This is the second novel in the Pillars of the Earth series; however you should know that the books aren't dependent upon you reading one and then the other. They simply take place in the same place. This novel takes place in the 1300's, approximately 200-300 years after the events in The Pillars of the Earth, in the same town. The cathedral is still standing; however, there are many things that are changing in the lives of the people. Serfs are beginning to free themselves by looking to other towns that pay more for the jobs they do and the products they sell. This novel follows the lives of four very different children: Ralph, Gwenda, Caris and Merthing. We meet them when they are quite young and they have wandered into the forrest, only to watch a man be killed. The characters use this moment seminally and it completely influences who they become.
The book not only encompasses the black plague and the slowly evolving role of the church, but also issues surrounding economic and social equality. Follett is a master storyteller, albeit one thta isn't the best writer in the sense of his word choice. I loved being able to get lost in the stories of the time and Follett made it easy to immerse oneself in the stories of the characters and the lives of the people. I look forward to reading Follett's series on WWII shortly!