Follett takes his time building the characters in this epic tale of life, death, honor, love, evil and the strength of human sprit. Epic, which is USUALLY a code for unnecessarily long and boring, is anything but boring here.
It reads a little slow at first as the characters are developed, but it is so worth it as we follow them all through several generations. Seldom have I read a novel in which I truly cared about the characters. All of the heroes are incredibly real and human with tremendous strengths as well as fatal flaws and the evil are equally real and easily despisable. On more than one occasion I found myself yelling at the cast (hopefully not out loud lest my neighbors think me mad!).
Follett's knowledge of the era and of the cathedral building process ring true, although I am no middle ages scholar, and his work appears well researched. The depth of the technical details could easily have brought down the readibility of the story but were instead handled masterfully by the author and served to enhance the reading experience.
I could never have just one favorite book, but this certainly ranks among the top.