After what feels like the time it took Claire and Jamie to find each other again between the events of Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager, I finally finished the third book in the Outlander series yesterday afternoon. It was a mad dash to the finish, filled with pirates and voodoo and escaped slaves and a very strange interlude in a cave with some crushed up gemstones, that may or may not have been the stones on the island that Jamie sent his nephew Ian after the day he was kidnapped. It was all very strange, and I suspect I may never know all the answers to all of the questions I have. Which means, of course, that this is probably going to not be an incredibly useful review, but I don’t necessarily care, because I’m just so glad to be moving on to something else. I feel bad for even saying that because my overall feeling about Voyager is very positive. But come on, I spent five weeks with this book and it’s time to leave the Frasers and their family for a while. A friend of mine binge-read this entire series and while I can see how that would be appealing (because the idea of buying Drums of Autumn for my Kindle while I’m in San Jose for the weekend crossed my mind more than once today), I feel like I’d get sick of this world if I tried to read too much of it all at once. But that’s just me.
So, where was I when last I updated? Had Claire been press-ganged onto the Porpoise? Yes, I think so, Had she jumped overboard to float to land right when Jamie somehow managed to sneak onboard? I’m not sure. But that happened. There is a moderately traumatic interlude at a slave auction where Claire accidentally buys a one-armed slave because she is so upset about the happenings. This scene was well-done in the sense that I found it upsetting, and I’m pretty sure that’s what Gabaldon’s was going for. This slave gives them some information about a Mrs. Abernathy near Kingston who had a group of young white boys living at her plantation, Rose Hall. Jamie and Claire get themselves to Rose Hall, and find out that Mrs. Abernathy is actually Geillis Duncan, the other time traveler from the twentieth century who was last seen in Outlander about to be burned at the stake for witchcraft. The last hundred or so pages of the novel are shrouded in voodoo and witchcraft and ask more questions than are answered. First, Geilis has decided she needs the blood of a descendant of the Frasers of Lovat–something about a prophecy, and when she goes nosing through Jamie’s coat she finds the pictures of Brianna that Claire brought back from the 20th century for him. So all of a sudden she needs ground up gemstones and blood sacrifices to make it easier for her to get back to the 20th century to capture or kill or something Brianna. Jamie and Claire track her to a cave near a circle of standing stones on another Caribbean island, and here’s where stuff gets strange. Geilis has disposed of all of the other boys, save Ian, who we think she knows is Jamie’s nephew. No one really ever says what has happened to the boys, though it’s implied that they are all dead. Why Ian was saved is a mystery. Claire kills Geilis in the cave near the stones, and when she and Jamie and the others are leaving the island, there’s a horrible storm, they get blown off course, there is a shipwreck, and they wake up in Georgia.
There is also a scene in which a semi-crazy white woman (who Claire first met at the beginning of her time in the 1700s this time around and who Jamie knew from his Army days as the lady friend of one of his men) is being used by a group of slaves as an oracle with which to speak to dead relatives and friends. This is after Claire witnesses the slaves killing a crocodile. This whole thing seems extraneous and like something that Gabaldon threw in because she did a bunch of research on Voodoo in the Caribbean in the eighteenth century and she wanted to do something with all that information. I don’t think it advances the plot, unless it’s setting something up for a future book. But I’m not going to know the answer to that question for at least a few months, maybe longer.
As always, Claire and Jamie Fraser’s world is captivating and endlessly entertaining, but also as always, I will enjoy taking some time away from it before I jump back into the next book. Next up is a non-fiction one, called How Doctors Think, which was recommended to me by by boss and also by someone who I heard lecture at the last conference I went to. It’s about, well, how doctors think, the mental shortcuts we take to get to a diagnosis faster, and how these shortcuts are both very helpful and also potentially harmful. So far it’s been easy reading, but I think it’s going to get more difficult as time goes on.