The Scottish Prisoner
By Diana Gabaldon
I have a soft spot, a very soft spot, for Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Jamie and Claire Fraser are among my favorite fictional characters. When I heard the latest John Grey novel would feature Jamie (the character has made appearances in the books but never as a major character), I made the decision that this would be my introduction into the Lord John Grey Outlander spinoff.
Jamie Fraser is now a paroled prisoner of war working as a stable hand on a remote farm called Helwater in the Lake District of England. While he wouldn’t say his life is satisfying without his wife and family, he is thankful for life’s small diversions. He’s no longer in prison, he spends his days working with horses, and is close to the son no one knows is his; affording him a small reprieve from his grief over losing his wife, Claire, and their child he never met. When Tobias Quinn, a friend of his from the Jacobite Rising, shows up at the farm, he tells him he wants nothing to do with the failed rebellion or with Tobias himself. He’s lost too much, namely his wife and child, and fears losing what little freedom he has gained at Helwater. When Lord John Grey summons him to London too many memories come flooding back to Jamie and he wants absolutely nothing to do with any of them.
Lord John Grey is almost as unhappy as Jamie is about the situation they find themselves in. A former warden of the jail where Jamie was held after the Jacobite Rising, he has no interest in seeing him especially since their last parting, which was on awkward terms. Lord John is in possession of documents that may contain information about a new possible uprising and he believes Jamie may be the only person who can help him figure out what the documents say. It’s an unhappy and uncomfortable match from the beginning.
One of the nice things about the Lord John Grey series is that the books are meant as standalone novels. Having the Outlander background and understanding the complicated relationship between Lord John Grey and Jamie Fraser will add more for fans of the series, but if you have a love of historical fiction, this book could be a good entrance point into the Outlander world if you’re looking to try it out. It gives you a taste of Jamie’s life, what he’s lost, and while not a full background on him, it provides enough to make you want to know more about him and the wife he lost. Although, as fair warning to fans, the Jamie you meet in The Scottish Prisoner is slightly more hardened than the more good-humored Scotsman many have grown to love. Claire is alluded to numerous times and if you’re a fan of the series, this particular book is set after the battle of Culloden when Claire has returned to her own time and Jamie has been released from prison, essentially in the 20 year time period the couple spent apart in the series.
The Scottish Prisoner is set in Ireland but the slightly mystical feeling you get from the series is still present as there is a plot in the works to steal an ancient relic that the supporters of the Rising hope will inspire their Cause and rally supporters in Ireland. While I could have done without this little twist — I personally didn’t think it added much — it did evoke the supernatural feeling of the series without the time travel element. This is my only quibble with the book though. As always, Gabaldon goes above and beyond in the entertainment department and this book will probably be a fast read for fans of the series.