I bought Cathedral of the Sea because it was on a clearance shelf and was compared to Pillars of the Earth. It also didn't hurt that it is over 600 pages long and I am a sucker for in depth historical fiction. The novel is not really as centered around the building of the cathedral as PotE was and the history is not as deep and well researched, but it is still a worthwhile read. Themes that they have in common are the cathedral construction (which spans multiple decades & includes many different characters) and the fight of the common people against nobles. The story centers around Arnau Estanyol in mid-1300's Barcelona, though it actually begins with his parents' wedding. This first chapter is a great start and instantly catches your interest and makes you really feel compassion for Bernat, Arnau's father. Though Arnau has some moments where he's not quite as loveable (don't we all), Bernat is constantly optimistic, hardworking, and putting others before himself. While I enjoyed this book, there were some aspects that could have been done better. First of all, I do not believe there is a major female character in this book that is not raped at some point. I do understand that this was a much more common concern for women of this time period, but it seemed a little too frequent in this novel. Second, I could have lived without Aledis. Actually, the "coming of age" attraction between her and Arnau was fine, but the continuation of her character once they were adults was not something I enjoyed at all. Joan also starts as an interesting character who you want to see succeed, but he turns into something different. Finally, it seemed like after a certain point in the novel (not to give anything away) that Arnau's problems were all solved far too easily. Money falls into his lap - more than once, he has friends in all the right places, and things just seem to happen in an unrealistic fashion in the last third or so of the book. Not that he doesn't face hardships, but they all seem to go away so much more quickly and easily than those encountered earlier in his life. This novel was originally written in Spanish, but that is not obvious because the translation to English is well done.