‘“Do ye want me?” he whispered. “Sassenach, will ye take me–and risk the man that I am, for the sake of the man ye knew?”
I felt a great wave of relief, mingled with fear. It ran from his hand on my shoulder to the tips of my toes, weakening my joints.
“It’s a lot too late to ask that,” I said…. “Because I already risked everything I had. But whoever you are now Jamie Fraser–yes. Yes, I do want you.”’
Voyager is the third in Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ series and continues the story of Claire Beauchamp, a 20th century English woman who finds herself thrown back in time to 18th century Scotland. Having believed her husband Jamie Fraser to have perished in the Battle of Culloden, Claire returns to her own time and raises their daughter Bree with no knowledge of her father. When the pair return to Scotland 20 years later, Claire reveals the truth and in turn, discovers that Jamie did not die on the battlefield after all. This instalment picks up immediately after this cliff-hanger of a revelation, with Claire determined to go back through the standing stones and return to the man she loves.
Gabaldon’s books are often typecast as far-fetched romances, but I can vouch that they deserve far greater credit. The amount of work that clearly goes into the research and characterisation is pretty astounding, and makes for seamless, immersive prose. Voyager retains the level of brilliance I’ve come to expect from this series and then some, managing to successfully combine the genres of romance, adventure and historical fiction, all without losing sight of the plot.
I was interested to see how the author would bring our two main characters together again, how they would react to one another, what they would say. It was a relief to find that the moment was not over-dramatized, and also acted as an ideal testament to how Claire and Jamie had changed as people during their 20 years apart. I was afraid that their reunion would be lazily portrayed, but Gabaldon does not fall into that trap and instead, allows their relationship to rekindle gradually. Claire expresses doubt, unsettled by the life that Jamie has led without her and unsure that he is the man she knew before.
The adventure aspect of this book is perhaps the most prominent, certainly more so than in Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber. When Jamie’s nephew, Young Ian, is kidnapped by pirates, he and Claire must set sail to the West Indies in search of him. As much as I adore the wilderness of the Scottish highlands, this setting was a welcome change and placed the characters in scenarios that tested their strengths. There is a greater sense of commotion than there was in previous books, sometimes overwhelmingly so. It was difficult at times to keep up with the many dilemmas that Claire and Jamie encounter, but there were no loose ends and the many plot twists made the action all the more engrossing.
Characterisation suffers somewhat in this novel, simply because there is so much going on, but whilst successfully developing Claire and Jamie’s older selves, the author also introduces us to grown-up Fergus, the endearing street urchin from Dragonfly in Amber who Jamie takes under his wing. Fergus is now a prominent member of the Fraser unit, and maintains the boyish charm that made him so likeable. But now, he proves independent, decisive, and very much his own man, all the while maintaining a fierce loyalty to his employer, a father-figure to him by this point. In Voyager we are also re-introduced to Lord John Grey. The sixteen-year-old British soldier who threatened Jamie’s life before the Battle of Prestonpans is now a man, and reunites with his former enemy in unexpected circumstances. All I will reveal is that for me, he was the most standout character in the entire story.
This was an exhilarating read, arguably the best of the series so far. Returning to these characters after a 20 year gap is like becoming reacquainted with old friends, and it’s intriguing to discover how they have changed. I enjoyed the fact that Jamie and Claire make a short stop in Paris before heading off on their adventures, allowing for a small aside to the previous novel, in which Claire visits Mother Hildegarde. It wasn’t necessary to the plot, but I like that the author offers her readers a chance to catch up with beloved characters. This series after all, is pure indulgence. I only wish I had the time to consume it all in one go.