This massive (page-wise) book is the opening novel of the eponymous trilogy. With all the move and hassle of buying a new home, I did not physically read it, but I listened to the Audible audio book. Due to the impossibility of past cross-references, I was not able to page back and verify some information, but the book was easy to follow. This is the case when some drawbacks of the book eventually became its strengths in its audio version.
It is obvious that the book that is so massively popular would not be the high-brow, elegant, and elitist fiction, but it was still very enjoyable. Yes, the characters were often too straightforward and slightly predictable, but there were scores of them, and because of their easy-to-decode nature and theatricality of their features, they were easy to remember, too; it is especially important if you are listening to the audio book.
The plot lines were occasionally too predictable and slightly soap-operish (like in the case with numeral pregnancies), but it was also easy to remember, and it is highly important when there are several plot-lines that intertwine and crisscross the fabric of the text.
On the other hand, Follett allows his characters to be politically active even if I or maybe he does not share the same ideas and beliefs. I am not happy with Fitz’s opinion about the role of women, aristocracy, and democracy, but I still appreciate that Follett lets him be and does not try to change his opinion, neither is he trying to make him truly evil. Surprisingly, despite the slightly formulaic nature of his characters, all of them have redeeming features, and I do not hate any of them. Besides, closer to the end of the novel, even the most straightforward characters become more subtle and complex. Some might say that final chapters is not exactly the place in the novel when and where one develops his or characters, but it is only the first novel of his trilogy, so with the other two in mind, Follett is allowed to take his time to develop his characters and make them more literary complex.
Overall, I do not mind reading the other two books. It is not the special literary treat for the language and literature lovers, but it is likable, entertaining, relatively well researched, and delivers complex political ideas without boring its readers.
P.S. The description of the military episodes is one of the most important achievement of this novel – it is utterly believable, convincing, memorable, touching, realistic, gritty, and very disturbing as any description of war should be.