rating: 3 of 5 stars
I like long books, usually. It means we get to spend more time with characters we’ve come to care about, if the author has done their job properly.
Even though I liked most of the characters in this book, I almost put this 900+ page book down in several places starting at about page 500.
Why? The try-fail cycle was almost formulaic. By about the middle of the book I found myself groaning every time something new happened to thwart the people. I think this is because only a couple of the characters ever really grew from the experience. The ensemble cast was interestingly drawn from the beginning, but once figured out they became cardboard characters. We knew, for instance, that good Prior Phillip would always come up with a clever plan. Ellen would always be a beloved heretic living in the forest. Jack would always be driven like Tom to build the cathedral.
The thing that became more and more irritating as the book commenced was the fact that many people had modern behaviors and ideals. And the clincher to make me be really bugged by this book was the unrealistic treatment of women (for the time period) by this book.
A 25 year old young woman is a master stained glass artisan? If there had been any shred of cultural credibility in this book before, this dissolved it. A woman would never have been allowed such work. A man would not have achieved the status of master by that age, unless he was a genius.
Okay, so why do I give this book 3 stars? The cathedral building! It was beautiful and glorious to see the development of cathedral architecture in a narrative.