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The Fiery Cross (Outlander)
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280 of 287 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2001
I finished The Fiery Cross a couple of days ago, and while it's not my favorite of the series (nothing beats the first one), I enjoyed it thoroughly. Diana Gabaldon has taken us back once again to the eighteenth century and revealed it to us in glorious detail. I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon than with Jamie and Claire Fraser. I also appreciated this book greatly as a further deepening of Roger and Brianna's story. In the previous books, Bree wasn't really an interesting character to me - but here her character is fleshed out considerably. Likewise Roger - although his character was well-developed before this book, he endures hardships here that test his self-image and strength of character. And of course, Claire and Jamie are the same wonderful characters as ever - you really see here how their love has developed over the years.
I understand the complaints of some that this book doesn't have a plot, that it moves too slowly, etc. Those are valid points to make - there's nothing really earth-shattering that happens in this installment, although you know that something (the Revolution) is looming just beyond the horizon. For me, though, the beauty of the book was in the details - the very fact that this is for the most part a book about everyday life. More than in any of the rest of the books, Diana revels in these details. While some may find all this detail "boring," it allows us to really understand what life was like in the past, and it fleshes out all of the characters immeasurably. I closed the book feeling satisfied and yet craving more - I can't wait to find out how the entire saga ends! The Fiery Cross is a book for true fans who love these characters.
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184 of 189 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2002
Before anyone is discouraged by the negative reviews here, I hope they will read this one.
I don't understand when someone says nothing happens in this book. Granted, the action is subtle in the form of politics and intrigue, however it is still there. We finally get to see the everyday life of these wonderful people as they try to find a place to call their own. They have spent so much of their lives running from one thing to another, not really having a home that this is refreshing. People adore these books because of Diana's amazing ability of bringing characters to life, yet bash this book for the same reasons. When you nurse and have small children, bodily functions are something you have to deal with. One of the most humourous sections is Roger and Bree dealing with potty training Jemmy.
There is plenty of action, political intrigue and drama. We travel with Jamie and the militia, find some new characters, deal with almost losing not just one but two of the major characters and see the return of another. Some loose ends are tied up (wondering about the Tory gold and just who was Otter Tooth?), some are still hanging and new ones pop up (who was that with Laoghaire in the arbor and what about Claire's nighttime visitor?). The action is there if you care to read it.
It's true this book was split in two, Ms. Gabaldon didn't get as far as she would have liked with it, but it is a wonderful book all the same. I finished it in 2 days and had to reread it almost immediately. It is a slower starting novel than previously, something like Dragonfly in Amber, but still filled with the characters I have grown to love. Read it, you won't be disappointed.
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142 of 156 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2001
First of all, I love the series. I picked up Outlander by chance soon after it came out in paperback when I was looking for a "trash novel" -- something engrossing and historical yet light and disposable. I was sucked in to an amazing degree and I still think Outlander is the best of the series. Not only is the narrative strong and the level of detail amazing, but the characters are compelling and author has a wonderful prose style and does a remarkable job of communicating emotion and motive. Whenever I'm asked for a "good read" I automatically recommend Outlander. I DON'T read "bestsellers" by those corporate factory-production authors, so this is a rare departure for me.
As far as The Fiery Cross goes, I will say I'm disappointed. I don't think it was a total waste, and a lot of the things the some of the negative reviewers have complained about (details about daily life, descriptions of Jamie's hair, etc. ;) ) are actually some of the things I enjoy about these books. There are certainly some heart-stopping moments, and the obligatory murder mystery is fairly interesting. The last line made me tear up. Still ... still ...
The motivations (for the villans) don't seem to be as crisp as in previous books, mostly because we don't have a clear picture of who they are. Also, the plot just doesn't have the urgency that the rest of the books have. I also spotted a plot complication a MILE away, something that never happened in the previous books, and it's now painfully obvious that when a character "disappears" we'll be sure to see them later on in a "surprising" circumstance. It also doesn't help that I've never been especially fond of Brianna. Can't say why, but she doesn't have the life that most of the other charachters have, and I just don't find her appealing. So, the fact that much of this book, like Drums of Autumn, are about her and Roger makes me skim so I can get back to Claire & Jamie. (Although I DO like wee Roger quite a bit, and sometimes am brought close to tears at all the misery he's put through.) The author is also very good at creating interesting minor characters, but The Fiery Cross lacks any to measure up to Murtagh, Raymond, or Mr. Willoughby.
I enjoyed the fact that one of the previous books had significant parts of the story told from Jamie's point of view. As the series progresses, though, we get less and less of Claire's narrative (and less of Jamie, even) and more from Roger & Bree. While the author may have found this switch in perspective necessary to get the story across, I find it increasingly disjointed. Claire's perspective remains the heart of the story, and her voice is strongest by far, with Jamie coming in second. Occasional shifts might not be so bad, but you now have 4 voices telling the same story, sometimes within the same scene, and it's overkill. And ... what happened to Fergus?? He's barely in this book! It's like watching a TV series where one of the main actors has left the show, but comes back for the occasional token scene.
It's been clear from the second book that the author is strongly drawn to write about children and motherhood/parenthood. It's a topic that gives a lot of depth to the stories. Yet, I think the theme has been beaten to death by now. It would be OK to be reminded of it, or to have a few shining passages, but I believe the repetition drags down the narrative. Also, as with Drums of Autumn, there are about a million threads that are left dangling, some from several books back. I have a hard time seeing how they will all be tied together in one final book. Technically, I found a host of typos, one of which (a discussion of blood types and heredity) is at a rather crucial point. This is very unusual for a novel from a major press, but I understand from the author's web site that the book was a bit rushed to press (those fall book lists, don'tcha know.)
I've met Ms. Gabaldon and read many interviews with her. She's very nice and I greatly admire her talent. This series has sort of grown into a monster, though, and The Fiery Cross feels not exactly like a contractural obligation, but a project she wasn't very enthusiastic about. I hope the next (last?) book will see her with revived energy and more Claire & Jamie in the narrator's chair. I know this sesms like an overwhelmingly negative review, but I AM glad I read it. If you have read all of the series so far, this is still worthwhile, but it's just not quite up to the usual standard.

P.S. One final note -- contrary to what another reviewer said, this book CANNOT be read alone. If you have not read all of the previous books, much of this one will not make sense. This is one series you HAVE to read in order.
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61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 2010
I still remember how excited I was nine years ago for The Fiery Cross. I had torn through the first four books in a matter of days. My mother and my best friend had read them too and we were constantly dissecting the subject of Jamie and Claire and their adventures. I stalked online message boards devoted to the series and even started going to Scottish festivals as a result of picking up an interest in the culture from reading the Outlander series (and watching Braveheart). In short, I was a huge, diehard fan. Even though the fourth novel, Drums of Autumn, did not live up to my expectations, I still enjoyed it and finished it within four days. I considered it the "breather" book and was certain that The Fiery Cross would bring back the adventure and the romance I had fallen in love with. I had it on preorder for months through Amazon and finally the day came when the book was delivered to my door.

Weeks later, the book still sat by my bedside, half-finished. The first "day" in the book took us through 150 pages of rainy, muddy, slow-moving banalities. The passion of Jamie and Claire had been reduced to a mockery of its former self. As a replacement for their epic love, Gabaldon offered in its stead the relationship between the whiny, spoiled Brianna and the extremely nice and sensible but passionless Roger. Brianna delivered her baby and a large majority of the story was given over to the baby crying and pooping and nursing while Brianna nursed and pooped and cried about how hard it is to be a mother (...really?! Who knew!).

The descriptions of the mundane aspects of 18th century daily living go on for pages and pages and pages. In one scene, Claire roots around in the baby's poopy diaper in order to recover a trinket that the baby has swallowed. That scene is a perfect metaphor for the novel as a whole; indeed, the reader may wonder how much more you-know-what he has to dig through in order to uncover the plot. Gone is the magic thread woven through the first three installments of the Outlander saga; that alluring fabric of adventure and mystery is replaced in the Fiery Cross by a diary-like retelling of events more appropriate to a history text than a work of fiction. Gabaldon gives the sense that she has done her research and we are darn well going to listen to what she has to tell us whether we like it or not. Her prose remains poetic, but it's not enough--lacking any semblance of plot, peril, or character development (excepting a brief aside in which she tortures her favorite whipping boy, poor unlucky Roger), the novel falls flat on its rather voluminous face.

I eventually finished The Fiery Cross, but only after sitting down one weekend and literally forcing myself to read the last half of the book. My best friend and my mom never did finish. I used my copy as a doorstop for some years, until the book finally made its way into a thrift store bag. I still have the first four novels on my shelf and have reread Outlander a couple times, but the entire series has lost its appeal now that I know the faded fates of my favorite characters. The subsequent books in the series do not interest me--looking at the size of them, it seems as though they must be even more full of the mind-numbing minutiae that ruined The Fiery Cross and to a lesser extent Drums of Autumn. It does seem that some of her fans enjoy the myriad of small details, looking upon the sequels as a series of sideways-related vignettes, but for those of us who followed Outlander for its passion and adventure and pluck and strength of story, the series is over.
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90 of 103 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2002
This book, as well as the end of Drums of Autumn, has a decidedly taped-together feel. Ms. Gabaldon has said, with some pride, in various interviews, that she never uses an outline or flow chart to make a "big picture" of her plot. Apparently, she writes various chapters as they occur to her and then, at the end, puts them in some sort of order. This approach, which worked pretty well in the first 3 books, has now produced some very mediocre stuff.
Fiery Cross is admittedly a "bridge book" between the first 4 novels and the final one. My bet is that Ms. Gabaldon knows exactly what will be in the last book and chose a few segments to put out as "cliff hangers" in the end of Fiery Cross. Then, she filled in the first 2/3 of the book with the results of her research, adding vignettes of daily life and a few tidbits of the storyline to keep readers going. The result is a meandering book with very little forward motion. Parts of it are painfully drawn out and add very, very little. Please rethink your approach, Ms. Gabaldon. We love to read about Jamie and Claire and will indeed read practically anything (even Fiery Cross) to get it. But don't we deserve better, after waiting so long?
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57 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2004
I read all 5 novels in last 4 months on the recommendation of a coworker. While waiting for her to bring in this installment (The Fiery Cross), I read many of the reviews here. I was very disappointed since most of then said that the book was slow, boring and had no real storyline. When I started reading the book, I almost had a sense of dread because I thought it was going to be difficult to get through. This worsened because the first 150 pages were all about the events of one day and that has been complained about at length. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. I found this installment to be "thoroughly enjoyable." It wasn't, in my opinion, boring or slow. I enjoyed it immensely and am now waiting with baited breath for the next book in the series, The Breath of Snow and Ashes. I'm sure people's opinions differ. All I will say is that if you enjoyed the previous installments, do yourself a favor and read this one and formulate your own opinion. If I wasn't borrowing this book from my coworker, I might not of bought it based on the reviews and that would have been a mistake.
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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2002
I have one thing to say to Diana in response to her comment via the CNN interview that she's never lost any money after offering to pay a dollar to any reader who can put one of her books down: Most readers are too polite to take you up on it.
After waiting for The Fiery Cross with such anticipation, I could hardly bring myself to pick it up again after it put me to sleep or knocked me into waking boredom many times. And, while I've been hooked on the story of Claire and Jamie from the beginning, guess what, not everyone is. I've recommended the books to many friends. Most liked them, but several didn't.
The writing in some individual passages of FC is beautiful, but there needed to be some coherence to the story. Of course, no one can or should dictate to any writer what she writes, but at the same time, I appreciate having this forum to say what I think. Since so many of the dissenters here are avowed Gabaldon fans, I think it should be clear to all that we care about these books and these characters.
The many unanswered questions and unfinished bits and downright contradictions from one page to the next can't be laid at the doorstep of the editor. I found myself being kicked out of the story by conflicting details far too many times. Nothing much happened for 850 pages, and then the hurry-up events that took place were only there to raise more questions. And ... why would Ian return from the Mohawk and never even mention his wife or baby?
It felt very much like this book was only about making money. Check this one out from the library.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2002
...back thru the stones. this had to be the most boring/irritating book in the series. where was the plot?? mildly interesting characters came and went, small hints of plots peaked through... and then faded into exhausting detail about -- gosh, i can't even remember. i slogged through it anyway -- in the last 100 pages things began to develope into a vaguely plot-like situation, but, alas, it was too little, too late. could there be a more annoying character than brianna? and if i read one more word about claire's hair "floating about her like a cloud" i am going to scream. hopefully wimpy roger will take the perpetually lactating brianna and son jemmy (and his dirty clout) back through the stones. the saddest thing about this book is that you really do stop caring about the characters, and just wish they would go away.
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219 of 263 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2002
As I was reading this book, I was trying figure out why it was so tedious and hard to get through. I am an avid reader. I read every night. I feel that if I can get through a James Michener novel I can get through anything. And that is what it felt like reading the Fiery Cross, like reading an interesting historical Michener novel, or a history book. Through the whole book I was analyzing, trying to figure out why it wasn't working. I thought "The writing is exceptionally good, I don't want to skim or miss a word or phrase (which meant rereading pages a lot, as my mind would drift) the characters I already know and love, so what is the problem?" One problem apparent to me, was that there were no feelings of "I can't put it down, what happens next?,I can't turn the page fast enough" in this book. I love reading details of daily living, anytime in history. I love history. Not enough writers, in my opinion, deal with problems like no toilet paper, or tampex, or Pampers, etc. I find those things fascinating, and I am curious, so for me, it wasn't that it was bogged down in details as some of the disappointed fans have stated. I appreciate those details, that bring me more into the time, the place, and the plot. So what was it then? ....the plot? maybe that was the whole problem. The plot was poor and boring, almost non existent. It was almost an insult to the fans, almost megalomania on the part of the author, as if wanting to let us know how much research she has done, and knowledge she has, but neglecting, or forgetting to take the time, and thought, to plan and execute an exciting page turning plot, to go with all those details, of course. I love learning, but at the same time I like to be entertained, that is why I choose novels over history books. I want both, and you are the writer who can do that, Diana, you have done it before. I also agree, as others have stated, that the characters were weak, boring, unlikeable, and yes some almost annoying ...I can't fathom all the fans that thought this was an engaging and exciting book, who have given it more than 3 stars? I came here, after reading the book, to find out if others were feeling as I was, and was gratified to learn that some of the best Gabaldon fans feel the same way. This book took me 3 weeks to get through *sigh*....I would be embarrassed to recommend this book to my friends, at least James Michener novels don't have that weird time travel thing going on, lol. And, I love long books... when I love the characters, time, place, and plot, I never want it to end, but this book was not hard to put down, it was just hard. Where was your editor on this one Diana??? Your editor needs to take some wake up pills for the next one. I do appreciate and acknowledge your hard work on these novels, but please, next time don't forget, to go along with the history lessons, and your great writing skills, the passion and the exciting adventures, the thrill of a skillful and suspenseful plot with interesting characters to love and hate. You know what I mean... that feeling of "OK one more chapter and then I will turn out the light" and three hours later you still can't put it down, because you keep on turning the page to see what is going to happen next. This book was a chore. Well I am all vented all out now...thanks for reading, ...
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Like many others, I waited very expectantly to receive "The Fiery Cross." Unlike many others, I did not expect it to be the whiz-bang read that was "Outlander" or "Voyager." I just hoped it would be better than "Drums of Autumn." It is--but not by much.
Sure, there's some pre-Revolutionary stirrings as the dashing Jamie Fraser is called upon to form a local militia against potential uprisings in the colony of North Carolina, and the evil Stephen Bonnet, who raped Jamie and Claire's daughter Brianna in "Drums of Autumn" and may be the father of Brianna's son Jemmy, makes a dastardly appearance. That about does it for the excitement in the book. The Gathering which ended "Drums" literally takes up the first 300 pages of "Cross." Gabaldon loves minutiae, particularly that dealing with anything medical, and a less devoted fan may find their eyes crossing with boredom when she has Claire giving medical treatment to seemingly everyone in the colony! The one character that really comes to life in "Cross" is Roger (Wakefield) McKenzie, who loses a lot of the boorish bluster he displayed in "Drums" and becomes ... well, a good man. Brianna, surprisingly, is nearly shoved to the background, and much too much attention is showered on Jemmy, who aside from his cute sayings and noises does nothing to move the story along. Jamie and Claire are still good characters, although I must agree with some of my fellow reviewers that the constant reminders of Jamie's hair color and the size of Claire's breasts and bottom aren't really necessary.
Gabaldon writes well enough so that the minutiae is readable, but I found myself skipping ahead quite a bit--she could have easily cut 400 pages of the book without losing any of the story, in my opinion. "The Fiery Cross" is without a doubt a "set-up" book--not much happens, but hints are given that the next book will have much more action. Hope will once again spring eternal ...
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