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Description : To describe Diana Gabaldon’s novel The Fiery Cross as epic barely does it justice; this massive successor to the much-acclaimed Drums of Autumn weighs in at nearly a 1,000 pages, and is squarely aimed at those readers who want to enter the world of a book and remain thoroughly immersed for a lengthy period. It’s essential that such a book can offer riches: riches in dense, complex plotting, riches in larger-than-life protagonists, riches in sheer story-telling skill. Gabaldon, thankfully, has it all.
After a list of acknowledgments that is long enough to tell us that this is an author who takes her time, we are plunged into the Colony of North Carolina in the year 1771, with a volatile society not under threat from Britain so much as from a bitter internal conflict. The divisions are between the colonial aristocracy, secure in their wealth, and the disadvantaged pioneers, carving out a rugged living in the shadow of the mountains of the west. Caught between them is Jamie Fraser of Fraser’s Ridge, who is at ease with both sides. But Jamie’s wife is the beautiful Claire, unable to integrate in the manner of her husband, always out of place. Her ability to discern the future warns of the pending revolution, and in the bloodshed that follows, the love of Jamie and Claire will be tested in the forge of war.
Gabaldon’s canvas frequently evokes the epoch-spanning South of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, but Gabaldon is very much her own woman: this is romantic writing, but tempered with a steel edge that makes for an exuberant, turbulent blockbusting read.–Barry Forshaw