(BUT ONLY IF YOU HAVEN’T FINISHED VOYAGER)
Theoretically, I read Diana Gabaldon’s The Scottish Prisoner last summer when I was devouring the Outlander series. Recently, I decided to go back and try again when less in the throes of my historical romance fixation and more in the throes of waiting for the next Outlander novel and the TV series. I’m glad I did as it seems I barely even skimmed The Scottish Prisoner. I remembered nothing of the plot.
This is the fourth book in Diana Gabaldon’s spinoff series about beloved Outlander character Lord John Grey and his life in the English army. Featuring Outlander’s hero Jamie Fraser as a main character (which is the reason I read it), The Scottish Prisoner fits into the Outlander series chronologically between books two and three (Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager); however, for reading order, I’d suggest that it is best not to read it until after Voyager as while it fills in narrative gaps, the Voyager reading experience would be less involving if you are not taking Claire and Jamie Fraser’s journey along with them.
In 1760, Jamie Fraser, Highlander and convicted Jacobite, has been several years paroled from Ardsmuir prison and working in the stables at Helwater, the estate of the Dunsany family. Lord John Grey, former commander of Ardsmuir and Jamie’s erstwhile friend, secured the position for him to prevent his transportation. Lord John and his brother, the Duke of Pardloe, are pursuing court martial against John’s former comrade, Gerald Siverly. Documents in their possession include a verse in Erse (Gaelic) and Jamie is dragooned into translation and participating in the arrest of Siverly. It gives him time away from his servitude in Helwater and a chance to evade a former Jacobite cohort who is also trying to press Jamie into service. Things gang aft agley in Jamie’s life and they do so here as well. I can think of no other fictional character who spends as much time walking the razor’s edge as he does.
The Scottish Prisoner can be read as a standalone book from either the Lord John or Outlander series, but there is a prodigious back story for both Lord John and Jamie which, while not technically crucial to the reader’s comprehension, certainly creates a much richer reading experience. It is an enjoyable adventure, something Diana Gabaldon can always be counted on to provide, and an interesting, sometimes heartbreaking, window into Jamie’s life between his beloved wife Claire’s departure and their reunion.
Reviewer’s Note: After finishing The Scottish Prisoner, I went back and read the first 250 pages of Voyager to revisit Jamie’s life between Culloden and Claire’s arrival in Edinburgh. I’d forgotten a. just how much I was drawn into the books as I was again transported by the story and b. how quietly emotionally devastating Gabaldon had managed to make Jamie’s life.
This review is also posted on my tiny little blog.