So I am finally caught up with the published Outlander books – I just finished An Echo in the Bone last weekend. Just in time, too, since school started for me this week.
Outlander is a series of books that form one epic story, so I can’t talk much about the plots of later books without spoiling you on what happens in the previous ones. The story starts with Outlander. (In the U.K., it’s called Cross Stitch). It’s primarily told from the first person point of view of Claire, a young, English newlywed trying to reconnect with her husband after being separated from him during World War II, where she was a nurse and he a soldier. The premise is that while they are enjoying a second honeymoon in Scotland she is exploring a local stone circle (similar to Stonehenge) that somehow transfers her 200 years into the past. Alone and friendless in the eighteenth century, she falls in with a band of roguish Scots. I’m going to spoil you just a tiny bit to tell you that she ends up being forced to marry one of them in order to protect them both.
The series continues with Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, and the latest, An Echo in the Bone. As you read the series, there are a few more comings and goings between the two times, although the journey is both unpleasant and dangerous, so it’s not something the characters do on a whim. Time travel is not necessarily limited to the main characters, either. The cast of characters expands greatly over the seven massive tomes, and the settings span two continents.
The author, Diana Gabaldon, has described the series as being in multiple genres, from romance to science fiction. If I had to pigeonhole it, I would call it simply historical fiction. Of course, it is also heavy on romance, has the time travel fantasy component, even military battles and strategy. If you’d like to hear the author herself talk about the series, she has (or had – it hasn’t been updated in two years) a podcast that you can find on iTunes or import directly from Random House (copy the link into your RSS reader or podcast manager). Careful, though; there are some minor spoilers for some of the later books. You can also follow her blog at dianagabaldon.com. I’ve heard that she also contributes often on the message boards at the fan site Ladies of Lallybroch.
If you enjoy Outlander, you may also want to check out Gabaldon’s Lord John series, which is about a minor character from the Outlander series. Some Outlander devotees are less than ardent fans of Lord John, though. I’ll be honest and say that I haven’t read the Lord John books yet myself, and I’m not sure whether I will or not. In some of the later Outlander books, scenes are told from Lord John’s (also his son, William’s) perspective, and I tend to find many of these tedious. I was particularly annoyed when a plot point was injected into An Echo in the Bone that referred to previous events that I believe were written about in the Lord John series. Perhaps Lord John is more interesting when he is allowed to stand alone, though.
The author has stated on her blog that she hopes that the next installment will be published sometime in 2012. I think I told you before that I had heard that An Echo in the Bone ended on a cliffhanger. It kind of did. The story being told was wrapped up, but a side plot was introduced near the end and left completely hanging. I’m somewhat hopeful that this is next-to-last-book syndrome (see, for example Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Catching Fire). However, I’ve also heard that she intends to write Jamie and Claire up to about 1800, which is still a ways off since we left off in the middle of the American Revolution.
So I highly recommend that you check out Outlander. I must warn you that the first book starts off a little slow. I read entire the sample on my Kindle, which is supposed to be around 10% of the book, and Claire still hadn’t gone back in time. I thought that the book was too slow, deleted the sample, and forget about it. However, so many people just raved about it that when the price dropped to $1.75 on Kindle I grabbed it. I continued reading, and I’m glad I did. If you’re not sure whether you’ll like it and don’t want to purchase it, check it out from the library or something to give it a fair try. I’d say that if you aren’t drawn in and caring about the characters by the time Jamie and Claire get married, the series probably isn’t something you’ll enjoy.