention.

Honourable Mentions:

11. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan – 814 pages

The Eye of the World Cover.jpg


12. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
by J. K. Rowling – 766 pages

The Order of the Phoenix Cover

Well I am glad at least one Harry Potter book made the cut. These always seemed so massive when I was kid, but in reality, they are not that big compared to some other books that are out there.

13. Brisingr by Christopher Paolini – 763 pages

Brisingr Cover


14. The Twelve Children of Paris
by Tim Willocks – 754 pages

The Twelve Children of Paris Cover.jpg

This one is a blast from the past that I haven’t thought about for a while. This was a bloody and gruesome action-packed historical novel that made for a fun, if rather violent, read.

15. Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb – 752 pages

Royal Assassin Cover.jpg


16. A Column of Fire
by Ken Follett – 751 pages

A Column of Fire Cover.png


17. Pilgrim
by Sara Douglass – 749 pages

Pilgrim Cover

I am not too sure how popular the late Sara Douglass was outside of Australia, but this book was part of a great fantasy series I got into when I was younger, mostly because they were one of the few major series available in my school’s library. I think several books in The Wayfarer Redemption series make the top 25 cut, and they excellent and enjoyable series to check out.

18. Starman by Sara Douglass – 733 pages

Starman Cover.jpg


19. Sleeping Beauties
by Stephen King and Owen King – 718 pages

Sleeping Beauties Cover.jpg


20. The Great Hunt
by Robert Jordan – 705 pages

The Great Hunt Cover.jpg


21. Eldest
by Christopher Paolini and Magician by Raymond E. Feist – 681 pages

Eldest, Magician Cover.png


22. Battleaxe
by Sara Douglass – 674 pages

Battleaxe Cover.jpg


23. Enchanter
by Sara Douglass – 672 pages

Enchanter Cover.png


24. The Shining City
by Kate Forsyth – 661

The Shining City Cover.jpg

The Shining City is a fantastic entry from Australian author Kate Forsyth. Forsyth is probably best known these days for her historical dramas; however, some of her earliest works included two excellent fantasy series, which featured some outstanding novels, such as this book, of which I was a massive fan.

25. Hawk Quest by Robert Lyndon – 658

Hawk Quest Cover.jpg

Another exciting historical adventure. Hawk Quest was a wide-ranging epic that followed a small group of adventurers through medieval Europe and the Middle East, as they attempt to capture a rare hawk to help pay a ransom.

Now that added some variety to the list. I am not at all surprised to see more from Feist, Jordan, Paolini and Follet, but the addition of all those Sara Douglass books was a bit of a blast from the past. Some of the other books, such as Sleeping Beauties, Hawk Quest and The Shining City were a nice treat, and I think it is fair to say that I have read a good collection of long novels in my life so far. I would definitely recommend each and every book on this list to anyone who is looking to sink their teeth into a nice, massive book, as all of these books are highly enjoyable. This is probably going to be an ever-evolving list that I will hopefully add to each year, especially as I read more and more long books. For example, just today I received a copy of Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward, which clocks in at a whopping 768 pages, and which, when I read it, will replace Order of the Phoenix’s at number 12 on this list. In the meantime, let me know what you think in the comments below; I am curious to know the longest book that you have ever read.