This latest instalment in the Cross Stitch (US-Outlander) series is as good as Gabaldon gets.
Fast paced, it switches a lot between viewpoints of different characters and sometimes you have read a couple of paragraphs before realising that the action has moved to a different location and who is talking. I really liked that aspect of it. The whole book was incredibly entertaining and will re-unite you with just about everyone you love in the series.
For the first time we have extensive sections about Jamie's son William and especially towards the end of the book he becomes more fully integrated into the storyline. Lord John, too, is back and whilst everyone will understand his storyline, those that have read the Lord John books will have the perk of picking up on some cross referencing to events in those. Some events involving those two will leave you gob smacked, promise. One section is appropriately named 'A series of short, sharp shocks'.
After finishing the previous book in the series, I had been concerned that maybe this book would mainly consist of us getting told events through the letters found in the wooden box. I am glad to say that whilst yes, they do appear, they are only a small part of it and we mainly see 'live action'. Talking of letters, the only part I found a little boring were a couple of letters written by William to his step-father, mainly because details of military campaigns are not a favourite topic of mine.
We do get to hear a lot more from Brianna, Roger and the kids, something I think most readers were very much hoping for. If you have read the excerpts that have been available pre-publishing, you'll be surprised at what turns out to be the danger lurking in the tower at Lallybroch, the explanation for which in turn, leads to a whole series of events that towards the end leaves you with a rotten, and I must say in my case, not anticipated cliffhanger. But there is balance as several events come to pass that we have anticipated for quite some time.
I am extremely grateful to Diana Gabaldon that whilst Jamie and Claire are still 'at it', the sex scenes are still neither repetitive, nor overdone, nor do you get the impression they are put in as page fillers or to add some dubious shock value to the book. If only one or two other authors would take note.
On the negative side, Williams letters apart, there wasn't a great deal. I was on such a constant high that I had no trouble dealing with the inevitable battles in-between (which as mentioned, aren't my thing). The worst thing is, I now have to wait however long, for the next book.
Update: after re-reading the book and listening to it on audio as well, I still love it. I think it is only natural that everyone has their favourite characters and some they are not so keen on. Having read and taken part in several discussions about it, I would say that for those readers who want Jamie and Claire to be centre stage all the time, this book will not be their favourite. For those who like me, have an equal interest in what happens to some of the others, this book certainly delivers.
Update: For those who like me are desperately waiting for the next book in the series... Check out Diana's Facebook page where you will find lots of excerpts for 'Written In My Own Heart's Blood' (which is due out towards the end of 2013) as well as some of her other books.