Heartless by Gail Carriger (#4 in the Parasol Protectorate Series)

Gail_Carriger_-_Heartless_book_cover

Book: Heartless

Author: Gail Carriger

Rating: 9/10

Having read quite a serious, time consuming novel prior to ‘Heartless’, I approached reading this book as one approaches taking a break. For I always know when commencing a Gail Carriger novel, that I am about to peruse through a light hearted, rib-achingly hilarious story full of the author’s wonderfully creative and colourful imagination. I literally read this book in a day, for the novels in this series are much shorter (around 370 pages to be exact) in comparison to other books and the mirth and tongue-in-cheek goings-on in the story, keeps the reader quite glued to one’s seat.

I do realise not many would appreciate this series, as not many readers allow themselves to indulge in the Supernatural/Paranormal/Steampunk genre, which is a shame as this series has kept me completely entertained this past year. I think one of the important things to consider when approaching any book series, is to keep an open mind. Too many times I have passed over novels and book series, presuming they weren’t my ‘kind of thing’ only to return to them many years later and kick myself for not reading them sooner! It simply does not matter to me any more if people presume what I’m reading is silly or unrealistic. For what is a book, only a medium through which we can indulge in our fantasy worlds and live fantastical lives through magical characters. If it is a sin to read such a series, then by all means call me a sinner, for I am hooked line and sinker to this wonderful book series.

Gail Carriger must be a hilarious woman, for her humour is the backbone of this series. In ‘Heartless’ we continue to follow the story of Lady Alexia Maccon, wife to the local Lord Maccon (who is the alpha of the local werewolf pack, Mujah to Queen Victoria, oh and of course preternatural (meaning she can turn all immortals to mortals by just a touch). Alexia in this instalment is eight months pregnant, and feeling it. However determined not to let the ‘infant inconvenience’ ruin all her fun, she embarks on yet another mystery surrounded by the usual, much loved colourful characters of this series. Life has retuned to somewhat normal for the Maccons. Having finally realised that the baby, Alexia is carrying is his own, Lord Conall Maccon seems to have made a choice to allow his wife to do whatever she wants, within reason of course. However there is one slight problem, the vampires are determined to destroy Alexia and the child they consider an ‘abomination’ to nature. Lord Akeldama sweeps in, in his usual splendour, and saves the day by offering to become the child’s adoptive father. Alexia and Conall move in next door to Lord Akeldama and his colourful array of drones as a result, and of course drama follows. A mystery appears in the form of a half crazed ghost, who informs Alexia that the Queen is in danger. In her search to solve the mystery, Alexia uncovers gasp worthy secrets that threaten to destroy her pack. Madame LeFoux, Alexia’s scientist friend, also returns with secrets of her own which lead to an explosion of drama and a major cliffhanger for the next book in the series. The reader also finally gets a momentary reveal into who Alexia’s preternatural father was, which gave the finishing touch to a brilliant read, in my opinion, and I will go as far as to say that this novel was my favourite, after the second instalment of the series. Compared to its predecessor, it was streets ahead plot-wise.  

The characters in the instalment of the series were superb. By relocating next door to Lord Akeldama, the reader gets an in-depth look at what the lively and glamorous vampire is like when he is at home. His outrageousness as a character, is the heart of the story if you ask me. From his flamboyant outfits to his eccentric terms of endearment, Lord Akeldama had me regularly laughing out loud and provided so much light heartedness through the dramatic scenes in the novel. What was also wonderful to note about the flashy vampire, is that he is possibly one of the most intelligent characters in this story. One might notice in the series, that he often hides behind a façade of that of a gossip queen and uses his silly nature as a means of tricking those around him into thinking him altogether innocent and when in actuality, he is one of the major players in the political arena of London in the Victorian era.

I loved the bigger storyline Biffy, the ex drone of Lord Akeldama and now newly turned werewolf, has had in this novel. One’s heart would simply break for Biffy and his loss of Lord Akeldama. Often Alexia is characterised almost motherlike with Biffy as her and Conall try to remedy his situation. He is a charming individual who I know will have an even bigger role in the sequel to this novel and look forward to his next plot-line with the utmost relish. I also loved how Professor Lyall is not the innocent werewolf the reader has known from previous novels, but quite calculating and I do dislike the wool being pulled over Lord Maccon’s eyes and do hate Lyall for placing Alexia in such an awkward for position of not being able to confide the truth to Conall about his past. It does provide major suspense for what might occur in the next instalment however. 

Felicity Loontwill, Alexia’s half sister has been getting rather a large starring role in the last few books in the series. Yet again, Felicity is thrust to centre stage in this novel through her devious ways. Her airy, blonde demeanour of the past has given way to a rather sinister, jealous, calculating and crafty character who will stop at nothing to ensure her own success in life, even if it means spying on her sister and endangering her and her unborn child. Oh the suspense! I still however am quite disappointed that Alexia has yet to put Felicity in her place, I really would like her to cause Felicity a rather unpleasant, mortifying moment in the books but alas this still has not occurred. 

Alexia has really come full circle as a character. She is outrageously funny in this book, obviously being heavily pregnant, leads her into the most entertaining and comical moments. Her pregnancy is thoroughly enjoyable to read about, and adds such a comedic element to even the most serious of moments in the story. She has really come into her own as the female alpha to the werewolf pack, and takes no prisoners in her search for the truth. Her preternatural ability allows her to be the most practical of characters, even when she knows it might incriminate those she cares for. Conall isn’t quite as stubborn with Alexia as he used to be, but having committed such an atrocious act in the previous novel, it is no wonder he is now more docile. There were plenty heart warming moments between this two lovable but headstrong characters.

One of the things I was disappointed with however, is again the lack of Ivy Tunstell moments in this novel. Also an issue I had with the previous novel in the series. Apart from a chapter where Alexia inducts her into ‘The Parasol Protectorate’ (great addition of the series name to the books) and sends Ivy off to Scotland on a mission, there are very few more mentions of her. I am a fan of this odd friendship and I found it a shame that there was very little emphasis placed on this in the novel. I am aware that this maybe the case due to Madame LeFoux’s part to play in the story, and how her need for revenge against the vampire countess might take up the majority of the story with little room for Ivy. On that note, the climax of Madame LeFoux’s story line ending was quite brilliant and apt, although I am hoping this doesn’t mean the end of her character in the final book of the series.

Overall it is evident that I am an avid fan of Ms. Carriger. Her talent for humour really makes me look forward to reading her books, and her books are such easy reads, it makes for a truly enjoyable experience. In reading other reviews of this instalment it has bothered me to no end that people can complain that this book was unrealistic, it is a paranormal book! of course it is unrealistic. If realistic is what you want in a book series then I suggest the supernatural genre isn’t for you. Although I would like to point out how Gail Carriger has created a supernatural Victorian society, quite brilliantly and it is quite realistic and believable despite it being paranormal. Yes I do realise that the book cover does not portray a pregnant woman, but really is that what a reader is going to nit pick about? the story is still fantastically entertaining and that is what truly matters. I will admit, the adoption of Conall and Alexia’s unborn baby by Lord Akeldama, and the child supposedly being raised by vampires, did not sit well with me at all to begin with, but as you read deeper into the story and see just what this ‘adoption’ actually means, it is not a big deal at all and shouldn’t be worried about. 

In conclusion if you are a fan of the paranoraml/supernatural genre, and in need of a good laugh, this book series is perfect for you. It supplies everything from girl power to mystery to plenty of drama to keep any reader occupied and entertained. I beseech you all to make it a new year’s resolution not to judge a book/book series by it’s cover, you may be missing out on an epic story.

As always I look forward to your comments/opinions.

The Avid Reader 🙂

Twitter: twitter.com/theavidreaders

The Fiery Cross- (Outlander series no.5) by Diana Gabaldon.

the-fiery-cross-covers

Book: The Fiery Cross.

Author: Diana Gabaldon.

Rating: 8.5/10.

Hello my lovely avid readers. Let me begin by saying that the ‘Outlander’ series by Diana Gabaldon, is quite possibly the best book series I have ever read. High praise coming from me, but it is the truth. Mrs. Gabaldon is most definitely a force to be reckoned with. Her writing style is quite unlike anything I have read before and her love for her wonderful, well rounded characters, really makes this series such a success in my opinion. I really can not recommend these books more. Each one provides an epic tale of love, family, war, tragedy, a touch of supernatural and also one of the things I love most about the series-plenty of history. So without further delay, I would love to share my latest review of ‘The Fiery Cross’. (ALSO PLEASE DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE NOVEL, SPOILERS ARE INCLUDED IN REVIEW)

I simply adored this instalment of the series. This book follows our much beloved character, Jamie and Claire Fraser, once more as they settle in their newly acquired land in ‘Fraser’s Ridge’ (somewhere in the mountains of North Carolina), with their daughter Brianna, her husband Roger MacKenzie/Wakefield and child, Jemmy in tow. Jamie is now laird to this land, and with this position comes great responsibility, as Jamie now must protect not only his own family, but all the families of the ‘Ridge’. At the beginning of the novel, the ‘Frasers’ are attending the gathering of Scottish highlanders, and paramount to this gathering is the weddings of Brianna and Roger and also Jocasta Cameron (Jamie’s aunt and wealthy plantation owner) and Duncan Innes (Jamie’s friend from his days spent in jail following the rising). It becomes apparent however that all is not what it seems at this gathering, as it appears someone is trying to sabotage the wedding ceremonies as the Catholic priest is arrested.

More drama unfolds as Jamie receives a summons from Governor William Tryon of her Majesty’s army, to form a militia to counteract the violence of the Regulators (who were colonists in America who opposed British rule and were plotting rebellion). Jamie aware of Claire’s warning that the regulators/colonists will eventually gain their freedom through the American Revolution, is torn between his wanting to support the regulators against their British enemy, and also having to play his part for the British Crown, as is expected, since it was Tryon who gifted Jamie with ‘Fraser’s ridge’ to begin with. Therefore Jamie is literally stuck between following his heart and following his head. An interesting note, the novel is named after a tradition of highlanders, calling upon their brethren to join arms by burning a large wooden cross, which is what Jamie does to call his clansmen to join the militia. However, the only major battle we witness in the novel, in relation to the clamping down of the regulators, is the battle at Alamance, (a thoroughly riveting chapter that changed my opinion of the novel completely, which I will explain further down). Throughout the above events also, is Jamie’s determined mission to search for Stephen Bonnet, the man responsible for raping Brianna in the previous novel, and possibly the biological father of little Jemmy, in order to enact his revenge and together he and Roger attempt to carry out this plan, much to Claire and Brianna’s dismay.  

I found the theme of mystery to be so prevalent in the novel. Particular the murder mystery section of the novel, as Jamie and Claire try to solve the case of the murdered slave to determine who is trying to hinder the marriage of Jocasta and Duncan. It’s almost like an Agatha Christie scene, I loved the suspense and detective work within this chapter. Jamie has become quite the detective in this story, through trying to track down the whereabouts of Bonnet, on top of everything else he has to do. It is quite admirable, if not ridiculously stupid. Who on earth would one want to track down a psychotic murdering pirate??? Typical Jamie, always seeking out trouble and trying to get himself killed in the process.  

What I really found so refreshing about this novel also, is the author’s apt description of the grittiness of everyday life in the 1770s. It is not the romantic world I had been imagining in the previous novel, and quite frankly, I now begrudgingly admit I would not like to be transported to ‘Fraser’s Ridge’ any more. Issues such as changing nappies, sanitary needs for menstruation, lack of proper surgical tools, lack of sterilisation methods and clean food are described by the author brilliantly. I applaud her for this, as it demonstrates that even in a world of wonderful characters such as these, daily life is not attractive. Through Claire, we see the dire need for hygiene. even the simplest surgeries for her are a challenge, as with no means of antibiotics, it is simply by chance if the patient survives. This is also refreshing, as one could simply save all the characters from death, but with this novel, we see how difficult Claire is finding practising twentieth century medicine in the 1770s. My heart broke for Claire, when despite all her best efforts, she loses patients.

This brings me to my next point and how much research the author must have done to discover all these unique issues. I am literally in awe of the amount of time and effort that was spent on every historical detail and I congratulate the author most sincerely. I know in other reviews, people have noted that Claire wouldn’t have known about microbiology and how to create penicillin, having been trained as a doctor, but I don’t see why one would complain about this, I think it aided the story brilliantly and it shouldn’t be made into such an issue. Also the issue of genealogy is frequently mentioned in the novel, with Claire’s interest in discovering blood types and who is Jemmy’s biological father. It is also mentioned in relation to time travelling and how genes can determine if one can travel through the stones or not. Such a clever combination of science and the supernatural, in my opinion. I also would like to draw attention to how the author’s background in Zoology can really be seen in this novel, as the reader witnesses a new variety of animal characters introduced, from bears to snakes to species of wild birds, I was so impressed by all the new information regarding these animals and how creative the author was in tying all this into the storyline. This is the beauty of the author’s talent as a writer in my opinion. She is not only an author in my mind but a doctor, a zoologist, a herbalist and an historian. Her knowledge is utterly riveting. 

In terms of characters, the novel is told from the point of views of Claire, Jamie, Roger and Brianna. I found however it was mostly from Claire and Roger’s perspectives and while this was interesting in terms of growing more accustomed to the Brianna/Roger storyline, I did miss Jamie’s side of things and wished there were more chapters for him. Brianna didn’t annoy me as much in this novel as in ‘Drums of Autumn’, I think her new role as a mother has somewhat softened her, and although she still has that fiery temper of hers, it is not hindering my enjoyment of her character this time. Roger’s character definitely played a larger role, although I must say my sympathies lie so much with this character. Since arriving to North Carolina, Roger has been beaten up countless times, made a slave to Native Americans, treated badly by Jamie, and now in this novel, he nearly gets killed countless times including being hanged and losing that wonderful singing voice of his as a result. My heart broke for Roger and I really don’t understand why it’s always his character that unfortunate things must occur to all the time? All the same kissing another married woman was a tad on the risky side. I did love how his friendship with Jamie has improved and how they’ve become partners in seeking out Bonnet. They had some of the best moments in the book for me, especially when Jamie teaches Roger how to fight with a sword. On the topic of Brianna, I understand she is breast feeding, but dear lord the descriptions of her needing to feed Jemmy all time were a bit over the top. I did love the Amazonian aspect of Brianna’s character, here is a girl who represents girl power, she hunts, she shoots, and no one dares question her ability. Although I must say when comparing her to Roger, he often comes out the more insipid character but I feel he is given more redeeming moments towards the end of the book where he proves his manliness.

Claire and Jamie, my two favourite characters of all time and in this book provided me with so many wonderful moments and I literally basked in their love for one another. Such a powerful and passionate love, that isn’t perfect, but their love for one another is so strong that it will conquer all. Diana Gabaldon had some amazing dialogue moments between the two, and some quotes just speak volumes to the reader, such as:

“When the day shall come, when we do part, if my last words are not ‘I love you’-ye’ll ken it was because I didn’t have time.”  or a personal favourite of mine:

““D’ye ken that the only time I am without pain is in your bed, Sassenach? When I take ye, when I lie in your arms-my wounds are healed, then, my scars forgotten.” Sigh.

Now having said all that, I do also notice that although Claire and Jamie have such a beautiful love, it is an all encompassing one, where at times, no one else will get a look in. For example when it comes to Brianna and choosing between her and Jamie, most often or not Claire will always go with Jamie. For example not informing Brianna that she had known about Jamie’s plan to seek revenge on Stephen Bonnet. Or her following Jamie to battle, which I know she is needed to provide medical attention to those who are injured, but at the same time, she still is abandoning her child. I do realise that Brianna is an adult but still, I find myself at odds with my reaction to these things, as I want her to always be with Jamie but at the same time I feel sorry for Brianna. I really would like if there were more mother/daughter bonding moments for these two, as I feel there aren’t nearly as many Brianna/Claire scenes as others. Also, Claire FINALLY informs Jamie of Laoghaire’s role in the witch hunt from the first book. I thought I would be delighted about this, but when she eventually does tell Jamie, it is so anti-climatic and apart from Jamie calling her a few choice words, the matter is soon forgotten about. Nonetheless Claire is an amazing woman, it has to be said. Her need to solve every ailment is admirable and I love her chapters as they are so full of medical and herbal medicinal knowledge, it is like the reader feels as though they are in training to be a doctor. I adore learning about the various healing properties of plants Claire comes across.

Jamie, sigh, is there anything this man cannot do. He is what every man needs to compare themselves to in my opinion, which is tough on men, I must say. Jamie is a hero, he is the best kind of father and he is an excellent laird. However, once again it bothers me that his constant need to help others comes first, when the reader just wants him to be happy, living a simple life with Claire and his family. One moment that really infuriated me, was Jamie jumping to the conclusion that Claire was cheating on him with Philip Wylie! For the love of God, why would anyone cheat on Jamie! What a ninny. Also then to try to seek retribution by challenging Wylie to a game of cards, in which he demands Claire’s gold wedding ring from Frank to play with, is utterly insulting. Ugh MEN!!! For such a smart man, he is a dimwit at times. Another example being his reaction to hearing that Laoghaire is engaging in amorous relations with an unknown man, and being upset that she enjoyed it with this man but not with Jamie. If I were Claire, I would have found the nearest object and bashed Jamie over the head with it. Honestly she was too understanding in this circumstance, I felt her reaction was a bit unrealistic . 

The background characters in this novel were amazing. The character of Philip Wylie both intrigued and annoyed me. His persistent attention to Claire was unnerving at times, but he had a part to play in the story that was quite interesting, although I am still unsure if he is a good guy or not. Jocasta Cameron’s role in this story was so fascinating and I loved the storyline about the gold from the failed uprising in Scotland. I really feel that it tied the plots of the last few books together on the score of the lost treasure. I never could have guessed where the author was going with that storyline. So for me, it was excellent. I also loved how Claire’s little medical diary from Dr. Rawlings, actually became something of import and it was a nice ending to that story. The sudden re-entry of Geilis and Dougal’s son in the midst of the battle of Alamance, was an excellent move by the author. The scene in which William MacKenzie attempts to get Roger killed for kissing his wife Morag, provided such tension and an edge of your seat moment to the story, I felt as if I had gone asleep and reawakened when reading this scene and the rest of the book from this moment onwards. That is how powerful it was. I also loved the colourful collection of characters in ‘Fraser’s Ridge’, the housekeeper Mrs Bug reminds me so much of Mrs Fitz and it was nice to have a maternal character like this in the books once more. 

Once again I will say there wasn’t enough story lines given to characters such as Fergus and Marsali. I really would love if there was a spin off series about Fergus’ adventures, as I think he is such an intriguing character. He goes on all these expeditions for Jamie, that I feel his story hasn’t been properly told yet. Although there was more mentioned of Marsali in this book, I really wish the author had delved deeper into the character of Marsali and how she overcame her hatred of Claire, as this isn’t really explained in the story, save a sentence which basically said all was forgiven. 

What really worked well in this novel for me was the insertion of humour in random scenes. For example when Claire is teaching Jamie about sperm and looking at it under the microscope, this was such a hilarious scene and it allowed the reader to see Jamie almost as an innocent, his disbelief that this is what causes pregnancy was so adorable.

“I just didna ken that….er….that all this daffery was going on. I thought….well, I thought a man plants his seed into a woman’s belly, and it….well…grows…you know-like a seed. Neeps, corns, melons, and the like. I dinna ken they swim like tadpoles” (Pgs 564-565)

Another scene which I found hilarious was Brianna and Claire taking down the huge buffalo. It reminded me of Xena the warrior princess for some reason. Who needs men to do the dirty work! The description of Jamie observing this killing of the Buffalo with his mouth agape was so entertaining. Another entertaining scene was in the midst of Jamie and Claire’s detective work in discovering whether the slave was murdered and by whom, Claire was performing the autopsy of the slave and Jamie is so skittish, proving that even heroes can be scared. Also the involvement of the offspring of the Fraser clan. Jemmy and Germain regularly provided much needed light hearted moments in scenes of seriousness. 

Overall I love this instalment of the series. I was fascinated by the history and the events that are leading up to the American Revolution. As I have mentioned in a previous review, I find American history most intriguing and having studied it in university, it’s so interesting to observe how the author creatively ties this period of history into her story lines so effectively. Having read other reviews of this novel, I do understand others confusion as to what is going on in the novel at times, some events are quite stagnated and it is difficult to remember what id going on at times. I myself found the first half of the novel quite slow moving, there were so many chapters on the gathering that I felt probably could have been shortened.

However, I have a theory that the author does this on purpose, she is creatively building the suspense to lead up to a major event. Sometimes details that are not clear in one of her books, become clear in the next. For example, the skull found in ‘Drums of Autumn’ now has a story to tell in this novel. Random events that occur in this book are there to portray a moral argument or an inner battle a character is having. For example the storyline with the Beardsleys, when reading this chapter, I was so confused as to what this had to do with any part of the plot so far, but it was important, as it provided the reader with the heart wrenching moment when Jamie asks Claire if she wants to keep the child, due to his wanting to give Claire another child without endangering her life through a pregnancy. Claire herself is tempted by the offer but realises that the role of mother has been completed for her already, and that she now must play a different role. This scene deeply affected me and the inner struggle faced by the two characters is so emotive, it was as if I was going through this decision process myself, which is odd, I know. The second half of the novel was superb and I literally couldn’t put the book down. I was so enthralled by all the events that occurred. I also loved how the supernatural element of time travelling was revisited, with the reappearance of wee Ian, (yay, he is one of my favourite characters and I’m so delighted he is back, but also confused as to what has happened to bring him back) who has a diary in his possession that details the story of a time traveller like Claire, Brianna and Roger. 

I therefore beseech all avid readers out there to read this book. Yes it is slow moving but it does pick up pace and it provides such an exhilarating read that one almost feels shell shocked when completing it. Diana Gabaldon succeeds in making any reader crave more and more of her books. I particularly enjoyed the supernatural element is this book and how it was tied into genealogy so effectively that one does not even question it. So please avid readers, be patient with this book, it is fascinating and so worth a read. I look forward to beginning the next instalment of this awe worthy series with great excitement. 

As always, I would love to hear your feedback and opinions on my blog or twitter page.

The Avid Reader 🙂

Twitter: twitter.com/theavidreaders

The Ultimate Book List- For every kind of reader.

books_11 Genres   top_collaborati

Hello my avid readers. I recently received a message from a follower who wanted me to give them a list of great books that I had read across the genres. From fiction to non-fiction, from history to romance, there are multiple, books that I would definitely recommend, including many I have already reviewed on this blog.

This question has really motivated me to reflect and ponder what it is about a book, that makes it stand out against all others? The answer is simple. A great book allows the reader to be transported to a different era, a different world, with magical characters that evoke such emotions that when reading, it is impossible not to feel that you know the people involved as if they were your neighbours, your best friends, your family or your crushes.

So with this in mind, I have deduced a number of books (that I have hastily remembered, so if I leave out a few I will add at another time) that reflect this theory of mine and will list them below according to their genre and author. It is also important to note that not all who read these books will have the same reaction to them as I did, it is after all my own personal opinion. However as an avid reader, who has collected and read hundreds if not thousands of books since a very young age, I would say I have become an expert on what makes a good book tick for me.  

Therefore my avid readers, I hope you enjoy the list below (in no particular order of preference) and also I can’t think of all books at the moment so if I remember more in the meantime I’ll add it to the list. Once again the list represents my own personal opinion of the best books I have read and as such it does not represent the opinions of the wider world. If you have any further queries or opinions, please do not hesitate to contact me on this blog or on my twitter page.

Happy reading!

The Avid Reader 🙂 

Genres                                            Book Title                                            Author

Historical Fiction                          Outlander (series)                               Diana Gabaldon 

(please note some                         The Century Trilogy                             Ken Follett

of these books                               The Bronze Horseman                          Paullina SImons

can come under                             The Last Summer                                 Judith Kinghorn

romance genre  also)                      Mariana                                                Susanna Kearsley

                                                        Sophia’s Secret                                   Susanna Kearsley

                                                        The American Heiress                         Daisy Goodwin

                                                        The Distant Hours                               Kate Morton

                                                        World Without End                              Ken Follett

                                                        Pillars of the Earth                               Ken Follett

                                                       The Quantock Quarter                         Ruth Elwin Harris

                                                       The Other Boleyn Girl                          Phillipa Gregory

                                                        The Bridgerton Series*                        Julia Quinn

                                                        Wallflower Series*                               Lisa Kleypas

* meaning particularly laden with romance genre if you catch my meaning 😉

Romance                                     Tully (controversial)                           Paullina Simons 

                                                     Pride and Prejeudice*                        Jane Austen

                                                     Persuasion*                                        Jane Austen

                                                     Mansfield Park*                                  Jane Austen

                                                     Wuthering Heights*                            Emily Bronte (can’t do dots on e)

                                                     Garden Spells                                     Sarah Addison Allen

                                                     The Notebook                                     Nicholas Sparks

                                                     Sugar Daddy                                       Lisa Kleypas

                                                     Bridget Jones’ Diary                           Helen FIelding

* meaning it has historical fiction elements.

Thriller                                     The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo              Stieg Larsson

                                                 The Millennium Trilogy                            Steig Larsson

                                                  Eye Of The Needle                                   Ken Follett

                                                  Jackdaws                                                  Ken Follett

                                                  Hornet Flight                                            Ken Follett

Paranormal                              Sookie Stackhouse Series                  Charlaine Harris

                                                  Mercy Thompson Series                     Patricia Briggs

                                                  Georgian Kincaid Series                     Richelle Mead

                                                   Any of her books                                Simon St. James

                                                  Elena Michaels Series                         Kelley Armstrong

                                                  The Vampire Chronicles                       Anne Rice

Steam-punk                            The Parasol Protectorate Series          Gail Carriger

                                                 Clockwork Agents                                Kate Cross

 * all have supernatural and historical fiction elements to them

Sci-fi/Fantasy                          A song of Ice and Fire series              George R. R. Martin.

                                                 The Hunger Games Trilogy*                 Suzanne Collins

                                                 Divergent Trilogy*                                  Veronica Roth                              

 * meaning young adult genre also

Young Adult                             The Vampire Diaries*                            L.J SMith

                                                   The Mortal Instruments                       Cassandra Clare

                                                   The Infernal Devices                            Cassandra Clare

                                                    Divergent Trilogy                                 Veronica Roth

                                                    Harry Potter Series                               J.K Rowling

                                                    Beautiful Creatures                              Kami Garcia

                                                    The Secret Circle series                       L.J Smith

                                                    The Night World Series                        L.J Smith

                                                    Eragon                                                  Christopher Paolini

                                                   Strange Angels Series                         Lili St. Crow

PLEASE NOTE: I will add more books to list as I remember some more or if I read newer books that I find are exceptional. ALSO: Apologies for how this layout looks, for some reason when I press publish, the whole list starts going all over the place! will try to fix asap.

Twitter:  twitter.com/theavidreaders    

Blameless by Gail Carriger

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Book: Blameless

Author: Gail Carriger

Rating: 8.5/10

Oh I do love a good paranormal romance and Gail Carriger has provided me with such a wonderful medium through which I can avidly partake in my new found admiration of the supernatural, steampunk genre. I am of course speaking about Ms. Carriger’s fantastic book series ‘The Parasol Protectorate’ which follows the adventures of Alexia Maccon, Lady Woolsey, Muhjah to Queen Victoria’s shadow council, oh and of course a preternatural. For those of you who have yet to read the series, I suggest you begin reading it straight away, and also do not go any further in reading of this review as it will contain spoilers. 

To begin my review on ‘Blameless’ I must be honest and admit that it was not the best in the series to date, but this is only due to the fact that I found the last instalment in the series, ‘Changeless’, so bloody brilliant, and the fact that it ended on such a cliffhanger moment, meant that I was so excited to get my hands on the next book. ‘Blameless’ is also a great read,  but It is hard not to compare this book to its predecessor. Also the main issue in this book, which I will go into detail about in my next paragraph, is so very frustrating and as it is a prevalent issue throughout the novel. That feeling of annoyance lingered from the beginning to nearly the end of the novel for me personally.

Alexia Maccon, has once again found herself in a major scandal. This is unsurprising, as a fiery and audacious preternatural (which is the ability to revert the supernatural set to their human forms with just a touch, also lacking in soul), trouble always follows Alexia wherever she may go. Following the major cliffhanger that occurred in the last book, Alexia now finds herself fired from the shadow council, shunned by London society, and cast out by her beloved werewolf husband, the dashing but complete and utter idiot, Lord Conall Maccon due to what Alexia herself calls an ‘inconvenience’ (trying not to ruin the plot here). Her so called family, the painfully annoying, Loontwills will not even believe Alexia. With no one else to turn to, Alexia at first flees to her dearest friend, Lord Akeldama, her flamboyant vampire friend, who has always provided her with words of wisdom and support. However on arriving at his residence, Alexia soon realises all is not what it seems, for Lord Akeldama has vanished with his drones. Following this, attempts begin to be made on Alexia’s life by vampires, Alexia soon has had enough. Why has this happened to her? Why are the vampires trying to kill her? and why does her fool of a husband not realise the truth of the situation, and instead of protecting her, as any respectable husband would, Alexia has to turn to others for help.

Alexia is left with no other solution, but to flee. With the companionship of her friend, hat maker, suit wearer and inventor, Madame Genevieve Lefoux and her mysterious and secretive butler, Floote, Alexia travels to Italy, her father’s homeland in search of information regarding her inconvenience, what it means to be a preternatural and also information regarding her father. In this epic adventure, Alexia crosses paths with mechanical lady bugs, anti-social Templar knights, delicious pesto and terribly orange landscapes, all in search for answers to her questions. Meanwhile back in London, Professor Lyall, has been left in somewhat of a tizzy. Lord Maccon has decided that alcohol is the only way to fix his heartbreak and so it left to Professor Lyall to try to solve the mystery of what exactly is going on with the vampires, who have all gone into hiding since Alexia’s departure, while also trying to run the pack. 

Needless to say, this novel provides numerous moments of dramatic flair that Ms Carriger is so talented in creating. Her humour and wit as an author, also provide for great laugh out loud moments. The reader however, also witnesses a new side of emotions, Alexia, who usually is always upbeat and witty, is now in this novel, quite devastated and depressed with her situation. This has allowed the reader to see Alexia’s vulnerability for what I believe is the first time. She never realised how much she relied on Conall and how much she allowed him to get under her skin, and now to be abandoned by him so suddenly, without even giving her a chance to explain, has altogether left her quite broken hearted. In relation to the character of Conall, who I loved in the previous two novels, and whose hot headedness and rowdy nature was always compelling to me, has now become a complete and utter ninny in my eyes. I understand that Alexia’s issue is quite difficult to understand, I understand one might feel overwhelmed by such events, but really, to literally accuse your wife of doing such ill deeds without even trying to see things from her point of view is completely inexcusable to me. They are both paranormal creatures after all, and I find it difficult to believe that he, as a werewolf alpha and leader of the BUR, wouldn’t ever think to believe that such events could happen, is beyond me. This is a major issue for me throughout the novel, and one that does not get solved until the very end. Conall’s way of dealing with the issue is to get rip roaring drunk on any occasion possible, instead of doing the extremely obvious solution, which is going to Italy and finding Alexia and protecting her from danger. My frustration with his behaviour slightly took away from the whole reading experience as a result. 

However I really did love how past characters played a more pivotal role in this novel. Madame Lefoux, having now eased up a bit on her insistent flirting with Alexia, is so much more charming in this novel. In fact her stubborn support of Alexia regardless of what society is saying about her, is so admirable and one almost wishes one had her as a dear friend. Floote, who always was in the background in the previous novels, is now not only more interesting in this novel, but he is a gun-slinging hero. Whoever would have thought! However his mysteriousness continues, whatever role he played in Alexia’s father’s life, he will still not confess. I also have taken an interest in the character of Major Channing, Conall’s pack gamma, who turns up in the most unlikely places and becomes altogether more attractive in my eyes, rescuing Alexia at numerous occasions. The overall best character has to be that of Professor Lyall however. For the first time we are given an in depth look into events from his perspective, and for me he is the true hero of the story, working behind the scenes to help Conall and Alexia. His protective nature is so admirable and his unending compassion for others, for me personally makes this novel such a success.

However I did miss the outrageousness of Lord Akeldama, who was missing from the novel until near the end. However I understand this might have been done by the author to allow for a more in depth look at other characters for a change. His humour and fashion was missed most terribly nonetheless. Speaking of humour, the character of Ivy, now Ivy Tunstall, was quite timid in this novel compared to the last. I missed her regular bizarre moments and silliness that she used to have with Alexia and genuinely felt her lack of presence and ditzyness throughout the novel. Also, I must say I was disappointed with how quickly the book ends and feel that another chapter of two would have sufficed to sum things up most effectively, whilst allowing Alexia to really make Conall pay for his stupidity.

Overall I did love this book, I love the world Gail Carriger creates. I adore her wit and have regularly been left guffawing and chortling on certain outrageously funny moments in the novel. She is certainly an author to be reckoned with and I love how easy it is to immerse yourself into her world of books. These novels are so cleverly written and one is regularly comparing her to the likes of Jane Austen. Although this is not my favourite book in the series, it is still indeed a great read and one I would recommend. I again congratulate Ms Carriger on such a clever take of the paranormal world. 

As always I look forward to your comments and opinions,

The Avid Reader 🙂

Twitter: twitter.com/theavidreaders

Changeless (#2 novel in the Parasol Protectorate series) by Gail Carriger

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Book: Changeless

Author: Gail Carriger

Rating: 9.8/10

What a positively, entertaining, hilarious, suspenseful and thoroughly enjoyable read. I must declare myself utterly tickled following my latest reading experience of Gail Carriger’s ‘Changeless’. I also am of the opinion this novel is the best in the series. If you are a fan of the supernatural, steam-punk, and Victorian era  genres, then I beseech you avid readers look no further then the cleverly put together works of Ms. Gail Carriger. The author is an altogether genius at merging these genres together in a manner so utterly entertaining, the reader will be positively craving the next instalment of the Parasol Protectorate series.

As with the first novel in the series, we meet the feisty, intelligent and altogether gutsy character of Alexia Maccon, now the Lady Woolsey, on yet another daring adventure. Having been honoured with the role of ‘Muhjah’ by Queen Victoria, which is a position on the Queen’s top secret shadow council that deals with supernatural, political affairs, Alexia is thrown into yet another mystery to which her preternatural powers come in to question. This time the mystery consists of a rather strange wave of  unsupernaturalness, as I would like to put it, is plaguing the supernatural set and reverting them to their previous mortal state, which is altogether quite unseemly for them. Alexia’s husband, the wonderfully gruff and ruggedly handsome, Lord Conall Maccon, has simply up and disappeared to Scotland in quest of this mystery and also an issue with an old werewolf pack of his.

Alexia is left to her own devices, which readers of the previous book will know, will never end well. With her unusual taste in friends as allies, she decides to take matters into her own hands and solve the mystery herself. With a recently purchased, ugly, but supernatural battling efficient parasol, Alexia finds herself facing danger from all sides and also more knowledge on exactly what being a preternatural entails.

Old and new characters alike aid the exhilarating plot. The author also challenges society viewpoints at the time for example Madame Lefoux, a woman inventor and scientist, who not only dresses like a man but regularly bequeaths Alexia with amorous advances, which is an altogether refreshing aspect to read for a novel set in a stuffy, annoyingly polite Victorian society.  The reader also observes a more in depth look at certain characters from the first novel such as the charming Professor Lyall, the eccentric and preposterous Lord Akeldama, as well as Alexia’s best friend, the entertainingly senseless Ivy Hisselpenny. The novel also shows the beautiful relationship that exists between Alexia and Conall, and how newly married life is treating them. They are both learning how to relate to one another and it is truly like these characters are dear friends, the reader is granted the ability to observe their playful and fiery relationship.

So yet again, Gail Carriger provides the reader with an endearing romance, come supernatural, come steam-punk novel that is so hard to put down. The author’s talent lies in her use of humour, which permeates every page of the book for example, in a scene chronicling an unfortunate incident Alexia gets herself into, the author plays out the events in such hilarious fashion, and I will now quote from page 176 of the novel, an exchange between Alexia and her friend Ivy:

“But honestly Alexia, I do not mean to be boorish, but you do realize that your underdrawers are exposed to the night air, not to mention the public view?” 

“Ivy, I am hanging on for dear life to the side of a floating dirigible, leagues up in the aether. Even you must admit there are some instances wherein protocol should be relaxed”

“But why?”

“Ivy, I fell, obviously”

I still giggle incessantly at this scene in the book and there are many others just the same throughout the novel.

I therefore beseech all you avid readers out there, to go purchase a copy of this book series. It will not disappoint and I thoroughly await the ability to discuss it with you all once read. Gail Carriger is a force to be reckoned with in the world of steam punk and the supernatural. I dare you to disagree.

As always, comment or tweet me your opinions,

The Avid Reader 🙂 

Soulless (Parasol Protectorate #1) by Gail Carriger.

images soulless

Rating: 9.5/10

Book: Soulless By Gail Carriger.

It has been quite awhile since I last wrote a review on a novel of the supernatural genre, as always when reading books filled with vampires and werewolves alike, it can be quite difficult to encounter a story that is well written, innovative and has not been ‘Twilighted’ as I would like to call it. This novel definitely accomplishes this. And what’s more, it combines the supernatural with steam-punk and comedy! yes you read that correctly, this book will have the reader in fits of giggles quite regularly over it’s flamboyant and entertaining characters who range from vampires, werewolves, ghosts and other such preternaturals. Even in it’s darkest moments the author manages to incorporate a wicked sense of humour and an impressive supply of sarcasm that hooks the reader from the very first line. For fans of Austen, Downton Abbey and Steampunk, with a slight hint of Bridget Jones’s diary, this is the book for you! It is the ultimate chick lit, a guilty pleasure you cannot put down and having read the novel twice already in the last two years, it is a must. I must admit I had not heard of the Steampunk genre before the discovery of this book series, I obviously must have been living under a rock as it clearly has a huge fan base and tends to go hand in hand with the supernatural genus but this novel is successful in making these two categories quite normal.

In the novel itself, society has allowed the integration of the supernatural set. The author’s depiction of Victorian society is utterly brilliant. The vampires are ruled by their queen in hives, the werewolves are led by their Alpha, and the humans are ruled by none other than Queen Victoria. Even a supernatural police force exists, called the B.U.R (the Bureau of Unnatural Registry). The novel actually tends to elude to the politics at the time quite effectively and the involvement of the supernatural set in politics, which should be a ridiculous theory to begin with, is astoundingly normalised. The reader will even see a class protocol with the vampires and werewolves which is also quite intriguing. In fact after the first chapter, the reader ceases to question a realistic society. I do believe that this emphasises the sheer talent and courage of the author to take on such a radical take on the supernatural genre. Ms. Carriger incorporates the history of the time and it’s norms quite effectively.

As to the wonderful characters in the story, they are simply magnificent. From page one the reader encounters the impressive, charming character of Alexia Tarabotti. I do believe Alexia is quite the feminist. When society at the time dictated women to be altogether demure and prudish, Alexia counters this entirely. She’s brash and radical, a spinster at the tender age of twenty six, due to her Italian appearance and curvaceous figure. Alexia however is quite fed up with the norms society dictates. She possesses a brain, which at the time was considered quite a mortal sin for women. She has an altogether entertaining obsession for tea and cakes and these two things are of the utmost importance for this character throughout the story. Her interest in the latest and greatest science inventions earns her the despair of her mother, Mrs Loontwill (for she remarried after Alexia’s father’s death) who worries that her eldest daughter’s anarchistic behaviour will damage the future prospects of her younger sisters. What her mother does not seem to realise, as she is a complete and utter ninny, is that her daughter is anything but normal, she is not exactly human either. Alexia Tarabotti is a preternatural, a soul sucker, with the ability to turn any kind of supernatural creature back to their human form.  Alexia inherited this astonishing gift from her late Italian father, a gift her mother, half sisters and step-father have no knowledge of. Of course with characteristics such as these, is it any wonder that Alexia Tarabotti finds herself in the most ridiculous yet dangerous positions.

It is at this point in the novel the reader meets the intimidating and dashing Lord Conall Maccon, the Earl of Woolsey, the alpha werewolf of the London pack and also a member of the B.U.R. Lord Maccon and Alexia did not get off to a good start, and at the beginning of the novel, she continues to frustrate him with her incessant ability of involving herself in matters she should not. Of course it is obvious to the reader that Lord Maccon is to become the love interest for Alexia, the two are too stubborn to recognise this however. Lord Maccon is over two hundred years old, although a werewolf and Scottish to boot (gasp), despite all this, he is considered quite a catch in this London society. The author quite regularly describes his physique in the tall dark and handsome category, one must admit that his animal magnetism does wonders for his character. His arguments with Alexia are thoroughly entertaining and Alexia, even though she has no werewolf qualities at all, is a force to be reckoned with.

One cannot write a review on this novel without mentioning the wide range of other colourful, charming character that permeate the pages of the book. From the gallant, wise Professor Lyall, who is Maccon’s beta and his advisor to the loud, eccentric, flamboyant and quirky vampire friend of Alexia’s called Lord Akeldama. Lord Akeldama is a rove vampire, meaning he does not wish to be part of the local hive and instead lives alone with a dapper group of drones. Lord Akeldama is an old friend of Alexia, and takes great pleasure from her preternatural abilities when most supernaturals view them with terror, as with one touch she can render them helpless. Quirky seems to be a trait that Ms. Tarabotti searches for in her friends as we also meet the hilarious character of Ivy Hisselpenny, a dear friend of Alexia’s who is not in the same social standing but is Alexia’s confidante in all things ridiculous. Ivy is also quite notable for her vast array of wacky hats which are anything but the norm and the bane of Alexia’s existence. Another important character to note is that of Alexia’s butler, Mr. Floote. A butler the Loontwills inherited from Alexia’s father. Floote is always on hand to aide Alexia in whatever way he can, and seems to have a mysterious past with Alexia’s father which isn’t really properly developed in this book but will be mentioned in the books to follow in the series. He is altogether reminiscent to Mr. Carson in Downton Abbey, he is aware of everything that goes on and knows when his presence is required. It is clear he has a soft spot for Alexia also in a fatherly manner. Although he rarely speaks in the book his presence is pivotal. 

This novel encapsulates everything a girl could want in a supernatural novel. It has a love story that will stand the test of time, an array of magical and colourful characters (supernatural and human alike), a great historical background and a wide range of entertaining scenarios that will leave the reader gasping for air following a serious bout of the giggles. The villains in the story, take the form of a group of scientists and activists who wish to perform tests on the supernatural set so as to eradicate them. It is a tale of utter brilliance and I do personally feel that one is losing out if you have not read this novel. For the characters of Alexia and Maccon are the heartbeat of the story and portray a love story that supplies endless flirtation and arguments that will leave any reader amused. 

I do not wish to delve any deeper into the plot for fear of ruining it for future readers, but I must implore any avid readers of the supernatural genre to pick up a copy as soon as possible, for this is one story you do not want to miss. It is the ultimate holiday read or something to curl up beside the fire with a cup of tea. It is a light hearted tale and does not require much from the reader itself. Gail Carriger is perhaps one of my favourite authors for this reason, when one is faced with books that require a lot of time and concentration, Ms. Carriger offers instead, a novel that has oodles of laughs without the need to invest too much. 

As always, I look forward forward to your comments and opinions. 

The Avid Reader 🙂

Twitter: twitter.com/theavidreaders

Voyager- Number 3 in the Outlander series.

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Book: Voyager by Diana Gabaldon.

Rating: 8/10

Well….that…..was……interesting. Let me begin by saying this book series has continued to shock me on every single level. However I am not sure if this is a good kind of shock in the case of this book. I avidly raced through this book out of pure perseverance (I read it in 24 hours!) and then found myself reluctant to write a review about it as I feel quite a traitor in the prospect of writing a negative view. I realise I have rated this book an 8/10 but it probably deserves only a 7 or 7.5 but loyalty to the book series and to the wonderful author Diana Gabaldon, keeps me from doing so. The first two books were perhaps my favourite books of all time, that is how much they have impacted on me. If you are an avid fan of adventure, romance, mystery, murder, crime and comedy (with a Scottish twist), then these are simply the only books for you. Diana Gabaldon is a genius, everyone knows that, her writing is pure magic! However, it pains me to admit, I had many issues in this adventure of our much beloved Frasers. The novel itself will take you through a wave of emotions from sighing with pleasure to extreme frustration (to such an extent one wants to throw the book against a wall). This novel should almost be in it’s own series separate to the first two books, it is COMPLETELY different from the previous two and unfortunately this cannot compare to it’s predecessors. I understand there will always be a supernatural element to these books, but I shockingly have to admit there was just too much of this element in this story. Shocking. Without further ado I will begin my review of the third instalment of the Outlander series.

In the electrifying ending of the previous novel, we left our heroine Claire Randall in an altogether aghast state as her historian friend, Roger, had just informed her that her darling Jamie had not perished in the battle of Culloden as she had previously presumed. So with the help of Roger and her Amazonian sounding red haired daughter Brianna, Claire begins to finally track down Jamie’s whereabouts. Now I do realized I am contradicting myself when in my review of the previous novel in the series, I had stated that it annoyed me when people complain about how dragged out some chapters of Gabaldon’s stories are, as often she is doing this on purpose to set up the novel for later important events. In this case I must admit I am of the total opposite opinion. The chapters where Claire is tracking down Jamie are altogether lagging. They comprise of first hand accounts from the characters of Claire and Roger and a whole lot of flashbacks to life after Jamie on Claire’s part. While the flashbacks of Claire’s life post leaving Jamie are interesting, in order to gauge the effect her time travelling has had on her relationship with Frank, they are often too dragged out and I found myself wanting to skip on to the next chapter quite a bit. When Claire finally makes the decision to go back through time to find her Jamie, the reader might find themselves gritting their teeth and raging at her stupidity for not having done this much earlier.

The reader then gets a glimpse of what life has been like for Jamie Fraser since the tragic battle of Culloden. He of course survived, despite all odds against him, and returns home to Lallybroch to be nursed back to health by his sister Jenny (who I have a new found hatred of, but I’ll explain that later). He lives the life of an outlaw, hiding out from English soldiers until eventually after years of hiding in a cave (literally) he decides to give himself up for the greater good of providing his family and home with the money to ensure their survival throughout the famine in Scotland. Jamie is sent to a prison where he strikes up an odd friendship with John Grey (a character who appeared in the last novel) the English warden of the jail. John appears to be in love with Jamie (which I feel personally doesn’t fit well in the story as we already had the character of Jack Randall for this role). Following release from prison Jamie, Instead of getting shipped off as a slave to the Americas, is placed in Hellwater, thanks to John Grey, an estate of friend’s of John’s family which will allow Jamie to once again work with horses while also allowing John the ability to keep Jamie close. Jamie faces many issues at this estate including the stuck up daughter of his employer who does everything in her power to seduce Jamie, resulting in blackmail if he does not bed her. This part of the story is quite dragged out but the most important event that occurs in these chapters is that Jamie fathers a child, Willie. The boy begins to develop a likeness to Jamie and as a result Jamie must leave to seek his fortune elsewhere. So he decides to becomes a smuggler of alcohol under the false name and identity of a printer called Alexander Malcolm. It is in this role that our star-crossed lovers Claire and Jamie finally reunite.

The reunion itself for me personally lacked something. Yes Claire cried, yes Jamie cried, yes they jumped each other’s bones but the reader is left feeling a but uncomfortable. It has been twenty years since these characters were last together, and their reunion is kind of awkward and sheepish. It is clear that both Jamie and Claire have changed, this is most evident in Jamie. Our quick to smile and joke, loveable rogue has instead become quite aloof and there is a darkness to him that seems a bit unnerving. The two settle into each other’s lives quite quickly though and promise to be honest with each other and love one another for the rest of their days. But one always realises that when Claire and Jamie are together, trouble soon follows and it does. Twists and turns are to the fore in the novel and Jamie’s past literally comes back to haunt him much to the reader’s disbelief and utter frustration. Jamie has not been as honest with Claire regarding his past, which confronts Claire on return to Lallybroch. Jamie not only married someone else but he married HER…..Laoghaire!! Yes the little scheming witch managed to dig her claws into Jamie but Jamie promises Claire he has not been living a proper married life and only supports Laoghaire and her two daughters, from a previous marriage, financially. Readers beware, you will find yourself shrieking at the book in utter annoyance throughout these scenes.

In order to rid himself of Laoghaire and pursue a life with Claire that he has always wanted, Jamie and Claire with the help of Jamie’s nephew Ian, embark on a quest for the lost treasure of the Jacobite rebellion, a treasure that came from France and the English are desperate to get their hands on, but Jamie requires in order to pay his debts. Of course this quest would never be easy for our star-crossed lovers and so after the kidnapping of Ian and the loss of the treasure, Jamie and Claire find themselves going across the seas to try reclaim their lost treasure….oh and Jamie’s nephew I suppose. The novel then embarks on a ridiculous but still entertaining journey full of ridiculous pirates, a witch, a slave trade, an unhinged woman, vodoo ceremonies, a serial killer, a random Chinese man who I still fail to see the point of, backstabbing, rape, storms at sea and of course the ever present Scottish charm as Jamie and Claire fight for not only their survival, but their relationship and future also. I do not wish to examine the plot any further than this as I wish the reader to experience the jaw dropping events that are both totally unbelievable and yet one can’t help continuing to read in odd fascination.

I begrudgingly have to admit that I found most events in this novel completely unrealistic and downright ridiculous at times. I felt instead of wallowing in the beauty of the romance between Jamie and Claire, like in previous novels, I instead was immersed in a ‘Pirates of the Carrivbean’ movie with absurd characters who should never have been able to cross paths with the pivotal characters of Jamie and Claire. Certain points of the plot I can’t even begin to understand such as in their search for Ian, Jamie and Claire manage to do a wide range of other things such as go to balls, keep a Chinese man in check and help Fergus (a character from the previous novel) marry, whilst engaging in their usual amorous activities when really they should be focusing their attentions on finding Jamie’s nephew! Not a worry in the world at times with these two. Even the situations that Claire finds herself in, as her outspokenness always gets her in trouble, were altogether absurd and I found myself wondering was I in fact reading the same novel or a slapstick comedy. 

So as to the major issues with this novel. The first for me has to be Claire’s inability to have searched for the records of what had happened to Jamie sooner. For if she had she would have realised he had survived and wouldn’t have wasted so much bloody time away from him. Granted I know that she had a daughter in the meantime and couldn’t necessarily leave her all alone but by God woman, how can you be so stupid! Instead she chose to live an insipid life with Frank ‘the swine’ Randall, who doesn’t just mistreat her, no that would be too easy for the ba****d. Instead, he has affairs left right and centre and then has the audacity to demand Claire to allow him to take Brianna with him on his return to England after he finally decides to pluck up the courage to leave Claire. Well if ever I wished to be transported through a book so I could castrate a character, this was one of those moments! 

Another major issue is that of Jamie Fraser. No doubt he is a loveable rogue, but his desire to help all those around him instead of himself is getting altogether nonsensical at this point. To such an extent does he do this that he manages to land himself in jail, ends up married to an absolute spoiled, whiney, cantankerous woman and then decides to become a smuggler. Clearly without Claire his life means nothing to him but by God, have some dignity man! I don’t understand why life as a criminal was the role Jamie had to turn to. I don’t think this meshes well with background of Jamie’s character across the series either. Obviously he is no saint and can’t be expected to wait twenty years for Claire, and remain chaste, but his entanglements are so over the top in such an eye rolling manner. As mentioned in my review of the previous book, I cannot forgive Mrs. Gabaldon for allowing me to feel such hate for the Jamie at times. His inability to be honest with Claire from the outset is utterly frustrating, He blatantly lies all the time! I do realise that the author does this to rationalise that simply coming back into each others lives after twenty years, is no easy feat, but regularly portraying Jamie in this light is damaging, not only to the character of Jamie, but the romance element of the novel also. At times it appears that Jamie seems to have no respect or care for Claire at all, he does not care how he may be hurting her or how damaging his actions are to their relationship.

As to Claire herself, I found her character quite insipid in this novel. It’s as if all the fight has gone out of her. This is evident in the scenes where Jamie finally confesses his past to Claire. Once the initial dispute is out of the way, Claire forgives Jamie rather too quickly stating that she is guilty of moving on in her life with Frank too, when it is hardly the same thing. And again when Claire finally uncovers the truth regarding Jamie’s other child Willie, Claire seems to accept Jamie’s excuses even after blatantly lying to her for so long. After all they have gone through as characters throughout the series,  I mean they share a child together and supposedly would die for each other, this just does not sit well with me at all. I also think they use sex way too much to cloud over their issues. It also seems a tad odd that at fifty, Claire seems to be as irresistible looking as she was in her twenties, all the power to her and all but is it not a bit unrealistic, she apparently doesn’t even have grey hair.

The final issue I would like to point out is the overuse of characters. There are much too many names to follow in this novel. I in fact question the need for certain characters at all such as Mr. Willoughby, the random Chinese man who seems only exists in the novel to annoy readers or maybe to point out the racial issues that existed at the time. The character of John Grey, I also had issues with. His character appeared before as an English teenage soldier in the previous novel, who is now enamoured by Jamie but thankfully not in a disturbing Black Jack Randall. As to his point in this novel, I have not a notion. I think his character is altogether useless and is almost a main character in the story without deserving to be. I think the author has set him up to be an even bigger character in books to follow but I just don’t understand the fascination with him, maybe the author just wished to have a nice gay character in the story after the sadistic horror of Jack Randall. There was also a re-emergence of many old characters such as the beloved gang from Jamie’s home town. The Murray clan has expanded somewhat as Jenny and Ian senior, have a huge brood of children, who now are grown up and some have children of their own. I think the biggest disappointment is the character of Jenny in the Lallybroch scenes. For some reason Jenny shows animosity towards Claire on her return, and it is in fact Jenny who creates the raucous between Jamie, Claire and Laoghaire and is probably responsible for Jamie getting shot. Her half arsed attempt of an explanation to Claire regarding this is dire. The sudden reappearance of Geillis Duncan, who in the first novel was a friend to Claire but in this novel is the villain, was a disappointment. I felt the author could have gone down so many routes with this character given sufficient development instead of transforming her into a plump, insane witch. There are many more characters that appear over the course of the novel but I have forgotten some already and others I wish I could forget. This is overall problem that arises with all these characters, there are just too many. There is too much going on from the beginning to the end of the novel, and quite often I found myself skipping back over the pages to clarify who a character was.

However once more Diana Gabaldon has a gift, and even with all it’s faults, I still couldn’t put this novel down. Perhaps out of my loyalty to these beloved characters or perhaps through the cleverness of the author who manages to keep you hooked from the outset and throughout. For every fault a character has in the story, they will always manage to redeem themselves towards the end of the novel. The love story that exists between Claire and Jamie is one that any reader would become addicted to. The characters is the story are for the most part brilliantly created and add to the suspense, drama and in some scenes, comedy of the story. Although the twenty year gap in events from the last novel to this one, does provide many issues, it does allow the author to experiment with the development of certain characters such as Fergus for example, who was just a child in the previous novel, who Jamie kind of adopted. But now as a man, Fergus has developed a roguish, handsome appeal that is almost contagious, although I do not think the author spent enough time developing this character. I look forward to reading more about Fergus in the novel to follow.

I hope this review does not put off future readers of ‘Voyager’, the novel still is quite entertaining in a frustrating manner. There is bucket-loads of suspense and adventure to throw at readers, perhaps a major excess of this, but despite wanting to throw the book away at times, I still found myself reopening it again moments later to furiously read on. So my dear avid readers, do give it a go but be knowledgeable on what is to come in the story, as it is truly one hell of a roller-coaster. I await the delivery of the next novel with excitement and cannot wait to delve into Claire and Jamie’s next adventure. 

As always, I look forward to your comments, please leave one below or send me a tweet!

The Avid Reader 🙂

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