Review – The Scottish Prisoner

The Scottish Prisoner

By Diana Gabaldon

Delacourt Press

ISBN: 9780385337519

4 stars

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.

In addition to this blog, I also do reviews for The Book Reporter website. The above review was done for the Book Reporter which can be found here. The book was provided to me by the publisher.

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Review – The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel

The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel

By Diana Gabaldon

Illustrated by Hoang Nguyen

Ballantine Books

ISBN: 978-0-345-50538-5

3.5 stars

The Exile is Outlander from Jamie Fraser’s point of view.  Being a graphic novel, it took me a few pages to move past and tell the voice raging in my head that while I didn’t picture Jamie Fraser this way, someone did so get over it.  Once I moved on, it was all good and the visions in my head and those on the page began, inexplicably, to merge.  As a side note, this book is beautifully illustrated so it was hard to be all that disappointed.

However, the story itself didn’t work for me and I think it’s because I know the story too well.  In graphic novel form it feels too light and that too much information is missing.  All the basics are here — Jamie’s story is pretty much the same as Claire’s so there isn’t much that differs — but it’s the little details that I loved about the first book that I missed.  And let’s face it, Gabaldon, if you’ve read any of the Outlander books, likes details.

For those not familiar with the story: Jamie Fraser is a Scotsman returning to his homeland with a price on his head.  Claire Randall is a 20th Century woman who, while visiting Scotland and touring a group of standing stones, passes into the stone circle and goes back in time to the 18th Century.  As two outsiders, Jamie and Claire are thrown together in a marriage of strange convenience but fall in love despite their circumstances.

Jamie and Claire are true to their characters, there’s still a lot of sex, and somehow Claire is much more voluptuous than I ever imagined her to be but that might just be due to the fact that I don’t add extra boobage to female characters instinctively.  Jamie remains the hot Scottish guy in a kilt too so plus for that.

There was one scene from the original book that I wish had been left out.  At one point, Claire tries to escape back to her own time and makes a run for the stone circle that brought her to the 18th Century.  She gets captured by a British Captain who is looking for Jamie.  Jamie is able to get her back before any damage is done but as punishment, he beats her.  I almost put the book down when I first read it in Outlander and hoped that the scene had been expunged from this version.  It hadn’t.  I had an even more visceral reaction to it this time around.  I tried to explain it to myself in terms of the time frame (1700s) but it will never be something I can overlook.  I’m sure many may think I’m making too much of one rather small part of the story but it just soured it for me.

If you’re a fan of Gabaldon’s Outlander series, you’ll probably, like me, want to read this one.  I wasn’t thoroughly sold but it hasn’t ruined the series for me either.  As I mentioned earlier, it’s really beautifully done and worth a look for that reason alone.