The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon

*Warning: this post contains spoilers.*

I finished The Scottish Prisoner last night and it’s definitely my favorite in the Lord John series. I’m going to forego a lengthy summary of the book and instead focus on the biggest impressions it had on me.

In a nutshell: it’s 1760 and Lord John is obligated to complete a task asked of him by an army comrade on his deathbed. LJ involves his brother, Hal, who then decides to involve (or rather, use) Jamie (still being held prisoner at Helwater); thus setting up the reunion of LJ and Jamie and their subsequent journey to Ireland in which they must work together to catch the bad guy and mend their own tattered relationship along the way.

While this book is actually quite sad and nothing swoon-worthy happens (which usually does when Jamie Fraser is involved), I ultimately found it to be perfectly paced, simultaneously heartwarming and heart wrenching, and above all, a treasure trove of answers to the myriad of questions surrounding Jamie’s time at Helwater.

Peat bog in Ireland

On the surface, it may seem like a fortuitous dalliance or a random snapshot into the past, but to those of us who are fully invested in the characters, it is a very important revelation of what got those characters where they are today (or, er, in 1781…) and I would say that this book is the most important – regarding character development – of all the Lord John books. Scottish Prisoner is required reading if you want to be in the Outlander fan club!

Jamie Fraser and Lord John Grey are two of my favorite characters (ever). I actually love these men. DG knew exactly what she was doing by devoting an entire novel to them…I daresay she couldn’t go wrong. Jamie and LJ are like golden retrievers: tried and true, an all-around classic. While there may be a few cliques or stereotypes surrounding them, you can’t go wrong with this breed because you’ll always have a loyal, overall good dog (who is pretty to look at) at the end of the day.

I was dying to know what happened after that infamous scene in Brotherhood of the Blade and the niggling thought of how the heck did they ever get past that? was ALWAYS floating around in the back of my mind. Therefore, I am so grateful to finally have an explanation, even though I am still amazed that Jamie did get past it. (Most. Awkward. Situation. Ever.)

This book gave me even more respect for Jamie. The expression “be the bigger man” kept popping into my head because Jamie was always doing just that. He had so much sadness weighing on him and the rawness of his longing for Claire, even after 14 years, was truly gut-wrenching. The fact that he was able to keep his head up and carry on despite the degradation to his name and character (even going so far as to help those who unjustly looked down upon him), further proved that he is a true gentleman.

One scene that I found particularly moving was when Lord John and Lord Dunsany went for a leisurely ride, towards the end of the book. Dunsany describes how the other grooms don’t make things easy for Jamie and that he keeps to himself. Things have never been easy for Jamie, but he stands strong and perseveres. But it was his relationship with William that I found most heartbreaking. He’s been removed from his family, lost his wife and child (without even laying eyes on her), lost his title and rightful authority, and on top of all this, he is forced to watch his only son (the only thing he has left in his life) from a distance and always through a veil of secrecy. And yet he cherishes the small moments and forgoes any chance of freedom to continue that shard of a relationship.

I came away with mixed emotions regarding Lord John’s position in relation to Jamie. While Jamie has the power to make him weak in the knees, LJ is still his master and (by the end of this book) holds authority over his only son as well. In the final pages, when LJ finally realizes that Jamie is in fact, William’s father, I almost got the impression that he happily saw it as another way of lording over the man. But I’m not positive of that, because I can see it many ways: it gives him an excuse to see Jamie (which he was always looking for), and even further, a lifelong connection to him. Not to mention the fact that if he were to give William the best upbringing and education possible (which we actually know to be the case), then Jamie would forever be in debt to LJ for doing what he could not. On the other hand, LJ loves Jamie and cares for him deeply, and would see in William an opportunity to show Jamie how much he loves him, since he can’t actually (physically)show him, which he would very much like to do (don’t we all). As you can see, I’ve not made up my mind on the matter just yet, but Lord John is a very complicated man, which is of course, why I love him ;)

Ruins on Inchaleraun Island, Ireland

Another storyline that I found very enlightening was that of Isobel Dunsany. I have always wondered about her marriage to Lord John, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book sheds a little light on the subject. After carrying on in a decidedly snotty and childlike manner, she experienced a very cruel and unfortunate lesson on the importance of choosing an honorable man. Luckily, it was Jamie to the rescue, but I have a feeling that Lord John’s role in comforting her and his vow to keep her secret (especially considering that this followed relatively soon after their poignant scene in Brotherhood) probably resulted in her seeing LJ from a new perspective.

In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and deep down feel like it was “for the fans,” if that makes any sense. It’s kind of crazy to think that I’m saying that about a book that doesn’t have Claire in it (!), but…so many answers! I love answers! Even if you haven’t read the other Lord John books, you really must read this one.

9 comments on “The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon

  1. Karen Henry says:

    Great review! I really enjoyed your comments.

    Just one minor thing, though: the title of the book is actually just THE SCOTTISH PRISONER. :-) The words “Lord John” don’t even appear on the front cover. It was changed from the working title of LORD JOHN AND THE SCOTTISH PRISONER a few months before it was published, in order to emphasize that this is at least as much Jamie Fraser’s story as Lord John’s.


  2. Theresa says:

    Great review — after promising myself I would savour TSP, I ended up devouring it over 2 late-night reads. I loved it too, and can’t wait to get back to my re-read to discover the little bits that I missed in my frenzy the first time! Theresa

  3. Marilyn says:

    I finished reading “The Scottish Prisoner” two days ago and I’m still caught up in the throes of the emotional drama and excitement of Jamie and L.J’s adventure…and…well…just the whole book in general. Like you say, so many questions finally answered. Kudos on your excellent synopsis and kudos to Diana G. for bringing us this wonderful story that finally fills so many “gaps”; (in the LJ series).

  4. I haven`t read any books written about Lord John, but now I think I have to start….I do not know if they are translated to norwegian, but now I start looking for them – and if not I read in english then – learning more of the language too ;-)
    Hope that all are well with both you and your husband!!!!!

  5. Julie L. says:

    What a thoughtful and insightful review! (I postponed reading it until I wrote mine.) There was so much to this book I loved and the times at Helwater and all the little moments you mentioned and his preventing the whole elopement was great. It’s a great addition to both series.

  6. Lori Riedel says:

    Spot on review! I am fortunate enough to live in the same city as DG and went to her book signing the same night TSP was released. It was as awesome as you would imagine. Re: LJ’s feelings around becoming Williams father; although LJ does not verbalize this, it felt to me as if he was overcome with the intimate feelings that come with the great responsibility and joy of caring for a child with a partner. And though, of course, not born out of a great love affair between LJ and Jamie, LJ could pretend it was, also now he has a “ligitimate” way to demonstate his love for Jaime. Thoughts?

    • Hi Lori! That’s a great way of putting it, he now has a valid reason to show interest in (and have feelings for) Jamie. I imagine that raising a child would produce feelings of pride and accomplishment, and a specific intimacy of sorts between the parents (in LJ’s mind, he and Jamie?) and I’m sure that Jamie would be ever present in the back of LJ’s mind while making major decisions about William’s future. On one hand, LJ is getting the “short end of the stick,” but on the other hand, he’s getting the privilege of raising Jamie’s only son – the one thing that Jamie probably wants more than anything. So complicated! :)

  7. Christine McCann says:

    So, I bought TSP the week it was published, but I’ve been hoarding my copy. I was contenting myself with the #DailyLines that Diana posts on Facebook & Twitter, but finally broke and had to read it this week. Devoured that puppy in 1 day. No surprise, but I LOVED it! DG is just phenomenal at creating so many characters that I want to follow and know more about and Lord John is one I adore. *sigh* So now, my young library (aka my TBR pile) is going gather a bit more dust on the back burner because I’m itching to re-read the whole series. AGAIN. ;)

    I found this post when I Googled “Lord John Grey fan club”. This was first on the list. Great review! Happy to find another Outlander fan in Nashville. Cheers!

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