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A Bunch of Sparkles
am 9. Januar 2014
DG novellas generally jump into the spaces left between the novels of the Outlander saga and the Lord John series, picking up clues left in the books and running away with fresh plot bunnies. A Trail of Fire takes four novellas previously published in anthologies and single novellas and wraps them in one handy bundle. Of course, you could skip reading these - but really, you'd miss out. I for one would bet my tickaba black diamond that clues put in here will make a return in DG's much expected book 8 ... and fill in what the earlier novels left mentioned but unexplained.
All four novellas have their own feeling, close related to the point-of-view protagonists. We already know Lord John's voice quite well, and he features in two of the novellas. While 'Custom of the Army' goes back to his stint in Canada (as mentioned in The Scottish Prisoner) and is the customary case solving with army life background mystery, 'A Plague of Zombies' is quite a bit more fantasy than we're used from no-nonsense LJ. It takes place some years before Voyager, at the time LJ went to Jamaica for the first time in his life, and deals with slave and maroon rebellion, witches and witchdoctors, and, yes, zombies. Eery, that one. I actually loved it a bit more, but then, it's so ... gothic. Goody!
'A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows' shows us, what really happened to Roger's Dad the day his Spitfire crashed. Be prepared, grab some tissues. Gotta love Macks, so here's a treat.
My personal favorite was 'In the Space Between', though. I like both Michael Fraser (Wee Ian's brother) and not-quite-Sister Joan (Marsali's sister), and the novella is full of time-travel weirdness - including new hints on the 'How to', picks up long-time-no-see characters like Raymond and the Compte, and leaves you routing for a new pair of the Fraser-Murray family, as much as it is remains open.
All in all, I'd say you COULD go without those stories. But why would you want to?