Review: The Fiery Cross (Outlander #5) by Diana Gabaldon

I feel like it’s been forever since I posted last and I suppose it has, two weeks almost!

The last couple of weeks have been so crazy though, it’s a wonder I haven’t gone completely off the deep end yet! So I admit, I have been dragging my feet a little finishing up the latest Outlander installment, The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon for the Outlander Series Reading Challenge.

I have been entirely consumed by Outlander drama. One of the things I loved about FC was that Claire finally reflected on her time with Jamie and likened their relationship to sponge which just sucked her in–Claire I know EXACTLY how you feel LOL.

For the last six weeks or so I have been sucked into the world that is Outlander the soap opera and I’ll admit, maybe I should have taken a break between books IV and V as there was just so much going on and so many stories happening that I could have used the mental break to sort out and appreciate all that were going on.

But of course I couldn’t help my self and just kept reading right after Book IV. I did feel like FC went a little faster than the others in some ways and I liked that the story alternated between Claire’s, to Roger’s, to Jamie’s, and Brianna’s perspective/voices. I felt like I got a more broad sense of what was going on and it made me want to keep reading, especially when something happened and the character perspective changed–I wanted to hurry up and find out what happened! Overall through–break or not–the book was worth every chapter–as usual.

FC picks up where the previous book left off. Claire and Jamie are living happily ever after while Brianna and Roger are simply trying to get married and sort out their issues somewhere in between babies, mmphmm-ing, and family drama.

Stephen Bonnet is still raping, pillaging, and plundering everything he can get his hands on, but hopefully not for long if Jamie has anything to say about it. Brianna is still struggling to get past all the Stephen Bonnet ‘issues’ which developed in Book IV while at the same time trying to take care of a baby and adjust to being a wife to Roger.

Jamie seems to have more or less settled his demons but still struggles with the decisions he’s made in his life. Claire is still healing people left and right while continuing to be haunted by the ghost of Frank–and side note, can I just say it already….Clarie get over Frank for God sake! Ian and Rollo return at the end which suggests an interesting sub plot likely to happen in Book VI. And of course we meet a whole lot of new characters and become reacquainted with some old ones. Over all, there’s a lot happening in this book but we also learn lots of new things and begin to see how the stories and people relate to one another and blend together–finally after five books!

So here’s the more official summary from Shelfari for those interested:

The Fiery Cross is book five in the best-selling Outlander series, written by Diana Gabaldon. The stories center around a time-travelling 20th-century doctor (Claire Randall Fraser) and her 18th-century Scottish husband (Jamie Fraser), and are located in Scotland, France, and America.

The heroine of the bestselling Outlander, Claire, returns in The Fiery Cross as a reluctant oracle and wife to Jamie Fraser, her 18th century lover, and facing the politics and turmoil of the forthcoming American Revolution. As the preceding novel, Drums of Autumn, concluded with Jamie Fraser and his wife Claire helping their daughter and new son-in-law, from the 20th century, settle into life on Fraser’s Ridge, The Fiery Cross picks up the storyline exactly where it was left – with Brianna Ellen Randall Fraser and Roger Mackenzie about to make their nuptials official and baptise their son Jeremiah. With the American Revolution now only a few years away and unrest brewing Jamie is called to form a militia to put down the beginnings of rebellion in North Carolina, and risking his life for a king he knows he must betray – and soon. Gabaldon delivers the endings to several strands of storyline she had woven through Drums of Autumn, mysterious plots and characters are revealed in the course of this intricate plot – leaving the Frasers and their family poised on the edge of war.

The Fiery Cross is an involved story of the Frasers and the intricate web of their lives and family, of devotion and hope, trust and friendship, and characters reunited. As the fifth in what is now a seven-book series (according to the author there will be a Book 8, possibly a Book 9) of Claire Randall Fraser and her Highlander husband Jamie, the story is an integral step in a bestselling and surprisingly rich tale spanning the time from the Scottish Rising of 1745, to the American Revolution.

One thing I noticed about this book over some of the others was the amount of clinical things happening–people were sick, dying or rather almost dying in some cases, surgery was being performed, and Claire reflected a lot about her medical journal she received from the dead Dr Rawlings (especially at the end). I know she’s a healer and all, but in the other books there was just not as much ‘medical-ness’ about them as in this book at least that I noted anyway.

The scene which really did me in was the primitive tonsillectomy–gag me with a spoon! I had my tonsils out two years ago and honest to God having them out almost killed me so with that pain and near death experience still fresh in my mind I was absolutely horrified by Claire’s ‘surgery’. It brought back painful memories to say the least and the more I read the more I focused on all the injuries happening!

Besides all the medical issues, the one thing I noticed with a lot of the characters were their reactions to things illness, injury, and just life in general. For instance, Jocasta what a tough old bird! In one scene Claire reflects on Jocasta’s character and strength, wondering how in the world this woman carried on after losing three babies, going blind, and losing three husbands:

She had lost three husbands and now was fixed to take a fourth. Blind she might be, but there was no deadness in her eyes. Did that mean she had no cared deeply for any of her husbands? I wondered. Or only that she was a woman of great strength, capable of overcoming grief, not once but over and over again?

It’s interesting how some people can have a mountain of shit they have to overcome in life and they more or less make it through somehow and still remain fairly positive while others simply buckle under the pressure. I wonder why that is? This is something I ponder on a daily basis…though I am not a religious person (spiritual yes, religious no) I am a firm believer that God will not give you anything more than you are capable of handling so when I see the characters like Jocasta I think to myself—hummm good for her, she’s amazing! I admire her strength immensely! While Jocasta simply takes whatever life gives her and rolls with it, poor Roger struggles with his new affliction.

In the story, Roger is known as ‘Thrush’ because he sings so beautifully. But when a near death hanging leaves him more or less mute–he struggles to accept what his life will now be like. And for that matter so does everyone else–Claire, Brianna, and Jamie all feel a loss for Roger. Claire knows that Roger will grieve over the loss of his voice but the reader if left to wonder when and if that will happen:

Roger was sweating too from the heat; the linen of his shirt stuck to his body- and the lines of  his body were just the same; the look of a man braced to meet fear; one who choses to face his demons alone.

For a good portion of the book Roger struggles to come to grips with losing his voice and not ever being able to enjoy the things he once did. He becomes withdrawn and wanders off by himself and everyone seems to note how much he has changed and how he has gone more ‘dark’ and ‘internalized’ everything. He is defiantly a MacKenzie–strong and stubborn like Jocasta! I love how each of the characters that feels in some way resppnsible for Roger’s mishap come to their own realizations and find relief in knowing he will recover mentally. One scene in particular stood out to me–the scene where Claire and Brianna were talking about choices and life ambitions in regard to both themselves and Frank as well as Roger to me was the moment where Brianna and Claire reconciled Roger’s injury and in an unspoken truth that life doesn’t always turn out quite as one would excpet and that is ok:

‘You didn’t plan to be a doctor when you were young you said. But you seemed pretty single-minded about it later on’ [Brianna said]. ‘People- and it’s not just women, not by any means- people who know who they are and what they’re meant to be…they’ll find a way. Your father- Frank, I mean…he was a very good historian. He liked the subject and he had the gift of discipline and concentration that made him a success but it wasn’t really a calling for him. He told me…he could have done other things and it wouldn’t have mattered a great deal. For some people one thing does matter a great deal though. And when it does…well medicine mattered a great deal to me. I didn’t know early on but then I realized that it was simply what I was meant to do. And once I knew that…’ She shrugged. ‘Yes but…you can’t always do what you’re meant to can you?’ [Brianna] said thinking of Roger. ‘Well life certainly forces somethings on one…and for the common man- or woman- life as they know it is often the life they lead’.

Claire and Brinna continue talking about life and being content, I think eventually Brianna reconciles the guilt and sadness she is feeling not only for Roger losing his vocal capabilities but also the loss of he previous modern day life and the rape. I think in many ways in this conversation she finally accepts her life and learns to embrace the time she has and the things and people who surround her rather than dwelling on the past or lost future.

I think this book is really the ‘day of reckoning’ book in some ways. Everyone is faced with new personal obstacles, ghosts of their past–and future–, and they must all come to terms with choices they have made and the lives they are now leading. In other parts of the book, such as Jamie’s birthday Claire and Jamie look back over their time together and their lives reflecting on their choices:

‘You reinvent yourself’ I said softly to the shadows inside the hair that had fallen over my face. ‘You look at other women- and men; you try on their lives for size. You take what you can use and you look inside your self for what you can’t find elsewhere. And always…always…you wonder if you’re doing it right’.

Earlier in the book Claire reflected about Frank and she talks of being more or less haunted by his ghost. The ring she still wears is obviously very significant to her and she touches it often thinking of Frank and at times I think she longs to be with him again but clearly not enough to not be with Jamie. I don’t know that she ever really grieved over Frank even before he was dead. I especially wondered this when Jamie asked for her gold ring as collateral for a card game and though Claire gave him Frank’s ring–and his own ring too–when she got them both back I wondered why she simply could not get over Frank already.

Claire always says how she did love Frank in a way and she would always love him. I wonder Dear Reader how did you feel about her wearing both rings? Did you feel it was a betrayal to one or both of her husbands if she would have kept one ring over the other? What do you think Jamie’s feelings are about both rings? I felt like she had said goodbye to Frank when she lost the gold ring to Stephen Bonnet in DOA but when she got it back I felt like it brought back Frank’s ghost and in some ways she would never fully be Jamie’s, to me the ring is a constant reminder of her previous life and to Frank….I don’t know just my perspective I guess.

I thought Claire’s reflection of her life with Jamie—the Jamie as a sponge moment in the river—spoke volumes and really paved the foundation for the entire book. I liked how she realized that their life together was a whirlwind but that she wouldn’t trade it for the world but at the same time I did sense a bit of sadness and regret in her reflection:

He took in everything and seemed able to deal with whatever came his way no matter how foreign to his experience…anything he could not defeat, outwit, or alter he simply accepted rather like the sponge and its embedded shell…I suppose I was the shell. Snatched out of my own small niche by unexpected strong current, taken in and surrounded by Jamie and his life. Caught forever among the strange currents that pulsed through his outlandish environment. That thought gave me a sudden queer feeling. The shell lay still at the bottom of the basin-delicate, beautiful, but empty…For the most part I felt no regrets. I had chosen to be here; I wanted to be here. And yet now and then small things like our conversation about immunity made me realize just how much had been lost- of what I had had of what I had been…

I think there comes a time when we all question if the choices we made were the right ones and I think we all do the ‘what if’ game often. What if I married someone else, what if I had children, what if I didn’t have children, what if I had a different job…that is what this book is about, looking back and reflecting and wondering but at the same time accepting.

This book seemed darker than the others for that reason. The other books were more about love and romance and war and history while this one deals more with the aftermath of all those things. It’s like everything is just going going going—life is racing by….a whirlwind romance or two, war and fighting, loss, and choices made—acting as one must (as Jamie would say).

There isn’t much time in there to look back and see how that all affected you but now all the characters are able to do that. Ironically while the other books had so much going on, this book went faster now that everything more or less ‘stopped’. Though I drug my feet reading this book a bit, I did like it better than some of the others because of the reflection and introspective ‘darkness’ so to speak. I liked how we got an in-depth portrait of the characters because of the ‘fall out’ after the madness. It made me really appreciate their choices and characters as a whole. Yes this book is a little more on the heavy side, I think it is a book that needed to happen, almost like an anchor–without the moment to reflect and grab something solid, the boat will just bob and weave with no course–we all need that anchor or reflective break in epic stories such as this. As Jocasta said:

Why cannot the past leave us be in what peace we have made with it? (457)

I think after this book we will start to see another pick up in the action and a moving forward in all characters. As Jamie said :

‘Let the dead bury the dead Sassenach…the past is gone- the future is not come. And we are here together you and I’ (378).

I am throughly exhausted though to say the least LOL. The whole series—there is SO much going on and it is really a series one can’t rush through because if you do you miss some of the little important details! I think I will go back and re-read the series eventually because I feel like I have already missed some important things. However I am just too wrapped up in the ‘what happens next’ issue that I can’t slow down and really enjoy the series until I know what happens in the end.

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: Book: The Fiery Cross (Outlander #5) by Diana Gabaldon

  • Kindle Edition
  • Published (first published November 6th 2001)
  • ASIN B000FBFMB6

This book counts toward: 2011 Outlander Series Reading Challenge

Recommendation: 5 out of 5

Genre: Historic Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Historic-Romance

Memorable lines/quotes: 

She sounded as though love were an unfortunate but unavoidable condition

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12 Comments

  1. Very interesting and insightful comments! FIERY CROSS is one of my favorite books in the whole series.

    When you get done with the series, please do stop by the Compuserve Books and Writers Community, where Diana hangs out! We would love to have your input into the discussions there.

    Karen

    Reply
  2. Jill

     /  May 29, 2015

    I just finished FC. Thank you for your thoughts and insights. it helps to get other opinions. I also think Claire should get over Frank already. He was a cheating bastard. Interesting to think that he might have know the Bree would head back in time….

    Jill

    Reply
  3. Nancy Cowan

     /  August 5, 2015

    I loved reading your comments! Thank you! I’ve just finished Drums. I like to read a bit about the next book and came across your article. First, my friend and I are in the “F— Frank” club. The official name of our club, however, is The Club of Two. We are dedicated, avid, rabid and willing to do anything to meet Diana and her amazing cast of characters. But my friend lives in Maryland and me in Minnesota so we play make- believe in our club. After reading Voyager, I reread Dragonfly. Then reread Voyager. It was helpful to me to really remember characters and feelings. I was able to put things into better perspective. I surely was able to visualize and understand the scenarios with a more open mind. The first time through, I feel like my head is a bit compacted trying to take is all in. Hopefully, that makes sense.
    And, is usually the case in my reading great books (The Shell Seekers and Mists of Avalon, to name a couple), I read them SEVERAL times. The characters is both those books will live forever within me. It is hard for me to believe that it has taken me so long to read Diana Gabaldon’s books. Given her great fan base (of which I am now one), how did this series elude me for all these years? I am never without a book! All of my friends read – we’ve been completely living in
    the dark ages! It feels embarrassing somehow to know that Diana’s characters have been living and breathing with such love and strength and we didn’t have a clue. My world changed when the series came to TV. My friend bootlegged her Starz to me, I was hooked immediately. This is how new Diana Gabaldon is to me! It took me to 2015 and 61 years old to become an Outlander addict. I read Book One while watching the show. I was impressed how closely the book and show complimented one another (missed the pool scene, however). But here I am, ready to start a Book 5. I may take a little rest. My brain is so full of characters from these books, there is hardly room for my real-life characters (my husband, who is Scottish, and understands my devotion to Jamie Fraser. Yes, I have my own Highlander with a few differences). Perhaps I’ll reread Outlander. After writing all of this, I’ll try to post it. Maybe it will make it – maybe it won’t. But it felt good to write it all down.

    Reply
  4. I’m just starting the fifth book. I binged read the first two (was up until 6: a.m. finishing Outlander. I didn’t see the series the first time it was offered, but binge watched it twice on On Demand. As an avid reader, I agree with one of the previous comments above – how did I miss these books? D.G. is such a gifted writer and storyteller. She’s created characters that readers care about, whose lives become entwined with ours. I was haunted by Jamie and Claire after watching the series and I’m now obsessed with the books. Every woman needs a Jamie in her life. I have so many questions and hope I find the answers as I read the rest of the series

    Reply
  5. Stace

     /  May 19, 2016

    I am absolutely in LOVE with Jamie and Claire and their spectacular relationship. Diana somehow made the real, the one thing i haven’t been able to get over is that she aged them too quickly. I’m 47 and I personally didn’t want to read about Claire and Jamie in their 40’s until book 8. I am reading 6 now and I really wish she would send them back in time. Young, possibly one knowing their history and the other not. I am finishing the series because I started it, but honestly I am disappointed reading about their children and grandchildren. I hope the tv series rewrites the history of these books and does not return Claire in her late 40’s to Jamie.

    Reply
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