• World Without End

  • By: Ken Follett
  • Narrated by: John Lee
  • Length: 45 hrs and 33 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (19,884 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In 1989 Ken Follett astonished the literary world with The Pillars of the Earth, a sweeping epic novel set in 12th-century England that centered on the building of a cathedral and the men, women, and children whose lives it changed forever. Critics were overwhelmed, and readers and listeners ever since have hoped for a sequel. 

At last, here it is. Although the two novels may be listened to in any order, World Without End takes place in the same town of Kingsbridge, two centuries after the townspeople finished building the exquisite Gothic cathedral that was at the heart of The Pillars of the Earth. The cathedral and the priory are again at the center of a web of love and hate, greed and pride, ambition and revenge. 

Three years in the writing, World Without End once again shows that Ken Follett is a masterful author writing at the top of his craft.

©2007 Ken Follett (P)2007 Penguin Audio, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Fans of Follett's previous medieval epic will be well rewarded." (Publishers Weekly)

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What listeners say about World Without End

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

40 hours too short ...

If you have read or listened to “Pillars of The Earth”, you will not be disappointed with World Without End. It is yet another masterpiece from Ken Follett that – despite its length – is an easy and rewarding experience. No other author can mix history, drama, love, battle and suspense like him.

World without End follows a number of characters in Kingsbridge during 40 years – beginning approximately 200 years after the end of Pillars of the Earth. It is therefore not a prerequisite to have read this book first.

I have now almost 200 audio books under my belt – and this is one of the best ones. After the usual first listening hour with confusions about all the characters that are introduced, the remaining 47 hours is pure and utter joy.

I really look forward to a third book about Kingsbridge – which Ken Follett has indicated might come in a few years.

I almost forgot: The narrator John Lee is just outright brilliant, with his pleasant and mellow voice.


189 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • LB
  • 10-19-07

a masterwork

I have been a Ken Follett fan since the first time I picked up one of his thrillers and Pillars of the Earth has been one of my favorites. Now I have a new favorite. The richness of the characters as well as the historical detail have me hooked. I am almost done listening and will listen again just to enjoy all the nuances of the richly developed characters.

158 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Repetitive, but still enjoyable

For anyone who recently read or listened to Pillars of the Earth, I would suggest waiting a while before starting World Without End. I just listened to the first one two months ago, and I wish I had waited at least year before listening to the second.
At first, I felt as if Follett had used up all his ideas about basic personality traits and plot ideas in Pillars, and in the second book just mixed them around, assigning them to different characters (good monk becomes bad monk, bullying, jealous builder (Alfred) appears in a new family, etc). The plot "twists," this time much more predictable, and other obstacles were also all too familiar, but each with a new outcome or resolution. After about 20 hours of that, the plot finally took off and became a new story in its own right, and it was a lot more interesting and engrossing. Since it's so long, that still left me with about 30 good hours, but it would have been a lot more enjoyable if my memory of the first book had been dimmer.

155 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Ten Stars

If I could, I'd give this book ten stars. I felt similarly about Pillars of Earth. Initially, I thought the story line was a bit too much like a soap opera, with the personal relationships filled with sex and rage. But, the characters take form and are incredibly well-developed as this book relates the lives two and three generations following the main characters in Pillars of the Earth. The politics between church and town are well-woven into the story creating tension and intrigue. The impact of the bubonic plague and the war between England and France bring the history of the times to life in a way that no history book could ever do. There were times that I stayed up way later than I should have because I just couldn't stop listening. The narrator does more than read . . . he acts out the scenes and creates the characters extremely well. My only regret is that I finished this book today. And now what do I do! I'm afraid that anything I choose will pale in comparison.

82 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Good, but a little mechanical.

The book has many of the virtues and flaws of Pillars of the Earth, but the story seems less inspired, more like Follet is using the same pattern without the same inspiration.

Overall, his setting, as in the first book, is impressive, and he has successfully advanced the setting to the 14th century. His understanding of architecture and building techniques are just as intricate as Pillars, and his knowledge of the economy and law of the fourteenth century medieval village is more sophisticated than his previous work, and he creates dramas that impressively illustrate and enlighten dry medieval economics and law. Well worth the read.

The characters and stories and dramas, though, sound more like he's trying to recreate "Pillars of the Earth" than like he was inspired to create something new. Same complicated romances, same manipulative power struggles, same unconscionably ambitous nobles and clergy. They are good stories, but even more superficial than in the first, and just as 20th century, rather than medieval.

His characters do deal with specifically fourteenth century medieval issues in this book, such as the changing roles of women in society, or the transition from superstition to a more scientific world view. This is well done especially in the sections about the Black Death.

Some reviews have said Caris seems too modern, but there were women in that era struggling for more independence. Women in fourteenth century towns were guild members and business owners and council members, and maybe even fighters, and often female monasteries offered a path to power that women couldn't find in the secular world, and nuns were conscious of this role, judging from medieval sources. Follet did his research there.

Overall, good research, good medieval setting, but somewhat mechanical storytelling.

63 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Exceeded my Expectations

I debated buying this because of the lenght, don't worry about it. Ken Follet does and excellent job of keeping the story line going.

Pillars of the Earth is one of my all time favoite books and this one is as good as Pillars.

48 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Disgusting Waste of Credits

I'm an over the road truck driver and love long reads. I have listened to hundreds of audio books over the years and I must say this author makes me sick. He is a perverted writer with no ambition of writing a book with a plot. I liken this book to a truck rolling down a hill over and over again not knowing when or where it will stop. Writing about RAPE of little children is what this author writes about most. He has no moral compass and enjoys writing about horrible, miserable, evil people as his heroes. I am far from perfect and just a laborer myself, but I know decent reading material, this is NOT good at all. It is sick and disgusting. I do not recommend at all.

42 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars


Pillars has been my favorite book of all time since I first read it 7 years ago. WWE does not disappoint. I love Ken's books for the rich charecter development and strong females, who I can relate to, who question and reject irrational tradition in favor of scientific, logical reasoning. The historical aspects make the book so fascinating. I wish it was a book "without end", because I was sad to have finished it. My new favorite book.

38 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Absolutely spectacular

I'm not sure how I can adequately express just how much I enjoyed this book. I was slightly put off by the length - not sure if I could get through 40 hours. By the end, I was slightly sad to realize my time with this fascinating community of people was coming to an end. I read "The Pillars of the Earth" many years ago, so I can't make too much of a close comparison. This book accurately portrays like in Medieval England, from food and housing to medicine and lifestyles. The story deals with a time of change - not only the beginning of the 100 Years War, but the end of the Dark Ages, and a huge change in labor and aristocracy brought on by the beginning of the Plague.
Well worth the time and such and enjoyable book. The characters are real and believeable, and you'll find yourself sad to leave Kingsbridge once again at the end.

35 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Book Without End

If you loved PILLARS OF THE EARTH, then it is likely you will enjoy WORLD WITHOUT END. It seems as if Ken Follet took the same recipe of his first success and snapped it together for this follow-up. All of the same ingredients are there; a beleaguered female protagonist with a not-so-loveable brother, her love interest, covetous power-lust for the earldom of Shiring, an ambitious building project, duplicitous clerics and plenty of despotic nobility. Sprinkle in some gore with equal measures of sex, add a few scenes of rape and stew in some omnipresent ale. At the end, reveal a long-hidden secret, and VOILA - a sequel emerges.

Really it does not matter which book you listen to first. Basically, they are one in the same.

I did enjoy listening to this 45-hour book. But added to the 40-hour prequel, really - enough is enough.

John Lee is a very talented reader and he does, in my opinion, make the listening pleasurable. If you are a fan of this reader, I recommend listening to A FINE BALANCE - an incredible piece of writing. WORLD WITHOUT END certainly is not great literature, but an engaging story that seems to, as the title suggests, never end.

26 people found this helpful