This review is for my fellow Outlander fans, particularly those interested in the third book of the series, Voyager. As with my previous post, I won’t recap previous books, but you can find my impressions of the first two volumes of the series here and here. Again, I will refer to the series as a whole, and mention necessary characters and plot points with the assumption that you know a bit about the first two books of the Outlander series, but I’ll try not to give too much away for those of you reading this review before Voyager.
Okay, so between finishing Dragonfly in Amber and getting my hands on Voyager, I started looking up more info on this series and found out quit a bit about upcoming events, which probably skewed my reading a little. I usually try not to know much of anything about a book before reading it, but if it’s one I know I’m going to read anyway, I won’t let a few untimely spoilers stop me. Therefore, after a few days to formulate expectations about what would happen next, and then having had time to search the internet for concrete evidence of my suspicions, very little about this book surprised me, and yet I loved every page. Although practically everything has changed between books 1 and 3, I did feel that these first three were similar, and would’ve worked as a trilogy. While most of the the Gabaldon books I’ve read so far seem to “end” more with a pause for the narrator to take a breath before the next calamity unfolds than with any solid sense of resolution, the end of Voyager felt to me like the end of an era for Jamie and Claire. That’s not to say that I was ready to quit reading, of course.
About this book: there are basically two halves to this book that are more or less two distinct stories. The first part focuses on Claire’s attempts to reunite with Jamie, and all the obstacles of reunion that naturally appear when two people who love each other have spent many years apart establishing their own separate lives. There is still drama going on here and there, but the Frasers are so focused on each other that their misadventures seem like no more than momentary hiccups between serious conversations about Jamie’s and Claire’s present situation and future intentions. Once explanations and compromises have been made and the two are minimally reacquainted, typical Outlander plot-heavy drama takes off again in the second half of the book, when pirates enter the story and take something Jamie needs back. Naturally, Claire and Jamie rush off to France to seek transportation across the Atlantic Ocean from cousin Jared, in pursuit of the pirates. They have to deal with sickness, French soldiers, rebellious slaves, and a whole lot more of the supernatural element that’s been surfacing throughout the series.
“‘Claire,’ he said softly. ‘I must say something.’ I knew already, and groped for his mouth to stop him, but my hand brushed by his face in the dark. He gripped my wrist, and held tight. ‘If it will be a choice between her and one of us–then it must be me. Ye know that, aye?’ I knew that. If Geilie should be there, still, and one of us might be killed in stopping her, it must be Jamie to take the risk. For with Jamie dead, I would be left–and I could follow her through the stone, which he could not. ‘I know,’ I whispered at last. I knew also what he did not say, and what he knew as well; that should Geilie have gone through already, then I must go as well. ‘Then kiss me, Claire,’ he whispered. ‘And know that you are more to me than life, and I have no regret.'”
One of my favorite things about this series, which stood out to me particularly in this book, is how human and realistic the characters’ actions and reactions are. Even when some of them do bad things, their circumstances are explained in such a way that whether or not the reader may agree with the choices, they are always comprehensible. This series is an emotional roller coaster that spans the entire range of human feeling, which, I believe, is what makes the ever-moving plot so exciting. When the Frasers are dealt a difficult blow, the reader feels the anger or sorrow necessary to that moment, but also an anticipation of their longer-term response. How will they cope? With retaliation, or forgiveness? Will it strengthen them or tear them apart? We don’t wish for strife to plague the Frasers, but strife is exactly what makes these books so addicting. I sincerely hope Jamie and Claire find their happy ending eventually, but…not too soon, because lives in which nothing goes wrong are considerably less fun to read about. On the other hand, there’s definitely an interesting contrast (which I thoroughly enjoy, when it’s successful) between the rational human responses these characters display, and the completely unlikely chance that so many problems of such a vast array would arise for a single family. I must admit that I was worried about this series starting to drag eventually, considering the length of the books, but I’m happy to say that I don’t think it’s reached that point yet. The characters’ personalities remain consistent, as far as basic morals and principles go, but their attitudes toward other characters and events develop in time, so that each new plot twist brings an entirely new set of emotional challenges to the forefront.
Something else I found interesting in this book was my interest in Young Ian, Jamie’s nephew. Each book in this series seems to branch out a little more with the introduction of new characters and then the adoption of new perspectives of narration to follow these additions more closely. Ian was particularly interesting to me because he appeared very suddenly, and then wouldn’t go away. I think I started caring about him just because Jamie did, and I got used to having him around. By the time I started Drums of Autumn (book 4), I couldn’t imagine the story continuing without him, which surprised me since the narration of Voyager didn’t give us much of a first-hand account of his experiences–rather, we hear about his life through the dialogue and eyes of more prominent characters. And yet, somehow Ian becomes one of the most important.
Speaking of emerging characters…Lord John Grey is (re)introduced in this book, and while I didn’t feel particularly strongly about him either way in Voyager, he does have all the makings of an important character. Which is good, because he has his own subseries that fits into the time frame of the years while Claire and Jamie were apart, and can be read any time after Voyager. I usually end my reviews with further recommendations, but I kept thinking of films in relation to this book, rather than literature. Maybe I just haven’t read enough books about pirates? Recommendations, anyone? Anyway, I haven’t delved too deeply into the Lord John books yet, but as far as I am I do think that they bring more depth to his character, and if you’re at all interested in him or just in reading more of Gabaldon’s work, you may want to check those out. And for anyone wondering about the films I was reminded of by Voyager, the top two were the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series (similarities include pirates, the Caribbean, and the supernatural), and the TV show LOST (similarities include islands, time travel/other supernatural elements, and oddly coincidental–or perhaps not–connections between the characters). For more recommendations, check out my other Outlander series reviews.
My reaction: 5 or 5 stars. Like many third books, this has been my favorite part of the Outlader series by far. I couldn’t sleep while I was reading this book because I had to find out what would happen next, and I don’t regret a single second of the exhaustion that led to.
As always, feel free to send comments or recommendations my way!
Up next: On a little break from Outlander books, I’ll post updates next on Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)’s The Silkworm and Career of Evil, the last two books of the Cormoran Strike series. For my thoughts on The Cuckoo’s Calling, the first book of this series, click here.
Whatever you’re reading, I hope it’s brilliant!
The Literary Elephant
Update: you can now read my review of the 4th book in the Outlander series, Drums of Autumn!