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Why this book
The Fiery Cross is part of a series of books by author Diana Gabaldon. The Outlander series is something I have enjoyed reading so it seemed logical once I had finished reading the Drums of Autumn to move on to this the fifth book in the series.
About the author
Diana Gabaldon is an American author of Mexican-American and English descent. She publishes under her maiden and lives in the US. She has won several awards for her Outlander series of books including the Romance Writers of America book of the year.
About the series
When trying to describe these books and the series I find it hard to pigeon hole it into one category really. They are certainly historical with lots of romance but given that Claire the central character time travels they could easy be described as Science Fiction/ fantasy.
The series really follows the life and lives of Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser as she time travels from the twentieth Century where is she is married to Frank Randall and the Second World War has just ended to the 18th century in Scotland. Here she finds herself a Sassenach or an "outlander". Scotland at the time is torn by war and raiding border clans and the battle of Culloden is on the horizon.
Claire is catapulted without warning into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life. Here she meets James (Jamie) Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior whom she falls in love with and with whom her life becomes linked. Without spoiling too much of the plot she travels back to the 20 century within these novels and has a daughter Brianna. The books are predominately set in the 18th century and follow the life that Jamie and Claire lead and span across Scotland France the West Indies and America. The later books include Brianna (Bree) and her husband Roger too.
About the book
In the fifth book in the series Jamie and Claire are living in Fraser Ridge America and are settling their daughter and soon to be son in law into life on the Ridge after they have arrived from 20th century. As the American Revolution is quickly approaching Jamie has to balance his role of the commander of the militia to put down the beginnings of the Revolution in North Carolina with when he needs to change sides to the rebels so he can be on the wining side. Bree and Roger are adapting to life on the Ridge and being parents to Jemmy.
I think the first thing to say about these books and the series is too read them in order yes you can enjoy a single novel if you pick it up and read it but the story and the characters involved are hugely complex and to have any chance of enjoying them and fully understanding what is happening you need to read them in the sequence they were written. This is mainly because the author assumes you understand the history and how the characters have got to where they are so you will feel a little lost if you don't read the earlier novels first. There is no genealogy of the characters and how they link in the front or back of the book so all the who's who in novel and how the relate to one another you need to remember.
The first 169 pages all take place on the same day, at a gathering of the clans. Gabaldon takes her time introducing us to the people and customs of 18th century North Carolina, including the various ways that bodily functions and fluids were handled before disposable toilet paper and nappies. This is seemed a little dragged out to me and though it was interesting it made me want to chivvy everyone along to get things going. The research that went into this book astounds me really and no matter what critics may say about this series the research is fault less or at least to my untrained eye. I don't have a huge degree of knowledge about the American Revolution but Gabaldon though her lovely writing educated me beautifully within this novel about the events that lead up to the revolution and all of the divided loyalties that people had.
It is a long read at 976 pages and I kept waiting for something to happen a lot of the time I was reading there book. There is action and adventure aplenty but it doesn't happen all at once. So my advice with this book would be to settle down for a slow and easy read, and to give yourself time to absorb the rich detail of life on Fraser Ridge. There is a lot of everyday life on the Ridge within this book such as the making of soap, the doctoring of wounds, the rumours of the coming war all of which is set against the backdrop of the love of a family. Gabaldon doesn't however get too sickly sweet but the emotions within the book such as angst, warmth, fear and love leap of the page as you read every passage.
The development of how Roger and Bree especially adjust to life in the 1700's and to parenthood was certainly something I enjoyed reading about. I appreciated how in this book there is a further deepening of Roger and Brianna's story. In the previous books, Bree wasn't really an interesting or central character in my opinion but here her character is fleshed out considerably. The same is true of Roger really as though his character was well-developed before this book within this novel he endures hardships that test his self-image and strength of character all of which made him hugely endearing as a character. The were certain scenes within the book where I was literally holding my breath hoping that things would work out for him and that he would survive the trails he faced.
In regards to the time travel elements of the story there really isn't a lot of focus in this book on that element until the very end of the book, and then a little more information is divulged. The references to time travel tends to come through the comparison from life in the 20th century to life in the 18th century for example the development of penicillin and the difference this made to people.
As far as the romance and sensuality within the book goes the scenes within this book are not bodice rippers as such. They are more often scenes of tenderness with huge depths of emotion as well as love making. Yes there is some hot passion across the pages but none of it seems superfluous or cringe making in my opinion.
One of the things I like about these novels is the way the prose switches from first person (Claire) to second-person. I personally liked this has it gave me a sense of other peoples perspectives on the situation and not just Claire's biased view of events and people. There is also narrative from both Rogers and Bree's perspective and I have to say I actually found myself preferring Roger to Bree as at times I found myself wanting to tell her not to be a spoilt brat. I think the emotional reactions I have to this book and it characters is testimony really to the wonderfully prose and characterization that Gabaldon brings to each of her novels.
As this is part of a series and certainly not the end book there are quiet a few tantalizing threads left hanging to keep you in suspense till the next book.
Overall and recommendation
I would definitely recommend this book to fans of historical novels as the author certainly brings history alive though the book. The characters are full of depth and emotion and I certainly found myself caring about their welfare which is a credit to the author. The only criticism is it is a little slow to get going and some of the scene I think about nappy changing and breast feeding could of shortened with out the story being affected. I would definitely urge you to read the others in the series before reading this book though to get the most out of the book.
Paperback: 1072 pages
Publisher: Arrow Books Ltd (1 Aug 2002)
Currently on sale on Amazon for £5.80 new or from 25 pence on the Amazon Marketplace.
This is the fifth installment in what was said would be a six book series, is now at seven books and still isn't finished!! I will try to review this book and mention how it might relate to previous/future books as well for those who may want to read the others.
At nearly 1,000 pages, this isn't a quick read. Diana Gabaldon is an author who takes her time researching and writing, as well as doing many book tours, so it was 4 long years of waiting for this to be published. Plenty of time to re-read the previous books and get it all fresh in my mind. There are different cover designs in the US and UK, I prefer the UK version, which is the one shown above.
If I were to go into details my review would be endless. Gabaldon weaves a complex tale through many characters and places. The story begins where the previous book left off, in North Carolina of 1771. The main thread of the book follows the growing unease between the more wealthy colonials and the backwoods settlers, which is laying the foundation for the War of Independence. The key element of this is Claire, Brianna and Roger's knowledge of what is to come, and the decisions they all have to make to ensure the best for their future and that of their loved ones.
Apart from the main couple of Jamie and Claire, we see Brianna and Roger taking more of a part in this book as they raise their son Jemmy. Fergus and Marsali are also still going strong, often providing humorous story lines amidst more serious ones. Jamie's aunt Jocasta features quite a bit, as the book is set almost as much at Cross Creek as it is on Frasers Ridge. Her varied selection of guests and friends also provide a bit of entertainment, as do some of the newer residents of Frasers Ridge.
I liked this book, though it seemed a bit slower than the previous ones. I think that's mainly due to the fact that we know it's leading up to the War of Independence, but not in this book so there really isn't a promise of major excitement, though there are many little twists and turns and shocks that will keep you on your toes. I think what I liked best about this book was the chance to see a variety of characters and how they developed. I'm not one for history books and dates and facts, but to read about characters in a particular time is fascinating. Despite it being fiction, this book gets you under the skin of the characters better than anything else I've read (apart from the other books in the series).
Should you read it? YES! But read the first four books before you do.
Dragonfly in Amber
Drums of Autumn