Someone once said of Diana Gabaldon that she was the author’s author, a born storyteller. With every book I read by that woman, I have yet to find any reason to refute that statement. Especially with her latest, The Scottish Prisoner. The woman has once again spun literary gold out of the straw of words and plots.
Another of the Lord John Grey stories, fans of Gabaldon’s Outlander series will be thrilled to find their beloved Jamie Fraser has his part in this story. Neatly dovetailing into the action that appears in the third book, Voyager, the Grey brothers — older brother Hal and younger John — have need of Jamie’s services to decipher a cryptic letter written in the ancient Erse to help convict a traitor to the crown. Jamie, who has also been approached by a friend from his days in the service of the Young Pretender, “Bonnie Prince Charlie,” has discovered another plot that many want to involve him in. As the story progresses, Jamie finds that both issues are intertwined, which puts him deep in the fire to be burned no matter which way he turns.
Gabaldon does her homework, that goes without saying. Her world of 18th century England/Scotland/Ireland is rich with the history of the period making it quite easy to get embroiled in the plot. She folds these details in with the story so well that nothing reaches out in a glaring sense. It’s all so natural, so seamless. And that plot is electric — nothing wasted, nothing glossed over. You can’t help but follow along breathlesslly as the characters move through the events.
And oh, what characters. So much of the Outlander books are told from someone else’s point of view when it comes to Jamie. Claire or Roger or Brianna, or any of the other characters are watching and relating Jamie from their viewpoints. It’s a right rare event to see things through Jamie’s eyes, get in Jamie’s head. This book tears away that barrier and we do get to see through his eyes, feel his emotions. Jamie is a true romantic hero without the pitfalls of being so perfect as to not be believable. He’s a stubborn man of his time with all the foibles that go with that. But he is still a true romantic. Gabaldon lets him remain true to himself amidst the time he comes from.
Lord John Grey is one of the very few gay characters who walks that fine line between the presence he must show the outside world and the man he truly is. Gabaldon has created a homosexual character without ever resorting to a stereotype. He is just as real, just as heroic, just as imperfect as Jamie is — but he’s gay. And that takes such a secondary role to the man he is, that you almost forget that John is in love with Jamie Fraser. (Aren’t we all, John.)
The Lord John series was meant to be read as a standalone series of mysteries but yet fits within the confines of the Outlander books. You don’t have to read both series but they do fill in gaps, one for the other, and it does help. But you’ll never really get lost if you don’t.
I do, however, recommend this book — all of them in fact — because of the wonderful story that Gabaldon tells. Her characters are amazing, her plots are rich and full of action and character development, and this lady is one of the greats when it comes to telling a damned fine story. You’ll definitely be missing out if you don’t.
And now the wait for the eighth book in the Outlander series, due out hopefully next year — but the rumor is that the release date will be in 2013 — Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. I’ll just have to content myself by reading all of those books and my Lord John Grey series while I wait.
You can find your copy of The Scottish Prisoner, as well as all of Diana Gabaldon’s books, through any online bookseller as well as locally from Joseph-Beth Booksellers in the Lexington Green Mall on Nicholasville Road or Barnes & Noble in the Hamburg Pavilion Shopping Center on Man o’ War Blvd.
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