(This is a guest post by our friend Shannon here in Atlanta. Thanks, Shannon!)
This is one of those book reviews that I feel pained to write because I am such a huge fan of the author, but the book fell so woefully short of my expectations. Fall of Giants is the first book in Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy. I love a good trilogy, historical fiction, and Ken Follett, so I was very excited to pick up this book. Actually, I bought this book as a Christmas present for my future mother-in-law and then immediately asked if I could borrow it. (Irrelevant side note: That same Christmas, we wrapped up and gifted a copy of The Hunger Games that the two of us had already read but deemed giftable because none of the pages were bent. You definitely want to be on our gift list. We are thoughtful givers).
At just over 1,000 pages, this book is quite the commitment (and, per Amazon, the audio book is over 30 hours!). But while I sped through Ken Follett’s equally daunting in page number Pillars of the Earth and its sequel, World without End, (both great reads) it took me over three months to slog through this book. Fall of Giants takes the reader through the events leading up to World War I through the end of the war as told through characters from different countries and different social classes. There is a Welsh boy that goes from working in the mines to the front lines and his sister that starts as a housekeeper and becomes an activist for women’s rights; two Russian brothers, one who swindles his brother’s ticket to America and the brother that stays behind to eventually become part of the Russian revolution; an American who is part of Woodrow Wilson’s White House; and an English aristocrat and his sister who falls in love with a German who has his own country wartime issues to deal with.
On the positive side, I don’t tend to read a lot about World War I, and I did learn quite a bit about this war, which I hope will come in handy for a good trivia night. But, at the end of the day, the book had way too many main characters that were never fully developed. The bad guys weren’t bad enough, the good guys weren’t terribly interesting, and by page 800, I was questioning whether I even cared about what happened to the characters at the end of the book. I really, really wanted to like this book, but it was so far removed from the rich character development that I have grown accustomed to with Ken Follett books, that I finished this book very disappointed. Maybe this review would have taken a much more positive spin if I had come to the table expecting a history lesson as opposed to the beginning of an epic trilogy.