I just finished reading this book for the second time and feel just as strongly that it deserves 5 stars as the first time that I read it when it originally was released. Follett does an amazing job of delivering enough information to fill a history textbook through the conduits of characters so interesting that you do not realize how much you are learning. His characters are complex and realistic, which of course means that they are not all likable. By having a cast that includes families in Great Britain, United States, Germany, Austria, and Russia, Follett is able to give a thorough explanation of the diplomatic failures that led to World War I, how so many countries ended up involved, and how it was finally ended. He does not simplify matters by making all Germans evil or all Americans heroes. They are all people who may or may not fully believe in the cause they end up fighting and sometimes dying for. Several romances also are woven into the story, though Follett's sex scenes are always my least favorite part of what is otherwise a fabulous story. I was somewhat disappointed that he did not maintain a strong Christian point of view for any of his characters. Though two of the main characters are raised in a strict Christian home they fall away from their faith for reasons that aren't satisfactorily given. I was especially disappointed in the development of Billy William's character into someone that I found rather unlikable, but that's the real world . . . I don't have to like all the people in a book for me to accept that they can be that way. The book is filled with sad and sometimes chilling quotes regarding the future and avoiding any other war of this magnitude, and I am anxious to get started on the sequel, Winter of the World.