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"A spellbinding epic set in twelfth-century England, The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, a devout and resourceful monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known... of Tom, the mason who becomes his architect-a man divided in his soul... of the beautiful, elusive Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame... and of a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, and brother against brother." (Book summary)
If you like Pillars of the Earth
by Ken Follett, try these other historical-fiction tales of the medieval world.
by Bernard Cornwell
"Vividly re-creating the pageantry and violence of the 1400s, Cornwell takes readers into the heart of the soldiering class in this intimate retelling of the Battle of Agincourt. With a brisk pace and a brilliant evocation of everyday life, he details the brutality of war and the lives of the men who fought." (Booklist Online)
"Irving Stone's classic biographical novel in which both the artist and the man are brought to life in full. A masterpiece in its own right, this novel offers a compelling portrait of Michelangelo's dangerous, impassioned loves, and the God-driven fury from which he wrested the greatest art the world has ever known." (From the publisher)
"Set in 14th century Barcelona, the 80-year construction of the Church of Santa Maria affects the lives of the citizens, those who devoted their lives to building it, and those who were sheltered there." (Book summary.)
"Combining historically accurate facts with fiction, Pargeter traces the life of a thirteenth-century British family of master artisans, the Talvaces, whose passion is stone carving. Harry Talvace is apprenticed to a wealthy benefactor, Lord Isambard, whose dream is to build a majestic cathedral. Harry uses his skills to design and build the church but becomes embroiled in the passions, ruthlessness, and power struggles of the Isambards." (Booklist)
"In the twelfth century, the Salerno School of Medicine (in the Norman Kingdom of Sicily) boasted female students among its ranks. When Adelia, one of the university's prodigies, is summoned to considerably less-progressive Cambridge, England, to provide forensic support in the investigation of the murder of four children, she must conceal her identity lest she be labeled a witch. Still, her predicament is far less perilous than that of the Jewish residents of Cambridge, whom the Catholic townspeople have blamed for the quartet of deaths. King Henry II, while ruthless, is no fool; mindful of the tax revenues derived from Jewish merchants, he's vowed his protection until they can be exonerated. Adelia, whose entourage includes a Jewish investigator and a Muslim bodyguard, carefully analyzes the corpses. Her conclusions, alas, are far from definitive: the crimes could be the work of a serial killer, or perhaps one among the latest group of pilgrims who've recently returned from Canterbury." (From Booklist)
In 1327, Brother William of Baskerville is sent to investigate a wealthy Italian abbey whose monks are suspected of heresy. When his mission is overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths patterned on the book of Revelation, Brother William turns detective, following the trail of a conspiracy that brings him face-to-face with the abbey’s labyrinthine secrets, the subversive effects of laughter, and the medieval Inquisition. Caught in a power struggle between the emperor he serves and the pope who rules the Church, Brother William comes to see that what is at stake is larger than any mere political dispute–that his investigation is being blocked by those who fear imagination, curiosity, and the power of ideas. (Amazon.com)
King Henry I's death in 1135 led to a bloody 20-year struggle between his only legitimate child, Maude (called Matilda in most historical accounts), and his nephew, Stephen of Blois, for control of England. Penman showcases her mastery of the historical novel in this long and thoroughly engrossing study of pragmatic politics, idealism, and the role of women during the 12th century. She brings to life a vast array of unforgettable characters, both historical and invented, all of whose loyalties are being constantly tested by the chaos of the times. (From Library Journal)