Through the Stones ~ An Outlandish Companion
Four books (two more yet to come) totalling nearly 4,000 pages and one and a half million words have created a broad landscape in which lesser characters and minor facts can be quickly lost. Entranced readers gripped by the present, forgetting those seemingly unimportant past events that will affect the future of their heroes and heroines, need a guide. The Outlander series now has one.
Diana Gabaldon has written The Outlandish Companion (its title in America ~ in Europe it is Through the Stones) notionally as a guide, but it is more. It is a window into the mind of a truly creative writer, for in addition to the synopses of the first four books, to the character notes, to the genealogies, to the heraldic illustrations, to the glossaries and the horoscopes and the herbal receipts, there are notes on research, on plot development, on technique, and on perception.
The histories of the families of the principal characters are of major importance to the development of the storyline, not only for the period between the 18th and 20th centuries, but also for the generations that existed before the 18th century action begins. It is thus especially pleasing to read of those early Beauchamps whose hidden secrets will shape the action of the fifth and sixth novels, and Baronage readers will be pleased to find that the origins of the Frasers are described, unusually in a novel, as accurately as the most modern research allows.
Heraldry, too, has been given more prominence than it is usually accorded in modern books, and a serious effort has been made to overcome the limitations imposed by a lack of colour on a subject for which colour is essential. Instead of using hatching or tricking in the traditional style, the artist has adopted a more pictorial approach and employed a coded greyscale shading as the (reduced-size) picture below shows.
As Diana Gabaldon's fans know well, her principal hero is the son of Brian Fraser of Broch Tuarach, and the grandson of Simon Fraser, the infamous 11th Lord Fraser of Lovat (colloquially known as Lord Lovat). James Fraser's arms are shown to be those of his father borne first with a label and, of course, without a label after his father's death. These are those of his grandfather but, as his father was illegitimate, they are differenced by a bordure compony, a mark of cadency often used in Scotland to denote a bastard line.
|For details of the four best-selling novels to which this book is the Companion, go to the first BookPost column. (Note that European titles can be different from the American .)|
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