Book Review: The Fiery Cross

I did it, I did it, I did it!

I cannot tell you how proud (and a little bit ashamed) I am to finally be able to say I finished this monster of a book.

Yes, I know, there are longer books. And yes, I know I embarked on this particular one voluntarily. But both these facts are besides the point.

The point here is that past-Erin in a moment of pure brilliance (read: stupidity) decided that the best way to break a several-years-running reading slump was to pick up the longest book she had in her possession. The result of this once-believed-to-be-brilliant plan? I’ve been stuck on this book since March. MARCH.

Thanks…Erin.

However, all of that frustration is now (mostly) in the past as the book has been closed for the last time – it most certainly won’t be a re-read any time soon at least – and I can now write my review. So, let’s get on with it, shall we?

Now, I don’t want my readers to think that just because this book took me EIGHT MONTHS to read that it was necessarily a bad book. It wasn’t, by any means.

Overall, the story was beautifully told and the characters and their intricate histories and relationships which Outlander fans have grown to know and love over the previous four books in the series were lovingly reestablished right from the get-go. The book is also packed with ample adventure and intrigue to keep one interested until the very end. But.

Yes, there is a but. And this BUT is the reason I would not recommend this book in particular to anyone experiencing a reading slump of any kind…

It is way longer than it needs to be.

I know, I know, Gabaldon has built a reputation of being able to write as much as she wants about Jamie and Claire and people will gobble it up eagerly as soon as the final product is published.

And I’m not suggesting either that Gabaldon cannot write (she can – more than a dozen bestsellers is a testament to this) or that her characters are not compelling (just ask the fans of the hit TV show spawned by her creation if you don’t think they are).

What I’m suggesting is that by book five Gabaldon seems to have assumed that since her readers already love her characters they naturally want to hear everything about their lives. I’m talking, down to the minutia of how to put a diaper (or clout) on a baby in the 18th century. The first 100 pages of the book doesn’t even move past the events of a SINGLE DAY. That is more than 10% of the novel. No wonder it took me a while to finish it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love historical detail.

And I’d be lying if I said that as a mom it wasn’t fascinating to learn how different mothers had it some 250 years ago. But this kind of historical description, or contextual detail, can be offered in a few sentences. It doesn’t need chapters of exposition.

By about halfway through, the pace finally starts to pick up and after that point I will say I started reading a lot faster. But bear in mind that it took some 400 pages to get past what was largely an author waxing poetically about daily life in colonial America with a few exciting scenes thrown in here and there for interest’s sake. If I wasn’t so invested in the characters by now, I’m not sure I would have stuck it out. And I think Gabaldon was banking on exactly that established connection with her world in order to justify the sheer overwhelming amount of detail to her editors. Clearly, she’s a good writer. If a bit of a long-winded one…

And on that note, I realize that this post is already quite long for a book review so I will end by saying despite the overlong passages of description and page upon page of daily life with no action whatsoever, I still thoroughly enjoyed this story. It just took me a lot longer to get through than it would have had it been a bit tighter…

All in all, I’d still give it four quills. And I’ll still return for the next chapter…But not until I’ve hit my reading goal for the year. Who knows how long the next one will take me…

As always, thanks for reading!

And, remember, even when books take 8 months to read… Life is still beautiful

xo Erin

Final Rating: Four Quills

Have you read this part of the Outlander Saga? If so, how did you like it? And, better question, do the books get easier to read again?

6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Fiery Cross

  1. Erin! You’re not stupid for picking a big book–at least you finished it. Ugh. I’ve tried to read Diana and trip after the first few chapters. It’s just not my thing I guess. My mind wonders to others places and long tedious books do that to me. …or they put me to sleep which is better than drugs I suppose. lol. So, good on ya for finishing now cut yourself some slack and read some short stuff, fast moving novel, or some short stories. It all counts. Great post as always.

    1. Thanks so much for reading, and for taking the time to comment, Faye! Your thoughts on these posts always make me smile. I feel that most of us struggle with the massive books out there, and there is certainly nothing wrong with reading smaller, tighter ones! I will definitely be sticking to some lighter (literally) reading for the rest of the year! Thanks for the encouragement 🙂

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