Showing posts with label Short Stories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Short Stories. Show all posts

The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin

The Hedge Knight (The Tales of Dunk and Egg #1) by George R.R. Martin 

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  14,998 Ratings  ·  610 Reviews
A novella originally published August 25, 1998 in the Legends anthology, edited by Robert Silverberg. Set in the world of the Song of Ice and Fire series eighty-nine years before the events of the main cycle, the story relates the adventures of Dunk (eponymously called Ser Duncan the Tall) and his squire, Egg.

The Hedge Knight book one of the remarkable prequel series to A Song of Ice and Fire. The Hedge Knight focuses on Dunk a young man whose master, friend, and mentor Ser Arlan of Pennytree has recently died. Dunk finds himself at a crossroads wondering if he should become a hedge knight like Ser Arlan or join a city watch for a simpler more stable life and future. Dunk decides to be a hedge knight. Dunk the Lunk as Ser Arlan affectionately called him took the moniker Ser Duncan the Tall and enters a tournament that ends up being far more important than any person could imagine.

In the medieval setting of Westeros -about a century before Ice and Fire- Dunk, the hedge knight, aspires to be acknowledged as equal to other knights of the realm. He takes part in a tournament where renowned knights of the Seven Kingdoms, the Kingsguard and royalty (we get to see Targaryens at play) compete as well.
Amidst the jousting and the acts of bravery on the field, a minor quarrel escalates to a sentence of death, which finds the hedge knight in its center. The trial of the seven is the way things will be resolved, with unexpected results for everyone.

“A hedge knight must hold tight to his pride. Without it, he was no more than a sellsword”

“Dunk the lunk, thick as a castle wall.”

“A Hedge Knight is the truest kind of knight, Dunk. Other Knights serve the Lords who keep them, or from whom they hold their lands, but we serve where we will, for men whose causes we believe in. Every Knight swears to protect the weak, but we keep the vow the best, I think.”


This short story is so refreshing after the marathon that is ASOIAF. When I read this the first time, I had just finished up the first 5 books in a row. I was completely exhausted and not interested in reading anything else anytime soon. About a week went by and I found my curiosity about these prequel short stories couldn't be put at bay any longer.

In The Hedge Knight, we meet Dunk and Egg and go on a journey with them to a tourney. While the original books are absolutely amazing, they can be quite overwhelming at times. In comparison, this short story was full of sunshine, happiness and rainbows. I loved getting to meet a full family of Targaryens and experience Westeros while it wasn't in the middle of war. If you have finished the ASOIAF series, this short story is a must-read!
I have to say that comic books, which are sometimes called graphic novels now, have become more sophisticated. Writers like Moore, Gaiman and Miller, among others, have brought complex and dark realism. 
The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin  download or read online for free
The Hedge Knight
by George R.R. Martin

THE HEDGE KNIGHT is more of a medieval knight's tale with a great deal of enriched history to a fantasy world of great complexity.

In this tale, a knight with no lord to follow joins a tourney in the hopes of securing fame and fortune (i.e. winners in medieval tourneys sometimes got to keep the armor and horses of opponents which would be the value of a house today). He falls for a female woman who is being beat up by a man and his hirelings. After defeating them, he discovers him to be the grandson of the high king and in these regions it's death to touch such royalty.

His only hope is a trial by combat, and, in the tradition of their seven gods, there will be 7 on each side. The hedge knight must then find 6 others to fight in his name when he has absolutely no reputation.
The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin  download or read online for free
The Hedge Knight
by George R.R. Martin 2
If you have read neither, I would recommend the George Martin novelette first and then compare it to the comic.


ARTISTIC PRESENTATION: B plus to A minus; CHARACTERS/DIALOGUE: A minus; STORY/PLOTTING/EDITING: B plus to A minus; WESTEROS FOCUS: A minus; ACTION SCENES: B to B plus; OVERALL GRADE: A minus; WHEN READ: last read mid 2011 (third time).
I never knew how much I needed this until now!!! I have missed westeros so much and this was such a great way to see it from a different perspective and time! Dunk and Egg are the duo we deserve, I love them and their dynamic so much! This story felt so meaningful and I truly adored it, looking forward to seeing what these two get up to!!
Perhaps, I'm a bit biased, I can admit that. I love Westeros. I love A Song of Ice and Fire. I didn't give every book five stars, so I feel I'm reasonable enough. With that being said, I loved this short story.

My initial fear when I first heard of this story was that neither Dunk nor Egg, the two protagonists, would have anything to do with the main story in ASOIAF. That turns out to be not true, so I just wanted to put that out there. A lot of Daenery's great relatives make appearances and both the protagonists are actually some pretty important characters in the fictional history of this world. So that had me all smiles throughout my read.

It started off, and it felt very predictable, though still enjoyable, though in classic Martin fashion, he kind of flips everything on it's head and takes it all in a different, and way better direction than my simple mind could have imagined.

The one flaw is that there are a lot of names and it gets hard to keep track. If you're a big nut like me, it's handy to have a google tab open so you can look at sigils and family trees and see who is related to who and all that nerdy good stuff.

I can't wait to get started on the next one.
Having read all of Martin's Song of Fire and Ice significantly faster than he's writing new ones, and considering he doesn't seem to be making much progress with the next one: four years between the last book and the next, I was at a bit of a loose end for my Westeros fix. Luckily Martin has already published a trio of prequel short stories. Prequel is stretching the definition as this first one is set approximately 100 years before the events of A Game of Thrones but the families and names from Westerosi history all sound a little familiar – the Targaryens are on the iron throne and the Baratheons are still glory-seeking tourney addicts.

The Hedge Knight is the first story of Dunk and Egg. Dunk, or Ser Duncan the Tall as he becomes known, is a hedge knight – so called because they are knights without land or master, generally poor, who often sleep in hedges – the final act of his own master, Ser Alan of Pennytree, was to knight his squire Dunk. As an otherwise unproven knight, he wants to make his fortune so he enters the tourney lists. Egg is the young lad who tags along after him, just wanting to be his squire. It doesn't take too long to work out Egg's back story.

In true Martin style, it doesn't take too long for fights to break out and trouble to kick off. Before you know it the tourney is over and Dunk's sense of honour has led him way out of his depth and having to duel against proper knights – he could almost be a Stark. The story is self-contained – although there are already two follow on stories that feature the same characters, there's no need to worry about Martin not writing the sequel in seven years time.
A great one-day read.
In the medieval setting of Westeros -about a century before Ice and Fire- Dunk, the hedge knight, aspires to be acknowledged as equal to other knights of the realm. He takes part in a tournament where renowned knights of the Seven Kingdoms, the Kingsguard and royalty (we get to see Targaryens at play) compete as well.
Amidst the jousting and the acts of bravery on the field, a minor quarrel escalates to a sentence of death, which finds the hedge knight in its center. The trial of the seven is the way things will be resolved, with unexpected results for everyone.

I've enjoyed it a lot and would recommend it to fans of the author, as well as to those of medieval fantasy in general. Although knowledge of the Houses' names can be helpful, the reader can easily follow the narration without it.
I really love ASOFAI so this biased review should be taken with a pillar of salt.

Loved it. More knights of Westeros and a jousting tourney made for a great read. This is the first of three novellas about Aegon Targaryen aka Egg and his squiring for Ser Duncan a hedge knight.

Fun read and an absolute must for fans of the series. Not sure why I waited so long.
Fans of George R. R. Martin’s most loved series, A Song of Ice and Fire, are always looking for more tales set in the world we adore so much. Being such a fan myself, The Hedge Knight was a must read.

The Tales of Dunk and Egg take place around one hundred years prior to the complicated story known as A Song of Ice and Fire. The Hedge Knight is the first of the prelude stories. These tales are not a necessity to understand the main series, but they’re a lot of fun for those fans who wish for a little bit more.

I’ll be completely honest about this story – I thought I’d be giving three stars. When the story started, I wasn’t as pulled in as I had hope to be. In fact, it took a while before the story pulled me under. However, once things started to move I found I was quickly won over. In fact, I went from strolling along to powering my way through to see how the end played out. Much like A Song of Ice and Fire, I went from ‘this is okay’ to ‘I am rather addicted’. It grabs you without you realising, pulling you in deep.

Despite being a short story, The Hedge Knight is a typical George R. R. Martin story. There is no denying the author of this work, the tell-tale trademarks being clear. I do not need to list out the George R. R. Martin trademarks – fans know what I’m talking about – and all are here in some way. Not all things are not as explicit as they are in A Song of Ice and Fire, but all the usual elements are simmering away in this little tale.

You’re guaranteed to be addicted to this little story, left wanting more Dunk and Egg tales.
Now I get the appeal Sansa Stark feels when reading of tales from chivalrous Knights and their brave deeds, even the brutal battle scenes seems magical and romantic. With Dunk aka Ser Duncan the Tall, I get what a "True Knight" is supposed to be like, even though he's nothing more than a Hedge Knight, he is tall and handsome and brave and protects the weak and so dreamy!

The tale is based in the land of Westeros, 100 years before the tales of Ice and Fire began, when the Targaryans were the masters of the realm. Dunk is the underdog, newly made Knight in search honest work and at least one victory in a tourney. This particular tourney attracted all the noble families - Lannister, Baratheon, Dondarrion and even the Targaryen Princes. Overall it was Dunk from Fleabottom's innocence and strong belief in what a Knight should be that won him the friendship and admiration of the High Born and a very special squire.

Love this tale!!

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks 

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  1732 Ratings  ·  431 Reviews
Published October 17th 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf
Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks  download or read online for free
Uncommon Type: Some Stories
by Tom Hanks
A collection of seventeen wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor.

A gentle Eastern European immigrant arrives in New York City after his family and his life have been torn apart by his country's civil war. A man who loves to bowl rolls a perfect game—and then another and then another and then many more in a row until he winds up ESPN's newest celebrity, and he must decide if the combination of perfection and celebrity has ruined the thing he loves. An eccentric billionaire and his faithful executive assistant venture into America looking for acquisitions and discover a down and out motel, romance, and a bit of real life. These are just some of the tales Tom Hanks tells in this first collection of his short stories. They are surprising, intelligent, heartwarming, and, for the millions and millions of Tom Hanks fans, an absolute must-have!

 "In her living room she opened the windows to get a bit of breeze. The sun had set, so the first fireflies of the evening would begin to flare in a bit. She sat on the windowsill and enjoyed the cold, shaped pineapple and watched as squirrels ran along the telephone wires, perfect sine waves with their bodies and tails. Sitting there, she had her second ice pop as well, until the fireflies began to float magically above the patches of grass and sidewalk." 

“Make the machine part of your life. A part of your day. Do not use it a few times, then need room on the table and close it back into its case to sit on a shelf in the back of a closet. Do that and you may never write with it again.”


 "In her living room she opened the windows to get a bit of breeze. The sun had set, so the first fireflies of the evening would begin to flare in a bit. She sat on the windowsill and enjoyed the cold, shaped pineapple and watched as squirrels ran along the telephone wires, perfect sine waves with their bodies and tails. Sitting there, she had her second ice pop as well, until the fireflies began to float magically above the patches of grass and sidewalk."

I'm not a Hollywood fan, nor I enjoy watching films all that often. My tastes lean more on British and European Cinema. I don't read actors' biographies or books written by celebrities. However, in the case of "Uncommon Type", it's Tom Hanks we're talking about. I can't think of another actor who makes you feel as if you actually know him, as if every role of his is performed for each and every member of the audience. He is widely loved in Greece, he is widely loved everywhere and quite a few of his films are considered classics of the 7th Art. This collection of short stories is written in a simple, eloquent, flowing writing style. Humane, immediate, confessional. It is a brilliant token of the distinguished American writing, it is the voice of Tom Hanks, the Everyman, and if you don't like it, need Jesus in your life.

In 17 stories, Tom Hanks creates characters out of life. The inspiration seems to be the types of New York (mainly) residents, even some of the roles he has performed in his astonishing career. Each story is embellished with the photo of a typewriter that plays a characteristic part in many of the stories. The importance and joy of writing is everywhere, the need to communicate feelings and thoughts first to ourselves and to the people around us. His themes are universal and relevant to our daily lives. Love, companionship, the errs and joys of the past, self - dignity, immigration, togetherness and a deep, acute feeling of nostalgia. A journey through the USA, with the metropolis of New York ever present, in one way or another.

So, without further ado, the 17 stories are:

‘’Three Exhausting Weeks" : Two best friends decide to become an item, but they seem to be highly incompatible. Poor guy starts feeling as if he has signed for the Olympics preparations or the NASA training. Anna is one of the most authoritative people to ever grace a book and this story is hilarious and nostalgic at the same time.
"Christmas Eve 1953": A beautiful Christmas story that takes us back to 1953 and to 1944, the D-Day, its aftermath and the wounds, physical and psychological that are inflicted upon those who survived the inferno in the shores of Normandy.
"A Junket in the City of Light" :A story about a rising Hollywood star and the ordeals coming from exhausting press junkets and over-demanding studios. Paris, during the night, provides the beautiful setting.
"Our Town Today with Hank Fiset- An Elephant in the Pressroom" : A glimpse into the conflict between the printed version of a newspaper and the coldness of reading your newspaper on a digital device.
"Welcome to Mars": A sad tale of the bonding between a father and a son, a story full of the sun, the sea and surfing.
"A Month on Greene Street" : A story set in the sleepy suburbs, during the dog days of August. A divorced mother of two starts a new life in a welcoming, peaceful neighborhood. This is a text filled with the laughter of children, the soothing early evening atmosphere, and a certain kind of hope for starting anew.
"Alan Bean Plus Four" : We revisit our unique couple of "Three Exhausting Weeks" in a story that brings "Apollo 13" to mind.
"Our Town Today with Hank Fiset- At Loose in the Big Apple" : A celebration of New York in the form of an account from our grumpy (but sweet) journalist with a tiny bit of nostalgia for a more innocent era.
"Who’s Who?" : The Big Apple is the city where dreams are supposed to come true. However, young Sue from Arizona, an aspiring actress who can act and sing and dance finds her dreams crushed all too soon. Until, a sudden appearance proves that possibly, dreams can still become reality...A beautiful story of youth and aspirations set in 1978.
"A Special Weekend" : The story of a boy who loves typewriters and airplanes, living a difficult life after the divorce of his parents. I confess that the end gave me chills...
"These Are the Meditations of My Heart" : A story of impeccable writing and immense beauty that reminded me -once again - how much I love typewriters.
"Our Town Today with Hank Fiset- Back From Back In Time" : Our favourite reporter takes a trip down memory lane escorted by his trusted typewriter.
"The Past Is Important to Us" : This story was a true surprise. A combination of Historical Fiction and Sci-fi where a scientist travels back to the 1939 for the sake of a woman. An impressive look into a potential future and a tale that shows how closely linked the past and the present actually are.
"Stay with Us" : This story is written in the form of a film script and therefore, it really flows. Departing from Las Vegas, a wealthy, kind hearted businessman and his personal assistant find themselves in the middle of nowhere and change the lives of the residents, while finding a new meaning in their own. This is a story full of happiness, camaraderie and trust.
"Go See Costas": In this story, Mr. Hanks celebrates diversity, multiculturalism and companionship, without whitewashing the problems and the fears faced by the immigrants. His love for Greece is more than well-known, and here we find Greeks, Cypriots, Bulgarians. Set in the heart of the era of immigration to New York, this story is a hymn to the abilities and persistence of hardworking people who desire a better life, without forgetting their principles and without resorting to shady means. A tale that shows that people may come from different backgrounds (economical, educational, ethnic), but these factors mean very little when we are faced with adversities. In the end, it is the heart that matters. A story that couldn't be more relevant to the chaos and conflicts of our times.
"Our Town Today with Hank Fiset- Your Evangelista, Esperanza" : The grumpy reporter gives the spotlight to Esperanza who reminds us that there is actually life without a smartphone, Facebook and the like.
"Steve Wong Is Perfect" : The last word belongs to the insane gang of the beginning and to bowling. Hilarious and nostalgic.

This is a collection to be cherished and kept as a good friend to whom we may return when in doubt and in need of a comfort. Not because the writer is named Tom Hanks and heralded as one of the finest actors to ever grace our screens. This is a book of simple, unpretentious beauty. 17 stories of people who could be our neighbours, our friends, our lovers, our parents, written in the immediacy and clarity that characterizes the majority of American Literature, a trustworthy volume like a trustworthy Royal typewriter. Let it carry you away....
Tom Hanks clearly loves typewriters. He wrote this up on one, which is really quite cool if you think about it. He made me want to get one just for the sake of it, which, for me, demonstrates a large part of the effectiveness of his writing:

“Make the machine part of your life. A part of your day. Do not use it a few times, then need room on the table and close it back into its case to sit on a shelf in the back of a closet. Do that and you may never write with it again.”
The best story in here was “These are the Meditations of my Heart,” which is where this quote came from. It’s a brief story about a woman who falls in love with typewriters and what they can bring to someone’s life. As such Hanks recognises the power of words throughout along with the power of literature and the power of communication. I feel like this was the strongest element of his writing. Typewriters are used through many of the stories and they are deeply emblematic of what words can achieve. Sometimes they just do what spoken language can never do and for the woman in “These are the Meditations of my Heart” they have the power of salvation and refuge.

As a recurring trope this is narrative gold; it really did help to make the stories feel like a collection rather than a load of random bits shoved together, which many writers fail miserably to do. However, I did have a few issues with the book. I just don’t think Hanks can create male characters very well. The women he writes about are all complex individuals, often dealing with some repressed history and using every ounce of energy they have to get on with their lives. They almost all seem to be going through some sense of internal crises with a big smile on their faces.

There’s much more beneath the outward appearance of the women. They are well-rounded and I do feel like they have lived a troubled life. The men, on the other hand, are plain and ridiculously straight forward. They all felt flat and simple. I feel like they walked on the page the moment I read them, having not experienced life until the moment of that story. It might be that Hanks just preferred to write about women and chose to give the men the backseat in their passivity here. For me though it felt unbalanced and a little careless, especially from a collection that appeared to be striving towards a presentation of the realities of life.

The good and the bad

There is no denying the fact that Hanks can write, and he can write rather well, though I think he needs a touch more imagination when devising his plots. Many of them felt rather ordinary and a little bland, flavourless is the word I am thinking of. He also needs a little bit more forcefulness when delivering his endings. Although this is a collection of short-stories, and they do go very well together, I think the characters needed a bit more of a distinguishable voice. Without the type-writers, this would have all fallen apart.

Overall though, there are some entertaining stories in here (some less so) though I think Hanks’ inexperience as a writer often diminishes them. I feel that many could have been a lot better than they were. If anything, Hanks shows us the potential he has to be excellent over time. And I give him my whole-hearted respect for this venture. His name will sell the book alone; however, his skills just need a little bit of sharpening to get him to the next level.
This short story collection is warm, surprising and engaging. 
Each story envelops the reader with its own unique sense of place, time and character; the most endearing characters of all may be the typewriters who find their way into every story. Tom Hanks' vast perspective and experience is relayed with wit and warmth, leaving one craving an audio book with the clacking of typewriters in the background. He manages to capture what the American dream means for a recently arrived immigrant, a veteran, a newspaper reporter, and so many more. My favorites included the Hank Fiset columns, "These Are the Meditations of My Heart" and "Stay With Us."
Thomas Jeffery Hanks it seems can do just about anything. 
He has won so many awards for his acting that he uses Golden Globe statues to tenderize the chicken breasts for his world famous, and yet nutritiously responsible Chicken Cordon Hanks dish. The hit at many Spielberg potlucks. He produces, writes, and directs films. He is always very funny and his David S. Pumpkins character is recognized internationally for it’s technical genius and it’s subtle and clever insights into the human condition. Hanks is also politically active, he creates apps for your iPhone, and has been known to create low fat and low calorie recipes (that still has your family demanding second helpings) for Cooking Light magazine in his down time.

But that down time might just be getting a little shorter. With Uncommon Type: Some Stories, Mr. Hanks has whipped his raincoat open, hollered out a brazen, “Hey! Look what I have here” and exposed himself with no shame as one fantastic writer. One no doubt to be reckoned with.

The stories are all marvelous. Some are funny; there are three that involve the same group of friends ("Three Exhausting Weeks", "Alan Bean Plus Four", and "Steve Wong is Perfect") that would make even the crankiest curmudgeon give those neighborhood kids a break, allow them to recover the baseball that landed onto his yard without threatening their lives with his cane, and crack a smile. Other stories such as "Christmas Eve 1953" or my favorite, the immigrant tale "Go See Costas" will stick with you like for many many days after consuming. In this way, it is similar to my Aunt Gertrude’s meatloaf, but with way less burning sensations in the bowels, violent breaking of wind, and hallucinations. All 17 stories in this collection are thoughtful, smart, and absorbing.

Yes, it would be easy to hate Hanks. The guy is so flawless. He is talented and it seems he really can do it all. He’s the Tom Brady of Hollywood. However, put aside those hurtful negative feelings, grab a copy of Uncommon Type and jump on the Hanks Train! This is a great collection of tales and a fun read!
Tom Hanks is an actor who puts you at ease and you feel he is just a 'regular' guy. He appears to be that everyman and so comfortable to approach if you needed directions to an address or if he was your neighbor or your bank loan officer or mailman or ... just anybody. He is mostly called our modern day 'Jimmy Stewart' in his style and image, but I think of him more as our 'Jack Lemmon'. Hanks can be in a serious drama or a comedy and still give you that sense that he is universal in all aspects of his personality.

He produces the same feeling with this surprising fantastic new book of 17 short pieces of fiction.

That same ease and feeling of comfort is transcribed on the page. Hanks' wonderful eye and ear and the textures of everyday simple life are related in several of these stories and, also, his sense of irony and sadness. He has an aura of the 'everyman' in his acting and that shines in the observations of these tales.

Every story either features a typewriter or references a typewriter in some way. Each story is prefaced by a photograph of a typewriter from the past. One story (a favorite of mine) is all about a typewriter entitled THESE ARE THE MEDITATIONS OF MY HEART.

Hanks knows the wonder of being a simple young boy spending a weekend with his divorced mom and her new 'friend' who takes him on a plane ride. He gets himself into the mind and experiences of a divorced mom moving into a new house and neighborhood with her kids and feels weary of the single dad next door. He, also, gives the reader a bit of heartbreaking sci-fi and several entries by an old fashioned columnist who laments the passing of time and a frenzied story about an actor on a press junket. There are three stories about a group of friends, two of which work at a Home Depot. The last story STEVE WONG IS PERFECT is perfect in all ways. Another favorite is WHO'S WHO? about an aspiring depressed young actress who comes to New York City to find a job and finds heartache and despair, but finds salvation by a gay man 'city-wise' insider from her past who lives in the core of the Big Apple and knows how to avoid the 'worms' who wiggle through that apple.

Hanks notices the 'little' things, the everyday pleasures and pain even if they take place in The Future. There are a few mediocre entries, but most are good, melancholy, smart, and truly funny.

I was truly amazed at the pleasure I had in reading these stories and surprised by his talent as a writer. IN some ways, I had the same feeling when I read a few of Steve Martin's short novels.
Having always admired Tom Hanks as an actor and a human being, I am happy to say I can now give him a 5 star review as an author. 
When I requested Hanks' collection of short stories from, I thought reading these might be like the old truism about watching a dog walk on 2 legs: it's not how well he does it but that he does it at all. Then I plunged into this delightful collection and discovered Mr. Hanks has a range as deep and wide as his dramatic performances. The title "Uncommon Type" and the themes of the stories within frequently bring you back to old manual typewriters. There are detailed miniatures of a range of these old machines after each story. In some stories there is barely a mention of a task being carried out on a typewriter, while one story is a paean to the craftsmanship of these machines. It is a unique theme to unite the tales, some of which are set back a few generations , while others are far in the future and another combines the old and new in a fascinating tale of time travel. Hanks' eye for detail makes each story rich with a sense of place. He has clearly done his research, whether it is on the subject of surfing, space travel or the theater. No doubt much of the verisimilitude comes from his own experiences as an actor, but it never feels added just to display his knowledge. The Uncommon Type of the title also focuses on the characters within each story, and this is where Hanks really shines. His appreciation for the common man and all his foibles makes the reader feel uplifted even when the ending takes an unexpected twist. I enjoyed every single story in this collection and look forward to Hanks trying his hand at a novel.


Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander)

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander) DOWNLOAD OR READ IT ONLINE FOR FREE HERE
Seven Stones to Stand or Fall
by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander)
A collection of seven short stories set in the Outlander universe, never before published together, including two original stories.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A magnificent collection of Outlander short fiction—including two never-before-published novellas—featuring Jamie Fraser, Lord John Grey, Master Raymond, and many more, from Diana Gabaldon

“The Custom of the Army” begins with Lord John Grey being shocked by an electric eel and ends at the Battle of Quebec. Then comes “The Space Between,” where it is revealed that the Comte St. Germain is not dead, Master Raymond appears, and a widowed young wine dealer escorts a would-be novice to a convent in Paris. In “A Plague of Zombies,” Lord John unexpectedly becomes military governor of Jamaica when the original governor is gnawed by what probably wasn’t a giant rat. “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” is the moving story of Roger MacKenzie’s parents during World War II. In “Virgins,” Jamie Fraser, aged nineteen, and Ian Murray, aged twenty, become mercenaries in France, no matter that neither has yet bedded a lass or killed a man. But they’re trying. . . . “A Fugitive Green” is the story of Lord John’s elder brother, Hal, and a seventeen-year-old rare book dealer with a sideline in theft, forgery, and blackmail. And finally, in “Besieged,” Lord John learns that his mother is in Havana—and that the British Navy is on their way to lay siege to the city.

Filling in mesmerizing chapters in the lives of characters readers have followed over the course of thousands of pages, Gabaldon’s genius is on full display throughout this must-have collection.
This riveting, romantic collection includes: "Besieged" (original novella), "A Fugitive Green" (original novella), "Virgins," "The Space Between," "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies," "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows" and "The Custom of the Army."


I wasn't as in love with the short stories as I am with the actual books. There are a couple that I liked. I think for me, it would be good to do re-reads with the actual novella read after the book it goes with. There are two new short stories in this book as well.

Most of them seem to revolve around John Grey, but there are some with Jamie, Ian (the dad), Roger, Frank and a few others.

Either way, it's just another Outlander book to add to my collection and hopefully I will be able to read them in order with the book someday. I did recognize some of the people the stories were about but I wasn't too sure where they all fit into the books.

Anyhoo, enough babbling. Enjoy the book you Outlandish fans. Of course, you have all probably read the novella's when they were out accept for the two new ones. So there =)
With the release of this recent collection of novellas, Gabaldon seeks to pull together a number of her shorter pieces for the reader’s enjoyment. 
With some mention of Jamie Fraser, a peppering of Roger, and even the elder Fraser, the vast number of stories have some Lord John Grey connection. When I undertook my Diana Gabaldon binge in the summer of 2015, I sought to read her entire collection in chronological order, which sandwiched Outlander novels with a number of the Lord John pieces. A number of the novella found within this collection were included in this binge. I have chosen to resurrect these reviews for those stories I have already read in this collection, so some of the comments might seem out of place in 2017. The latter two pieces are those I have never read and so their reviews are brand new to me and those who follow my postings. I hope you will enjoy my summaries and encourage anyone with a massive amount of patience to tackle the larger Outlander/Lord John collection.

The Custom of the Army:
It all begins with an electric eel party and a duel that goes horribly wrong. A night of apparent debauchery leads our famed Gabaldon character in a heap of trouble everywhere he turns. In an attempt to hide himself while he is persona non grata, Grey agrees to act as a character witness for a friend facing court martial, in CANADA. With an additional familial matter to handle while he is away, Grey embarks on an adventure to the New World and mixes it up with the British Army (currently at war with France in Quebec), while he hunts down a man keen on abandoning his duties. Gabaldon shows the reader another humorous side of Grey who, without Jamie Fraser around, is quite a civilised gentleman.

Gabaldon does a great job in keeping the LJG series moving forward. With some great storytelling, time appropriate characters and wonderful narration, anyone who is a fan of the Outlander series or the full-length Lord John Grey books will not be disappointed. This book sits nicely as a stand-alone, hence its unofficial non-labelled nature between many of the other pieces of writing in the series.

The Space Between:
In this novella, Gabaldon chooses two lesser characters and send them on a journey mentioned towards the end of An Echo in the Bone. Young Joan MacKimmie, step-daughter of our beloved Jamie Fraser, heads to Paris to answer her calling and train to become a nun. Sent on her way with Jamie's nephew, Michael, they travel through the streets of Paris in a short and jam-packed story. While Joan seeks to make herself a bride of Christ, she wrestles with voices only she can hear, which offer both advice and glimpses into the future. As she prepares for her entry into the convent, she begins to question everything she has come to believe, which led her to this point. Michael, who may have been sent as a bodyguard, fights his own inner demons on the trip, part related to his growing feelings for this young woman as well as the knowledge his Aunt Claire gave him about the not too distant civil uprising in France, with Paris at its heart. Michael and Joan struggle to balance their responsibilities with what the heart desires, creating a space between logic and emotion. They must also fend off the plans of a sinister man who seeks revenge for Claire Fraser's antics when last she spent time in Paris. Learning of the connection Joan and Michael possess to La Dame Blanche, they are spun into a web of deceit and potential disaster. With a sprinkling of time travel discussion (of course, no Outlander story can ignore the Stones), Gabaldon moves her major sub-story forward while keeping a little more of the full time movement situation for the final novel. Brilliantly composed with just enough to keep the reader wanting more.

As the number of remaining Outlander stories dwindle, I am left to pay special attention to these tales. Having taken the time to re-read the entire collection, I have taken away so much and learned a great deal, both about the history of the time as well as the intricacies of the characters Gabaldon has set before the reader. As mentioned many times in previous novels, Gabaldon may introduce minor characters throughout, whose importance is only known much later. This novella is a wonderful case in point, where the likes of Joan and Michael receive only passing mention in earlier stories, but now play central roles. One could say the same for Comte St. Germain, who acts as a Stephen Bonnet or Black Jack Randall of sorts. Wonderfully spun in such a way to entertain and intrigue simultaneously.

The Plague of Zombies:
In Gabaldon's final piece (to date) of Lord John-centred writing, she succeeds in weaving another great tale with her ever-resourceful Lord John Grey at the helm. In Jamaica on official business, Lord John is soon drawn into a phenomena new to him; the emergence of zombies. Waking one night by a visitor whose human form is questionable, Grey wonders if there is more to this myth than strict lore. When the Governor is found murdered, the scene leads many to believe a pack of zombies may be behind the crime. However, Grey is not so sure and mounts clues to turn the investigation in another direction. With many wishing him gone (from office as well as from the earth), the Governor's demise leaves many suspects for Grey to ponder. That said, the power of zombies appears stronger than even and Grey seeks to learn more about them if for no other reason than to quench his curiosity. Another great novella by Gabaldon to keep the reader on the edge of their seat and with an eye on packs of unknowns lurking the streets at night.

Gabaldon's OUTLANDER series is one of my great guilty pleasures. Her plethora of characters leaves a great opening for many interesting branch-off stories or novellas. That said, her character Lord John Grey, whose role in the Outlander series is minor in the first three novels, is one perfectly suited for a series of novels. An 18th century Sherlock Holmes on one hand and a tyrannical man whose lust for Jamie Fraser fuels a powerful hatred in the main novel series cannot be discounted. Gabaldon has done a masterful job of painting a calmer and more likeable side to Grey in this series, as well as jumping on the 'zombie' bandwagon made overly popular by THE WALKING DEAD. A great novella for fans of the series or newbies alike, it makes for a highly entertaining read for the curious reader.

A Leaf of the Wind of All Hallows:
What ever happened to Jerry MacKenzie, father of Roger, whose plane went down during the War effort? As Gabaldon mentions in the story's preface, discussion of Jerry opened in An Echo in the Bone, where Claire admitted that the story Roger knew was not entirely true. With Roger finally encountering Jerry in 1739, something must have happened related to the Stones, but the story is again not flushed out. Gabaldon chooses this point to offer a real account of events, just in time as Outlander fans are surely tearing their hair out with wonder, as the cliffhanger found no resolution within Written in My Own Heart's Blood. Spitfire pilot Jerry MacKenzie is approached by MI6 (and Frank Randall no less) to help in the execution of a covert mission behind the Iron Curtain. While out on reconnaissance, Jerry develops engine trouble and crash lands somewhere in Northumbria. As Jerry seeks to get his bearings, he discovers that he's been propelled into the past, but has no explanation for events. When he comes across a mysterious character, a little is revealed, including how to get back, but no clear understanding of the Stones is made known. Returning to modern times, Jerry comes across his wife, Marjorie, but is not in a position to reach her to discuss his revelations. Filling a few cracks in the Outlander storylines, this short story fits nicely, yet leaves much to the imagination.

VIRGINS, a novella penned by Gabaldon years after she made Jamie Fraser a successful protagonist in the Outlander series, opens the collection nicely. In it, Fraser and his friend, Ian Duncan, embark on the life of young mercenaries, well away from Scotland. It's 1740 and the boys, aged nineteen and twenty respectfully, find themselves out in the world, experiencing all that it has to offer. While Duncan sees that his friend is holding onto a secret, nothing prepares him when he learns the truth. Captain Jack Randall came to Lallybroch and embarrassed Fraser, along with his entire family, leaving Jamie banished from his own estate. Jamie uses the attack and belittling to fuel his fire to become a man in a hard-knock world. Along the way, Jame and Ian learn about fighting, sex, and what it means to be independent, all while crossing paths with many a clan unlike themselves. These 'life virgins' soon learn the ways of the world while vowing to protect one another. The novella opens the door to what is sure to be a wonderful series, at least for Jamie, as he hones his skills and returns to face Randall in the years to come. The awkwardness that he will encounter (as Outlander fans know all too well) should make for an ever-changing flood of sentiment in the man's brain...but we have many many pages to learn all about that.

A Fugitive Green:
In a story set around 1744, Minerva ‘Minnie’ Rennie is living in Paris with her father. They run a somewhat successful bookselling business, but it is merely a front for some of their more deceptive work: espionage, blackmail, and a little robbery. At seventeen, Minnie is ready to find herself a husband, but has been kept shielded from men by her overprotective father. However, an Englishman is said to make the best husband, so she is sent off to London to find a man and help her father with an especially interesting assignment. Meanwhile, the Duke of Pardloe, Harold (Hal), brother of the popular Lord John Grey, is still mourning the death of his wife and infant. They both perished after the onset of premature labour occurred when Hal engaged in a duel with his wife’s lover, Nathaniel Twelvetrees. The fallout of that duel and the death of his wife has kept Hal trying to justify his actions, though he has no firm proof of the affair. After Minnie arrives in London and is given the task of securing the collection of letters between Esme and Twelvetrees. Sly as she might be, even Minnie is sure to find this task somewhat difficult. Minnie is also left to discover a family secret that will shock her to the core, burning in a nunnery. While Minnie tries to secure copies of the letters, she encounters Hal and is somewhat besotted with him. This chance encounter turns somewhat steamy after she is caught red-handed trying to locate the letters. Returning to Paris, Minnie recounts her story to a curious father, who can see he has a well-trained daughter on his hands. However, when she reveals two secrets, all bets are off. A wonderful story that even allows the beloved Jamie Fraser to make a cameo appearance. Gabaldon is able to tie off a few threads left dangling in past stories as she adds to the Outlander/Lord John Grey chronology.

In the waning days of his military governorship in Jamaica, Lord John Grey is preparing to head to the America Colonies, not yet in full insurrection mode. The year is 1762 and life has been decent for this man of many adventures. He receives his step-father, who passes along a message that Lord John’s mother, the Dowager Duchess of Pardloe, is in Havana and may need to be collected. While this seems like a lovely side journey, news that the British Navy is on its way to seize the territory in its ongoing battles with Spain, leaves Lord John a little less at ease. Gathering his retinue, they make their way to Cuba and soon learn that the Dowager has made her way into the rural areas, alongside some other members of Grey’s extended family. Added to the upcoming siege is news of yellow fever, which has been making its way around the region. Choosing to arm himself with a few Spanish-speaking individuals, Lord John ventures far from the beaten path and encounters some less than pleasurable individuals who seek to form their own slave insurrection. What follows will test Lord John to his core and may put a significant flavour to the intended mission. Another great story that shows the softer and more compassionate side of Lord John Grey during his continued missions around the New World.

While not entirely full of new stories, the collection is well worth the time invested by the reader. Gabaldon is not only the master of the genre, but finds new and exciting ways to link passing mentions in some of her larger pieces with novellas that explain or further the already-developed piece. History is, at times, fluid when Gabaldon is at the helm, but it is the intricacies of the narrative that makes this collection a stunning compendium. Many will know of Lord John and Jamie, but it's these minor characters who are given some centre stage time that enriches the experience for all.

Kudos, Madam Gabaldon for this lovely collection. Please allow me to speak for your entire fan base when I say, ‘we thank you for these short stories… but when can we dive into BOOK NINE?’. There, I said it!
Realizing that Outlander fans are craving that third season, a collection of "Outlander" novellas packaged all in one book is the perfect remedy to beat the "drought." 
There are three Lord John Grey novellas(The Custom of the Army, A Plague of Zombies, and Beseiged). A Fugitive Green stars Lord John Grey's older brother, Hal and his wife, Minnie(Jamie makes a cameo in this one). A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows is about Roger Mackenzie 's parents during WWII, Frank Randall makes a brief cameo in this one. The Space Between features Jamie Fraser 's nephew Michael Murray, his stepdaughter, Joan, and the Comte St.Germain and Master Raymond. Lastly, there is "Virgins" which features Jamie and Ian, three years before the events of Outlander takes place.

If I had to choose one or two favorites, Fugitive Green and The Space Between would definitely be up there in the gold and silver positions. Honestly, I have been a member of the Outlander universe since I was 19 so I am always eager to get lost in DG's world. (whispers)Although I am definitely starting to plead with her to wrap it up soon. (looks around frantically)

If you're an Outlander or maybe just a Lord John Grey fan, great reading awaits you.
The Custom of the Army- 4 stars (read in 2012)
The Space Between (originally in The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination) - 5 stars (read in 2013)
A Plague of Zombies (originally in Down These Strange Streets) - 4 stars (read in 2011)
A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows - 4 stars (read in 2013)
Virgins - 5 stars (read in 2016)
A Fugitive Green - 4-1/2 stars
Besieged - 5 stars
This is a collection of short stories in the Outlander world - all but two have been published previously. I like these stories and they are a fun glimpse into mostly side stories in the Outlander world. They fill in gaps or give backstory, but still are loads of fun. 
My only criticism is that I would have preferred that these stories would have been put in chronological order. It would have made more sense to read them that way. That said, here’s my take on the stories themselves:

The Custom of the Army - I liked this side trip into the LJG world. The author takes us to Canada for a court-martial involving a friend of LJG. Prior to the Canadian adventure, there's an electric eel party, a duel, and threatened marriage. Once in Canada, LJG is drawn into the Battle of Quebec. I like Gabaldon's attention to detail and this short novella is a nice interlude in the Outlander/Lord John Grey world.

The Space Between - This novella was an interesting side trip in the Outlander world. It is not necessary to the Jamie/ Claire storyline, but it does enhance the enjoyment. DG takes us to Paris before the Revolution - Michael Murray is returning from his father's (Ian's) funeral and is escorting Joan MacKimmie (Laogherie's daughter) to a convent. Michael is still mourning the loss of his wife and child, but is attracted to Joan despite knowing that she's about to become a novice at the convent. The story brings back a few characters from Dragonfly in Amber - Comte St Germain, Monsieur Raymond, Mother Hildegarde - and it's good to see them again. This is a fun side trip.

A Plague of Zombies - LJG is sent to Jamaica to quell the slave rebellion and is drawn into intrigue involving, among other things, corrupt officials, slaves, snakes, cockroaches, and zombies. It brings a few characters into the mix who are also found in Voyager (but, alas, only very peripherally Jamie). I enjoy DG's smaller novellas involving LJG - the flavor is different, and much less sweeping, than the Outlander novels but they are fun nevertheless and whet your appetite for more.

A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows - A short sidetrip in the Outlander world - it can be read as a standalone but if you're doing the entire series, it would fall either before or after Written in My Own Heart's Blood. This little gem is a glimpse into Roger MacKenzie's parent's lives in the time just after he was born. The reader sees more of their relationship and learns that all is not as it seemed as far as their deaths in the war. There are a few cameos by some Outlander characters. A bittersweet vignette.

Virgins - A fun glimpse of Jamie and Ian as young men. This takes place not long after Jamie was flogged by Blackjack Randall and he is still dealing with his wounds - physical and mental, primarily the death of his father and worry over the plight of Jenny. Ian is his steady right-hand man and together they hire out as mercenaries in France. The pre-Claire Jamie is not as mature, but the seeds are there for the man he'll become.

A Fugitive Green - An interesting look at Minnie before she became Hal’s wife. This gives us the backstory of how she came to England from France and the intrigue surrounding her actions. It is a side trip - there is little of the main Outlander characters besides Minnie and Hal (and of course Twelvetrees…he is intimately wrapped up in this storyline), but it was fun to see them meet and there’s an exciting scene in library that was hot and humorous. This was one of the two new stories in the collection.

Besieged - The other new story in the collection is a new LJG story. The one finds LJG packing up in Jamaica and getting ready to leave when he finds out that his mother is in Cuba (along with a few other British women and children he’s concerned about) and war is about to be declared and they must be removed from there at once. He and his valet Tom make their way there only to find a few other impediments - like yellow fever and slave revolts - and must navigate their way with only a smattering of Spanish. It again is a delightful side trip - not integral to the Outlander story but a fun look at LJG and his story in the Outlander world.

Quotes to remember:

In this instance, the “stand or fall” has to do with people’s response to grief and adversity: to wit, if you aren’t killed outright by whatever happened, you have a choice in how the rest of your life is lived - you keep standing, though battered and worn by time and elements, still a buttress and a signpost - or you fall and return quietly to the earth from which you sprang, your elements giving succor to those who come after you. (Intro)

But after a time, ye find ye're in a different place than ye were. A different person than ye were. And then ye look about and see what's there with ye. Ye'll maybe find a use for yourself. That helps. (SB)

Yet it seems that I lost her between one heartbeat and the next. And I - I keep looking for her there, in that space between. (SB)

Was it after all God that he'd glimpsed, there in that space between? (SB)

Books always had something to say, beyond the words inside, but it was rare to find one with so strong a character. (FG)

Not everyone lives to be old, but if you do, I think you owe it to those who didn’t. To tell the stories of those who shared your journey…for as long as they could. (B)