Michael Murry recently lost the wife he loved, and then had to travel back to Scotland to bid farewell to his dying father, too. On his return trip to Paris, where he assists cousin Jared with his wine business, Michael escorts Joan MacKimmie, his step-cousin, who is bound for a convent in the city. For some time, she has been hearing voices and experiencing distressing visions of people who are about to die, and she thinks that perhaps the priests and nuns might be able to help her sort out why she has this troublesome gift. Meanwhile, the Compte St. Germain is far from dead and is now dabbling in alchemy, searching for the right mixture of ingredients to copy the potion that was once used on him to simulate his death. When he chances to encounter Joan in the marketplace, she reluctantly heeds the voices in her head to warn him of the future. But when he mistakes her for Claire's daughter, she finds herself kidnapped by a man who quite possibly may be mad, and Michael might be the only one who can save her.
"The Space Between" is a novella set in the Outlander world that takes place roughly toward the end of An Echo in the Bone or perhaps between it and Written in My Own Heart's Blood. It involves several supporting characters from the series. In one part of the story we have Michael Murry, Jenny and Ian's son and Young Ian's older brother, and Joan MacKimmie, Laoghaire's youngest daughter and Jamie's step-daughter. In a separate storyline, we also have Paul Rakoczy aka the Compte St. Germain who we were led to believe had died in Dragonfly in Amber after ingesting poison, but who isn't dead after all. Eventually the two storylines converge when the Compte abducts Joan, thinking that she's Claire's daughter and that she, too, may be a sorceress, and Michael must come to her rescue. Since the story primarily takes place in Paris, we also get to see Master Raymond and Mother Hildegaard again, which I found pretty exciting.
Michael has been living in Paris, working for cousin Jared in the same capacity that Jamie did years earlier. He was married, but his wife, Lillie, has recently died and he's still mourning her. While that was still fresh for him, he also had to travel back to Scotland (something that happened in Echo) to be at his ailing father's bedside before he died, too. Now Michael is returning to Paris, but not looking forward to being in his home where memories of his wife haunt him. He's agreed to escort Joan who is traveling to Paris to become a nun and he finds her companionship to be a pleasant distraction.
Joan has been determined to become a Bride of Christ for some time, and even engineered certain events in Echo to finally make that happen. As it turns out, though, her reasons for wanting to enter the convent have to do with her hearing voices and seeing a dark veil over people who are about to die. It's a burden that's been difficult for her to live with, and one that she hopes the Church will help her sort out. However, she's afraid to tell anyone for fear of them thinking she's mad. During an outing with the other postulants, she encounters the Compte St. Germain, and the voices give her a message for him. She reluctantly delivers it, only to have him come looking for her later and abduct her, thinking that she has powers like him.
The Compte St. Germain appears to be dabbling in alchemy and possibly seeking the secret to immortality. As the story opens, he's testing different potions on rats, trying to find the right one that was previously used on him. He also wishes to have a child and engages the exclusive services of a lovely young prostitute to accomplish that. We also discover throughout the course of the story that the Compte has powers we never knew about before that actually go a bit deeper than any we've seen thus far in the series and that border on magical abilities. He also has a surprising connection to Master Raymond, someone he's been seeking out.
"The Space Between" was an entertaining Outlander side-story. I very much enjoyed getting to know these characters better and seeing them interact with one another. Michael is a kind man who has an honorable and protective side that's reminiscent of his other male relatives. Joan is a fascinating character whose psychic abilities (if that's what they are) are again, something that we haven't quite seen before in this series. Her fears and uncertainties surrounding her gift are very realistically rendered. The Compte is a particularly interesting and compelling character, and I liked having the opportunity to unearth some of his peculiarities. The story of these three definitely kept me engaged throughout with its sense of mystery, intrigue, and a touch of romance. My only small complaint is that the conclusion is pretty open-ended, when I prefer for things to be wrapped up a bit neater. It really left me with a yearning for more. Perhaps Ms. Gabaldon will write more about them in the future or perhaps she'll give us an update on what's happening with them in the main Outlander books. Either way, I'd be game to read more about these three. "The Space Between" was originally published in the multi-author anthology, The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination. It was later republished in the single-author anthology, A Trail of Fire, and as a stand-alone novella in eBook format. It's most recent publication is in the single-author anthology, Seven Stones to Stand or Fall, along with several other Outlander related novellas.
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