I so enjoyed this book but, I have to say, not as much as The Pillars of the Earth. I'll get to why in a minute.
World Without End takes place 200 years later than Pillars in the same town of Kingbridge. It opens with four children doing what kids like to do--playing in the woods. Their play is interrupted by violence: a man is attacked by two others. Three of the children are able to get away as the two attackers are killed. The fourth child enters into a pact with the surviving victim. They hide a certain something and it's not to be spoken of ever unless the man dies.
Fast forward ten years. The children have all grown up and are pursuing different paths in life. The secret something remains buried, just waiting to be uncovered. The book spans a good 25 years, following the fortune and misfortune of each of the four. There is a true love, soul mates type romance in the story that is continually frustrated. There's triumph and tragedy in the story. There is also that dreadful disease that wiped out half the population in the Middle Ages: the plague. And does the secret ever become exposed? Read to find out!
Now here's why I didn't enjoy it as much as Pillars. I think I read it too soon afterward. At first I thought the characters would be completely different but then I realized there were a lot of similarities. The lead hero and lead heroine are almost interchangeable between both books. Even the heros look alike. The love affairs go through many trials and tribulations, similar but different.
There is a cruel, amoral earl in both Pillars and World. There are kind and decent monks and there are selfish, self-centered monks in both books. In both books, there are characters that carry grudges throughout a lifetime. I don't think I would have noticed it much if I'd read a bunch of books in between the two.
I would definitely recommend both books to anyone but I would also advise not to read them back to back like I did!