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Customer Review

34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Let's not do the time warp again, 27 Feb. 2008
This review is from: The Fiery Cross: (Outlander 5) (Paperback)
Here's a little experiment for you to perform at home. Starve yourself for a couple of days, then cook your most favourite meal and lay it on the table in front of you. Take a fork-full of this food and hold it close to your mouth so you can smell the delicious aroma, then move it away, then close again, then away again. Repeat this about two-dozen times, then throw the whole plate of food in the bin and slap yourself across the face for being so silly. That's pretty much what reading The Fiery Cross is like. It promises so much but delivers so little.

Now, in reviewing this book I'm tempted to write a very snotty article bemoaning its lack of plot, poor character development, confused action scenes, overly longwinded and self-indulgent story... so I will.

Let's at least try for something positive to begin. Hmm... Well, Claire and Jamie are still present and more or less correct, though their relationship has cooled from the fiery and passionate romance of the first couple of books into the comfortable (read boring) life of a middle-aged married couple. Yes, there's the obligatory sex scene every dozen or so chapters (they still seem to go at it like rabbits, even if they're freezing cold, exhausted, dirty, sweaty or anything else that would turn most mere mortals off quicker than a naked picture of Anne Widdicombe), but you can't help but feel the vital spark is missing. They're just not as vibrant and interesting as they used to be. Still, anything's better than Brianna and Roger. Honestly, why do these characters even exist, except to make my brain angry? Brianna is still a whiny irritating brat who elicits about as much sympathy from the reader as a jagged lump of concrete, and Roger is still a personality-free nonentity whose sole purpose is to consistently screw things up at every opporunity, thus proving how super-awesome Jamie is when he is inevitably called in to set things right. Oh, and as usual Jemmy doesn't really do much apart from eat, cry and soil himself at every opportunity (a bit like me after a night out).

The Fiery Cross is a bad book. Not just for what it is, but for what it could have been. Call me fussy if you like, but books about time-travel to a nineteenth century America teetering on the brink of revolution have greater story-telling potential than endless diatribes on dirty nappies, domestic disputes and breast feeding. Like a blind darts player, Ms Gabaldon just keeps missing the point.

Example: About two hundred pages in and still stuck firmly on Day One, I was starting to get the uneasy feeling that something was very wrong with this story indeed. Perhaps the editor had gone on holiday and left a block of wood in his stead, because that's the only way I can explain such a ridiculously long opening sequence. Still, like an abused spouse I endured the pain by constantly telling myself that things would get better, that the book really did care about me and that one day it would realise the error of its ways. I was wrong.

And it really doesn't pick up much after this. Yes, the plot does eventually lead to a vaguely interesting conclusion, but that in no way makes up for the endless chapters of pointless conversations and uninteresting side stories that contribute to its hideously bloated length. If this book was half as long and twice as interesting, then perhaps it would be a reasonably compelling story. As it stands, it's just dull - the literary equivalent of watered-down gruel.

And that's the real problem with The Fiery Cross. It could be... nay, should be so much more than it is. It's almost as if the author has lost sight of what actually made her books good. They're supposed to be rousing tales of adventure, danger, love, hope, friendship and betrayal. In short, they're supposed to provide entertainment - an escape from the dull, tedious grind of our normal lives. Unfortunately, when the book in question features endless chapters of dull, tedious 19th century domestic life, it becomes less about entertainment and more about slogging your way to the end through sheer bloody-minded determination. It's a bit like going to a gourmet restaurant and being served a cheese sandwich - yes, it'll fend off starvation for a few more hours but it's not exactly fun, is it?

And the rest? Well, this may come off as overly picky, but a villain whose only motivation is his unswerving dedication to being a complete bastard doesn't exactly smack of good story-telling. And what's with the minor characters and their endless stream of bizarre medical problems? Honestly, most of these people would be better suited to a circus freak show than a frontier encampment.

Oh well, I suppose in the end these gripes are largely irrelevant anyway. Criticising a Gabaldon book for being overly long and self-indulgent is a bit like criticising Family Guy for its poor continuity - yes, it's arguably a valid point but at the end of the day nobody really cares.

Tread carefully with this one.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 17 Oct 2009 09:02:36 BDT
haven't read the book yet so have no idea if this is an accurate review, but just wanted to to say thank you for brightening up my Saturday morning!!! I loved the way this review was written with such humour - you should get into book-writing yourself, lol! I think you did make your points clearly though so I would def vote for it being a help!!! Thank you again! Bernie x

Posted on 15 Nov 2015 22:22:03 GMT
This review is hilarious! I know it's 7 years since you wrote it, but could you possibly private-message me just telling me what happens in the book so I don't have to waste my time - then I'll move on to Book6 and see if that's any better!
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