14/07/2005

The Fiery Cross

At last I've finished 'The Fiery Cross', fifth in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. The sixth and final novel in this series is due to be published towards the end of this year, and I'm looking forward to it!

A year ago I had never heard of this author, and it was a casual recommendation that made me pick up her first novel, 'Cross Stitch' from a second-hand bookstall. I've ordered all the others new as I've enjoyed them so much! They're excellent value since each one is over 1000 pages in paperback; I'm quite a fast reader but they still take me two or three weeks each.

This particular novel features Claire, Jamie, Brianna, Roger and Jemmy living in the USA in the late 18th century. It's not a straight historical novel since some of the characters are time-travellers from the 20th century, who thus know what is to come in world history terms; moreoever Claire (who is a doctor) understands about germs, antiseptics and genetics. But this potentially science-fiction thread is barely relevant; it's written as if it's something quite believable, and a valid part of history.

I did find this book a little over-long in places - once or twice I skimmed forwards a few chapters, but always went back to read what I'd missed. Most of it is about day-to-day life for early colonialists, with a few military incidents and various everyday problems. Not really my kind of book at all, so I can only conclude that it's the excellent characterisations that keep me reading and wanting more.

The style is slightly odd in that over half the book is written in the 1st person (by Claire) but other sections are written in the 3rd person, mostly following Roger and Brianna. It works - indeed I can see how it's necessary in some sections - but I found it jarred once or twice before I realised whose perspective I was following. Still, it's a minor criticism. Overall I'd highly recommend this series - even though it's more violent than I generally like.

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