Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Fiery Cross

The Fiery Cross is the fifth book in a series written by Diana Gabaldon about Clare Fraser, who can travel through time by touching stones (think stonehenge). The first time she time travelled, it was an accident. She travelled two-hundred years backward to the 1740s and met the love her life, Jamie Frasier, a Scottish highlander. Their love story has developed through out each of the books as Gabaldon details the historical setting that surrounds them. In The Fiery Cross, the year is 1771 and the unrest and dissatisfaction of the colonists in the New World are humming. Even though the author uses almost 1,000 pages, the story progresses less than a year through time. That's an awful lot of information, in my opinion, without anything really happening to the characters. Jamie continues to lead, Clare continues to freak out everyone by practicing 20th century medicine in the 18th century, Briana continues to nurse (I couldn't believe how often the author had to point that out to us readers. Her breasts are hardened with milk again????) and Roger continues to be a complete fish out of water. In fact, I believe this book gets read solely because it is part of a series where the reader is already attached to the main characters. Separate it from the other books, and The Fiery Cross is unnecessarily wordy and quite dull.

This book came out four years after the previous book in this series, Drums of Autumn. Four years. I finished Drums of Autumn only few months ago and I was constantly confused by the many, many unimportant names of characters Gabaldon throws at her readers. Who? Is this important?

Turns out, not really. My theory as to why she bothers making it so complicated is that she is trying to convince the masses that these books are much more than fantasy romance, but legitimate historical fiction. She makes her point. Gabaldon clearly has done a lot of research about the living conditions, medicinal remedies, and political atmosphere of the pre-revolutionary war colonies. She included it all and then some. Lots and lots of digression about medicine that Claire Fraser would not have learned or remembered from her med school days. They do not teach microbiology stain techniques, or pathology to the extent that she would be the expert she always ends up being. Gabaldon seems to forget that Clare was a surgeon, and since she rarely gets to do surgery, the author flaunts what she's learned about medicine elsewhere in the book and always uses Clare as her medium. I find it annoying. Clare wouldn't know all of that stuff and making her some sort of superbrain takes away from the realness of her character. Why can't Claire just be wrong...or simply not know? She's pigeonholed her greatest characters. Jamie must be uberbrave. Claire must be ubersmart. Throw in some nookie a few times and you've got your book.

This took way too long for me to read. It simply wasn't very interesting. Until, of course, the very end. Around page 920, she finally threw in some of her good stuff - the time travel stuff. Genuine conflict and not just a side story that takes you somewhere for 100 pages without a purpose. Darn it...I'm going to have to read the next one!

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