Hmmm....this book was going to get a five star rating until about 70%; then it lost it's spark for me.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It was exactly what I had been expecting from Ken Follett...historical fiction, lots of drama/action, compelling plot, interesting characters, and overall a page turner. Nothing very deep but an entrancing read. I knew it was part of a series and (as mentioned above) for most of the book was looking forward to the idea that there were several more large volumes to consume.
Then she kind of lost me when Jamie went to Wentworth Prison. At that point, it became unbelievable (not the rape, the rescue) and too convenient (really the bear-man happens to be Sir Marcus and he's happy to help Jamie? Yes, he may have loved Ellen once upon a time, but he also was spurned by her and fought Dougal for it years ago. And, hello Jamie is also Black Brian's son...Marcus's rival). I found the last 100 pages or so almost torturous to read; the journey to France, the whole "I can't love you anymore because I was raped by a man" shebang ridiculous, and Claire's conversion to Catholicism not only unnecessary and inconsistent with her character but a weak mechanism to bring up the implications of time travel.
THEN I read Diana Gabaldon's website in which she claims to have just written this book for herself and not in the hopes of ever publishing. Really? She wrote a 500+ page novel just as an exercise to see if she could? She can, and did it well for the first 350-400 pages; she just didn't know when to stop. I'm not sure at this point if I'll read the next book or not, I'm certainly not eager, but overall it was a good read and if I stumble upon it available I will probably check it out.
As an aside, she very briefly mentions the implications of Claire's time-travel on future events. I would have enjoyed more speculation on this. I also wondered about the man in the Scottish kilt from 1945 (who Frank finds staring up at Claire's window)...that has to be Jamie, but if Frank no longer exists because Claire killed Captain Randell, then how is this to occur? I did expect Claire to go back at some point and then (of course) for Jamie to follow and end up in the wrong time (meaning before Claire meets him instead of after she returned). I'm assuming that this foreshadowing (if that can be called such) will come up in later volumes, but I'm also concerned that it may have been an unconnected thread.