Jeanne Treat,
Dark Birthright
(Ahead of the Hangman, 2006)

"Hang the damned witch."

"It's a shame that God-fearing people are bothered with witches."

This is the standard of gripping dialogue awaiting you between the pages of Dark Birthright, by Jeanne Treat. Called "A Seventeeth Century Tale from Scotland's Mystic Shores," it's more like a 21st-century vision, poorly viewed, of a murky shoreline through a rusty spyglass.

This strange (and meandering) tale of psychic twins, who not only know what the cook is making for dinner miles away, but also experience a creepy, second-hand parental sex experience, will at turns bore and unsettle. Treat has inserted randomly "wee" and "ye" and the occasional "bairn" in place of authentic research, leading to a tone more akin to modern romance than historic fiction.

Obviously inspired by Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, Dark Birthright is hard to read without the unfortunate comparison. Whereas Gabaldon exceeds her reader's hopes again and again, Treat has created a flat world of repeating characters lacking definition.

I picked this novel up from the review stack because of the prominent and positive review on the back cover by Shannon Curtis, a member of the Ladies of Lallybroch, the popular Gabaldon fan club. Although Curtis claims Dark Birthright "will indulge fans of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series and their interests in historical fiction," I say Treat is not fit to wipe Gabaldon's literary dirk.

by Katie Knapp
31 March 2007

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