Outlaw Sword by J. Ardian Lee
ACE trade paperback: ISBN 0441009352 July 2002
Review by EJ McClure
320 pages List price $14.00  Purchase this book at Amazon.com

Closet fans of bodice-rippers, rejoice! Here's a book that has it all: Time-travel, fairies and swordsmen, spiced up with the "juicy bits" you'd expect in a historical romance -- science fiction fans can just skip to the next review. This one is for the fantasy-lovers.

J. Ardian Lee's second book, Outlaw Sword, opens with Dylan Matheson in Scotland, fleeing the Jacobite defeat at Sheriffmuir. His cause lost, or at least in full retreat, he wants to salvage something from the ruins, but his lover, Cait Mor, has been forced to marry Connor Ramsay, an English sympathizer. Dylan knows he will not be able to persuade her to desert her husband, but he feels compelled to do what he can to help her, and their bastard son, Ciaran.

His quest leads him to Edinburgh, a dangerous town for a man known to have fought alongside Rob Roy. But Dylan is both quick-witted and stubborn. Eventually, through subterfuge, luck, and magic, he makes his way into aposition of trust in Ramsayís household, and so learns Ramsayís guilty secrets.

He is aided--with much kibitzing--by Sinann Eire, one of the fair folk. Sinann engineered Dylan's first trip to Scotland in Son of the Sword, his return to the twentieth century just in time to save his life, and this second trip to Scotland, though why she runs a shuttle service between times was a puzzlement to me.

Meanwhile, back in Nashville, Cody Marshall is doing a bit of detective-work of her own, trying to track down her missing friend. She had a pretty good hunch--or at least a hope--that he found his way back into the past to see his son. What she discovers in her research leads her to fear for the boy's life, and to make a desperate attempt to travel back in time to save the child. Following Dylanís trail, she journeys to the Highlands, and there encounters Sinann, who sends her back in time--not so that she can change history, but so that history will not be changed.

The Jacobite rebellion provides a marvelous backdrop for this sprightly tale of adventure and romance. The author confesses up front that Outlaw Sword is only loosely based on the historical events of the period; SCA and Scottish history buffs may find themselves compelled to nit-pick at details. But J. Ardian Lee gets a lot of amusement out of the cultural incongruities, and Dylan does a good job of translating them for us.

I suspect J. Ardian Lee of some wishful thinking in creating her fetching hero, Dylan Matheson, a twentieth-century martial arts buff swashbuckling his way through eighteenth-century Scotland in pursuit of love and justice. But what the heck. We know those blockbuster summer movies are targeted to the 12-18 male audience. So who can blame a girl if she looks for some light-hearted fare more to her taste as she loads up her tote bag for a trip to the beach? And for less than the price of two movie tickets, a large popcorn, and drinks, this book is a deal.