Random House LLC
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Virgins: An Outlander Novella (Kindle Single) Kindle Edition
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Ian and Jamie are young in this story, Jamie just having escaped from confinement in an English prison. He has just encountered his nemesis, Black Jack, for the first time and is lucky to be alive. Ian is traveling with a band of mercenaries and Jamie hopes to join them in the hopes of staying clear of Scotland and staying close to the one man he trusts like a brother. What I liked about this is that Jamie is very young here and we have had little exposure to him at that age. He is a naïve boy who has just suffered extreme punishment and lost his father and homeland quite suddenly. He's trying to fit in among these seasoned men in France and he is just learning the ropes. I almost feel like a fly on the wall! That is where our story begins, and I doubt you will be disappointed. Hold on to your kilt!
It took me about 3 hours this morning to finish, in between a few phone calls and laundry. It's a great prelude to the second season of Outlander beginning on STARZ tomorrow! Now I REALLY can't wait!
For those who are desperate for a Jamie and Claire fix, this should help ease the withdrawal pangs until the next (ninth) book comes out. Like some of the other short stories Diana Gabaldon has written, it fills in one of the gaps in the main characters' lives, exploring a period that we knew little about. It's longer than your typical short story, but nowhere near novel-length---especially a Diana Gabaldon novel! It's called a novella, which is either a very short novel or a very long short story. Either way, it doesn't take long to read.
The story takes place shortly after Jamie escapes from Fort William, after being flogged (twice) by Black Jack Randall. Forced to flee Scotland because of the price on his head, Jamie goes to France, where he joins his best friend Ian as a mercenary-for-hire. After proving their worth as braw fighters, they're asked to escort a young Jewish bride and her priceless dowry to her husband-to-be in another part of the country, but as always, where James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser goes, trouble always follows.
For those familiar with the Outlander series, you probably won't be surprised to learn that there is a rather graphic rape scene in this story. Every one of the books contains at least one sexual assault, and this short story is no exception. Interestingly, the scene in question is one that's mentioned in "Outlander" by Jamie on his wedding night to Claire. It's a throwaway line, something he says in passing, but the author clearly remembered and decided to expand upon it. It helps tie this story to the main series. Not that I couldn't have lived without the rape scene, but if it has to be there, at least it's connected. And it has an impact on the characters, so t's not gratuitous; it has a purpose, which makes it easier to bear.
The only real flaw in this story is that Claire is missing. But since it takes place long before Jamie meets her, it's forgivable. Four stars and recommended to anyone who loves the Outlander series.
'Virgins' reminds me of why I fell in love with Jamie and the whole Outlander universe. From the opening scene to the last word, the reader is treated to Jamie's courage, strength and heart, all firmly in place and well developed pre-Claire. Diana Gabaldon lets us inside Jamie's deep mourning and wracking guilt over the death of his father as well as his on-going worry over his sister, Jenny, in the wake of Black Jack Randall's mayhem. We see Ian as a whole, strong man as well as the dynamic of his relationship to Jamie in a way we've never seen it before. What 'Virgins' does is that it gives us another dimension to both characters that makes them, if possible, even more compelling.
Bottom line: it's a solid read. Don't be put off, if you've read the main series, by thinking that this short story can't add anything to an already richly tapestried world. What you'll read is the glorious mix of heart breaking pathos, laugh-out-loud humor, and action that is vintage Diana Gabaldon. Read it. You won't be sorry.