Four stars (of five)
Claire is back in the 20th century! Jamie is not dead! These two statements provide the foundation for Gabaldon’s third Outlander novel, where the drama continues to build. The attentive reader will remember that Jamie sent Claire through the Standing Stones as he prepared to fight at Culloden in the latter part of the second novel. After the separation, Jamie fought and survived the battle, before escaping the grasp of the Red Coats. Eventually found, he was sent to Ardsmuir, where new warden, Lord John Grey renews his acquaintance with the prisoner. After securing parole, Jamie tries to make a life for himself, pining for Claire, but certain that they will never see one another again. In the present era, Roger, Brianna, and Claire learn much more about Jamie and his progress through history. Gabaldon’s narrative expounds on the time of Claire’s return in 1948 through to 1968, helping to provide much sought context for the curious reader. Once Roger uncovers that Jamie is likely still alive in 1765, Claire calculates that she could find him, should she pass back through the Stones. Brianna hesitates, but soon accepts that her ‘parents’ ought to be together and helps with preparations. She and Roger will have to use historical documents to follow their progress, unsure if they will ever see Claire again. A successful passage back finds Claire in 1765 Edinburgh, as she searches for Jamie. Claire finds him working in a position ill-matched to what she knows of he husband. After much heartstring pulling and romantic reincorporation, Claire shares details of Brianna and thrusts Jamie into the precarious position of being a father of a daughter without knowing it. Jamie and Claire must also wrestle with how their lives have changed in twenty years, at times a harrowing and highly uncomfortable experience. While addressing this, Claire and Jamie must also begin adventures in the heart of Edinburgh, crossing paths with many a character, old and new alike, before their major adventure comes to pass. Young Ian, the last of Jamie’s nephews, is captured by pirates and taken to the Caribbean. Jamie must devise a plan to rescue him from band of pirates, whose interest in Ian boggles in the mind. With Claire at his side, Jamie sets sail for lands unknown with a crew to handle the day-to-day running of the ship. One passenger on board, the new Governor of Jamaica, may prove to be more a thorn in Jamie’s side than a help with the cause. However, as with all Gabaldon novels, the fastest route from A to B never applies, as the characters meander all over, filling page with countless adventures and plights. Come along for the adventure, undertaken in two eras, as Gabaldon captivates the reader yet again.
Gabaldon’s series is plentiful, both in its narrative and character development, which keeps the reader from losing interest. The number of characters who appear in the pages of the first three novels may baffle the reader. Minor characters, whose importance rival bay guano, re-emerge to play a more important roles chapters or entire books later. This is another of the fascinating aspects of Gabaldon’s collection, as it forces the reader to recollect not only storylines, but also characters who flit from scene to scene and make their mark on the smaller vignettes in which they star. Being able to read (or listen) to the entire series in one (enormously-long) swoop will help bridge some of those characters in my mind and keep the story as enticing as possible. That being said, a hiatus is upon us, allowing Claire and Jamie’s passion to simmer before it boils over yet again!
After three epic Outlander novels, Gabaldon has the reader brace themselves for a number of Lord John Grey adventures, as I follow the chronological layout of the entire collection of works. Having been briefly introduced to Grey in VOYAGER, it is time to shift focus and give him the limelight, as he does play a crucial role in the larger Outlander storyline. Let us prepare for a more 18th century Sherlock Holmes, as Grey has been dubbed by some, to determine just how competent this young man can be and perhaps learn a little more about how he got himself embroiled in running Ardsmuir Prison. Come along, away from the romance and into the mystery. I promise to bring you back for more Fraser time travel, in a little while.
Kudos, Madam Gabaldon for this highly intriguing novel. By the end, I was ready for any and all twist you had to offer.