Oh, the agony of waiting for the start of the second half of the first season of Outlander on Starz! I’ve written about the things I’m doing to maintain my sanity during the ridiculously long break, and one of the most effective is reading similar books. Like The Sapphire Brooch.
The Sapphire Brooch has a few things in common with the Outlander books: time travel, romance, history, war, and intrigue. The story is (almost) as complicated as the Outlander series (at least as complicated as it can be as a trilogy versus a full series). What is different about The Sapphire Brooch is that while Diana Gabaldon only touches briefly on the subject of how messing with history affects the future/present, Katherine takes it to the next level by showing the consequences of actions in the past (complete with changed circumstances and memories, which was pretty cool).
The Sapphire Brooch is the second in a trilogy about three brooches that, when a Gaelic incantation is said, throws the person holding it back into the past. There are three brooches (ruby, sapphire, and emerald), and since they all belong to members of the same family, the characters through all three books are connected. Fortunately, the books can be read as stand-alones. Katherine does a good job of providing enough of the story from outside The Ruby Brooch that I really didn’t feel like I should have read the first one first.
In this second installment of the Celtic Brooch Trilogy, our heroine is a surgeon who does Civil War reenactments for fun. What I thought was particularly cool about Charlotte was that her character in the reenactments was her own ancestor, also a physician. She dresses up in the full uniform with wig and beard, looking enough like him to get her into a bit of trouble when the sapphire brooch throws her back through time into the actual battle she’s reenacting.
Unlike Outlander, where the time travel is really just a way to get Jamie and Claire together (and occasionally save someone’s life), in The Sapphire Brooch it’s an important driver of the plot. There are three instances of the time travel, and in each the future is affected in some way. In fact, Charlotte and her brother, Jack, go back a couple of times to fix what happened as a result of the first trip. Some of the effects in the future/present were a bit confusing, but I appreciated the fact that Katherine went further than Diana with the time travel.
I’d have to say that my only real complaint about The Sapphire Brooch is that the plot moves forward in chunks. What I mean is that there are two or three chapters of intense action with two or three chapters of moderate boredom in between. The book is over 600 pages long, and I really think it could have been done in about 500. But that’s really a mild complaint, and more of a warning to readers to keep reading even during the slow parts. Because it’s totally worth it.