Quite a while ago, I read the first of Diana Gabaldon’s novels about Lord John Grey, Lord John and the Private Matter, and was sufficiently unimpressed that it took me quite a while to get around to reading the second, Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade. However, someone mentioned that the second was much better, and so I picked it up the other day when I was in the mood.
I am happy to report that it is, indeed, a considerable improvement on the first. The plot has actual personal stakes: someone is raking up the apparent suicide of Lord John’s father after he was implicated in a treasonous plot. It’s also less of a mystery and more of a thriller, at least judging by my own notes on the first one (another indication of how unimpressed I was is that I don’t remember a thing about it). I find this also an improvement, as the book feels less convoluted as a result. Gabaldon continues to write certain sexual situations in a register that doesn’t really work for me, but that’s about my only quibble with this book, which I quite enjoyed.
Enough so that I immediately read the novella that is a direct sequel, “Lord John and the Haunted Soldier” (published in . . . the Hand of Devils). This examines one of the traumatic events of the prior book, without greatly spoiling the details of the ending (a neat trick doubtless helped by Gabaldon writing them out of order). I liked this one a great deal as well, for the portrait of Lord John and for the nicely chilling non-military subplot.
The Lord John novels aren’t dipped in quite as addictive a substance as the main Outlander series, but I like Lord John a lot and am glad to see him getting standalone stories worthy of him.