“After too long an absence, Jamie Fraser is coming home to Scotland—but not without great trepidation. Though his beloved godfather, Murtagh, promised Jamie’s late parents he’d watch over their brash son, making good on that vow will be no easy task. There’s already a fat bounty on the young exile’s head, courtesy of Captain Black Jack Randall, the sadistic British officer who’s crossed paths—and swords—with Jamie in the past. And in the court of the mighty MacKenzie clan, Jamie is a pawn in the power struggle between his uncles: aging chieftain Colum, who demands his nephew’s loyalty—or his life—and Dougal, war chieftain of Clan MacKenzie, who’d sooner see Jamie put to the sword than anointed Colum’s heir.
And then there is Claire Randall—mysterious, beautiful, and strong-willed, who appears in Jamie’s life to stir his compassion . . . and arouse his desire.
But even as Jamie’s heart draws him to Claire, Murtagh is certain she’s been sent by the Old Ones, and Captain Randall accuses her of being a spy. Claire clearly has something to hide, though Jamie can’t believe she could pose him any danger. Still, he knows she is torn between two choices—a life with him, and whatever it is that draws her thoughts so often elsewhere.” [Publisher's Summary]
Having anticipated the release of The Exile for half a dozen months or more, I have to admit to suffering a bout of mixed feelings after having finally read it.
Briefly, things to note about the graphic novel:
- It covers the first third of the story told in Outlander.
- Despite what the cover of the book states, it cannot accurately be described as “Jamie’s side of the story.”
- Fans of Gabaldon’s original novel will be able to follow the story told in the graphic novel. Readers who’ve yet to pick up Outlander? Perhaps not so much.
- It is a hardcover, full color graphic novel that, according to Amazon, clocks in at 224 pages.
Having followed the books’ development on Gabaldon’s blog, I knew that the events in the graphic novel were going to be presented from Murtagh’s perspective. That perspective shifted during a few key scenes to Jamie, but a few scenes does not ‘Jamie’s side of the story’ make, and there is more going on that Murtagh alone is privy to. The good of this: The plot of the original novel is supplemented with truly interesting developments, especially in regards to Geillis Duncan. The bad: If you went into this book wanting more of Jamie’s thoughts, reactions, or first hand emotions you’re going to get some, but not nearly enough to satisfy.
You might think that 224 pages – a generous number, considering – would allow the story to unfold with leisure. Instead, it felt rushed; scenes shifted quickly and without preamble. There was very little exposition to set the scene and within each scene keeping track of the characters might prove difficult. For fans of the original series, the quick pace may be more of an annoyance than a hindrance. For those with little to no awareness of Outlander‘s storyline? Tricky. And the story The Exile is attempting to tell might not be – probably won’t be – fulfilling.
Additionally, Claire is a flat character in The Exile. She’s almost unlikeable. The quick manner in which Jamie falls in love with her, then, is hard to understand or support. The emotion of the original novel, for me, was not present at all in this adaptation.
And now the art: It was lovely. Some of the panels were gorgeous. Going with full color was a good call on the part of the publisher.
However, there were discrepancies in Jamie’s and Claire’s appearance that bothered me as the pages turned. The sample page to the right comes early on in the book and captures my favorite image of Jamie (second strip, on the left.) That representation is close enough to the Jamie in my mind to get behind. But his face changed as the story progressed into the third chapter. It’s personal and subjective, and that out of the way, I don’t mind saying that I didn’t care for the majority of Jamie’s image(s) in the book.
As for Claire, she was too busty (and the author’s note at the end of the book mentions she was even moreso in initial drafts,) and after the second chapter looked too often angry, startled, or just strange.
And I could have easily summed up those last two paragraphs by simply saying that it seemed as though the first two chapters didn’t belong to the same book because the leads – Jamie and Claire – were visually and obviously different in appearance.
In the end, I really have to own whatever disappointment I may feel. I knew the limitations of the format going in – dialogue would be spare, for one, and there’d be little room for character development, for another – and so wanting and hoping for more was never a good idea. Ideally, I would have loved to see the artwork preceded or proceeded by pages of text. Really make it Jamie’s side of the story, complete with a full complement of his thoughts and emotions. That’s me, always wanting the best of both worlds.
Also, some of the scenes – as much as I may have wanted them to be included – just shouldn’t have been. In light of the limited text, taken out of the full context of the novel as they were, stripped of the emotion behind them, those scenes became painfully comic or groan-worthy. (I’m thinking specifically of Claire and Jamie’s first love scene. It made me cringe as it was presented in this book.)
Overall, The Exile was enjoyable enough for pre-established fans of Outlander, and the artwork was quite nice.