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The Fiery Cross    by Diana Gabaldon order for
Fiery Cross
by Diana Gabaldon
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2002 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Fiery Cross is number five in a series that began with the stupendously successful Outlander. I enjoyed that one, and its immediate successors (Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager) very much, but my interest began to wane with Drums of Autumn. The novels are getting a little weighed down by all the people that Claire and Jamie carry along in their wake, and action too often gives way to details of everyday life.

Nevertheless, Diana Gabaldon writes extremely well and, despite a few grey hairs, Claire and Jamie are as engaging (and romantic) as ever. They are settled in pre-Revolutionary War North Carolina, with their daughter Brianna and Roger, who have both journeyed back in time to be with them. As the tale opens, weddings are in the air - for Bree and Roger, who already have an infant son Jemmy (though he may not be Roger's); and also for Jamie's aunt Jocasta and her one-armed beau Duncan.

However nothing is simple for Claire and entourage, and the priest is arrested prior to the wedding. Thus begins a series of seemingly unrelated events (including murder) which tie in to a plot to steal a hidden Jacobite treasure. Of course the slimy Stephen Bonnet (the pirate who viciously raped Brianna in a prior episode and may have fathered Jemmy) is involved. In fact Bree spends a great deal of this story attempting to dissuade her father and new husband from going after Bonnet - unsuccessfully of course.

Otherwise Brianna plays only a minor part, though she occasionally assists her mother with the usual medical emergencies, and innovates in finding ways to apply sophisticated medical treatments in a primitive environment - a hanging and a deadly snakebite are only two of the situations with which mother and daughter must cope. Roger gets a bigger role this time and his relationship with Jamie finally develops into one of mutual respect and trust.

If you haven't dipped into this series yet, begin at the beginning with Outlander - there are just too many references to earlier events to allow readers to jump into this latest episode. Its ending thrusts a new group of Russians onstage and also brings back a welcome and familiar face, along with a new mystery - thus setting the stage for the next volume. And though I found the series' fire somewhat banked in The Fiery Cross, I still look forward to more adventures of Claire, Jamie and their ever-lengthening tail.

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