Title: The Scottish Prisoner: A Lord John Novel
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
Characters: Lord John Grey, Jamie Fraser
POV: 3rd Person
London, 1760. For Jamie Fraser, paroled prisoner-of-war in the remote Lake District, life could be worse: He’s not cutting sugar cane in the West Indies, and he’s close enough to the son he cannot claim as his own. But Jamie Fraser’s quiet existence is coming apart at the seams, interrupted first by dreams of his lost wife, then by the appearance of Tobias Quinn, an erstwhile comrade from the Rising.
Like many of the Jacobites who aren’t dead or in prison, Quinn still lives and breathes for the Cause. His latest plan involves an ancient relic that will rally the Irish. Jamie is having none of it—he’s sworn off politics, fighting, and war. Until Lord John Grey shows up with a summons that will take him away from everything he loves—again.
Lord John Grey—aristocrat, soldier, and occasional spy—finds himself in possession of a packet of explosive documents that exposes a damning case of corruption against a British officer. But they also hint at a more insidious danger. Time is of the essence as the investigation leads to Ireland, with a baffling message left in “Erse,” the tongue favored by Scottish Highlanders. Lord John, who oversaw Jacobite prisoners when he was governor of Ardsmuir prison, thinks Jamie may be able to translate—but will he agree to do it?
Soon Lord John and Jamie are unwilling companions on the road to Ireland, a country whose dark castles hold dreadful secrets, and whose bogs hide the bones of the dead. A captivating return to the world Diana Gabaldon created in her Outlander and Lord John series, The Scottish Prisoner is another masterpiece of epic history, wicked deceit, and scores that can only be settled in blood.
It’s entirely possible I’ll be the only person ever to read this book and say that, for a Lord John Grey novel, I think it contained too much Jamie Fraser. An unpopular sentiment? Yeah, most likely, but it’s true for me, nonetheless.
Set during the same timeframe as Voyager, the third novel in the Outlander series, this installment in the Gabaldon created world that blends historical events and settings with the mystical concepts of time travel and the paranormal is reliably impressive in its attention to detail. It’s stunning to think that these characters have made their way from Diana Gabaldon’s imagination to the page for some twenty odd years, and, to this day, are every bit as sublime as they’ve ever been, but while this story was as entertaining as I’ve come to expect from this saga, when it comes to revealing many new insights or details into Lord John Grey’s life, it felt more than a bit lacking.
Lord John is at the top of my list of favorite tragic heroes. His decades long, one-sided love affair with Jamie is truly the epitome of the unrequited love story. The somber realization that, for John Grey, the soldier, spy, and consummately honorable man, there will always be a part of himself he must hide from the world is never more clear than when John and Jamie are together and trying to find a balance in their conflicting feelings toward each other—a balance between John’s desire and Jamie’s aversion toward John’s sexuality—and the grudging respect and friendship that might take hold were it not for that disparity. What Diana Gabaldon has always done so well with John Grey is to portray him as a multi-dimensional character; his homosexuality is most definitely a part of his makeup, but it’s not the entirety of him. At his very foundation, John is noble, loyal, and faithful in his duty to King and country. The knowledge that he will never know Jamie Fraser as anything other than the man he’ll never have is utterly poignant.
But there was nothing particularly earth shaking or groundbreaking in The Scottish Prisoner that couldn’t have been gleaned from having read Voyager. There is a bit of espionage, a murder mystery, and a plot to draw Jamie back into the fold of the Jacobite uprising, this time from the Irish, that was dependably well written (as I’ve come to expect, always, from the author), but at its core, this offering merely provided a means for the audience to follow Jamie through his struggle as both a literal and figurative prisoner of the crown and his certain knowledge of a future that does not support the efforts of the rebellion.
And while Jamie is shackled by circumstance, a condition that can and does change for him, eventually, Lord John Grey will always be a prisoner of his nature, something that cannot be altered because it is who he is meant to be.
I love Jamie, truly, madly, deeply, but I wanted more John in this novel, certainly more than I got.
Reviewed By: Lisa