Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Right, this is the first in a series, actually. And this series is just...it might be my favorite series of all time. Now, I have deep and abiding love for Jim Butcher and both the Dresden Files and the Codex Alera. And a bunch of other series. Don't get me wrong. But these books are just...epic. They are epic, and heartbreaking, and my love for them is *pure*.

They're also a bit hard to categorize, apparently. I have, throughout the years, found them shelved under romance, horror, fantasy, history, and just plain fiction. The best general category they can be placed under is historical fiction. But even that isn't quite right, because of the time travel. :)

So, the book starts out in 1945 with Claire and Frank Randall. World War II has just ended, and the couple are on a 'second' honeymoon, because the War interrupted their first one. They're honeymooning in Inverness, Scotland, near a hill called Craigh na Dun. The hill features a small stone circle, a sort of 'miniature' Stonehenge.

Claire, having an interest in botany and the medicinal uses of various plants (she's a nurse) returns to the stone circle to try and get a sample of a plant that she had seen up there and wanted to identify. As she's walking around the circle, looking, she feels and hears this humming sound, coming from one of the rocks that is actually split in two. She approaches this rock, and touches it. Suddenly, it's as though she can hear screaming, and then the sounds of battle all around her. She stumbles through the split in the rock, and when she comes to, it's night.

She assumes that she hit her head, and, after checking herself for signs of a concussion, heads back down to the car. Which isn't there anymore. Tired and unhappy, she sets off across the woods, heading back for town. While she's making her way through the dense forest, she suddenly finds herself in the middle of what she at first believes to be a reenactment of a battle between Scottish Highlanders and Red Coats.

Turns out, it's not a reenactment at all, of course. She has, somehow, been transported back in time about two hundred years, to 1743. One of the Red Coats, a Captain by the name of Jack Randall (who is, in fact, an ancestor of her husband, Frank), captures her, and given her state of 'undress' (she was dressed perfectly fine in 1945, but in 1743 her dress looks like an underthing, basically) assumes that she's a whore. Claire takes exception to this, Randall tries to press the point, and is jumped and knocked out by one of the Highlanders (Murtaugh). Who proceeds to 'rescue' her from the rest of the Red Coats by kidnapping her and taking her with him.

Claire winds up on the run with this group of Scottish 'bandits'. They can't let her go because they suspect she's an English spy, so they're taking her back to Castle MacKenzie (which is not what it's call in the book, but I can't remember the Gaelic for it, atm) to go before Colum MacKenzie, their laird. On the way Claire begins to figure out what happened, and she also proves herself to be useful in patching up their wounds. Especially the wounds of a young Mr. Jamie MacTavish. ;)

Through plot twists which I won't give away, Jamie and Claire wind up marrying to keep her from having to be turned over to Captain Jack Randall, who believes that she is a Scottish spy, and intends to torture her to get the truth out of her. And, let me tell you, the man is a sadist, in the true sense of the term. He's *evil*, which is proved out through the book.

Anyway. Claire and Jamie do, of course, fall in love, even as Claire is still trying to sneak off back to the circle so that she can get back to her own time. After an incident where Claire is 'accidentally' taken up in a sweep to capture a 'witch' (it's not based on any belief that the woman is a witch, really, but on matters of politics and clan succession), and Jamie manages to rescue her, Claire finally confesses to him the truth of who she is and why she's so strange.

Jamie, who is insanely in love with Claire, to be honest, finally takes her back to Craigh na Dun, so that she can return. He leaves here there, informing her that he'll stay at the base of the hill until the next morning, to make sure that she makes it. Claire, having finally admitted to herself that she does, in fact, love Jamie, has to decide whether or not to go back to Frank, whom she is married to, in the future, but who she doesn't really feel like she knows anymore, or stay with Jamie, who she is currently married to, in the past, and who she has been through hell with.

Happily, she chooses Jamie. Who is *clearly* the superior man. Just trust me on this one. There's *so much* in this book that I don't want to give away.

There're currently seven books in the main series, with three books that are a sort of off shoot series with a recurring character from the main series, with book eight in the main series in the works, and possibilities for a 'prequel' series, featuring Jaime's parents and *their* story, which is also epic. Look, this woman writes novels that are 700+ pages, and that you can't put down. Epic is the only word that works.

Anyway. *This* book ends, after much fighting and stress and death, with Jaime and Claire recuperating in a monastery in France, planning to go to Rome and the Court of Bonnie Prince Charlie.


  1. Aha! Now I know where you've been lately. Reading this awesome book. I think one of my other online friends is reading this as well. I may have to try them myself. Sounds like a great story! Thanks for the review and recommendation!

  2. Um, yeah. :) They do sort of suck me in. And refuse to let go.

    But yes, *everyone* should read these books. I've never met anyone who read them who didn't love them.

  3. I've read the first book. It took me a whole week, reading for hours every afternoon. And that's the shortest of the series! I admit, I started "Dragonfly in Amber", but only made it about 40 pages in. That was about a year and a half ago. I liked the first book, but I don't love the series like everyone else does -- though I do have all of the books up to "Breath of Snow and Ashes", just in case I happen to find the time (eventually) to read the whole series.

  4. Heather,

    Dragonfly does take a while to get going. 40 pages in, you're still in 1968 with Claire and Brianna and Roger. But there is a point to that, and it does pick up. You do find out what the hell is going on. :) I can tell you that, the first time I read Dragonfly, by the end of the book I was sobbing, and cursing myself for not having the third book.

    But yeah, these books are an investment of time, for sure. Considering it takes her something like 2 - 3 years to write the bloody things, that make sense. Do you have the Lord John books, too? They're much shorter, and more mystery than anything else. But they don't make sense, I think, unless you know the characters from the main series.

  5. whilst in Greece last week I read a book called Fire by Kirsten cashore. I quite enjoyed it, although this is the 2nd book in the triology. I picked it up in the hotel lobby left by another guest.

    it is a bit batter from the yacht but if you want it I will post it to you

  6. Hi,

    My name is Rev Robert Wright, Editor for Christian.com, a social network made specifically for Christians, by Christians. We embarked on this endeavor to offer the entire Christian community an outlet to join together and better spread the good word of Christianity. Christian.com has many great features like Christian TV, prayer requests, finding a church, receiving church updates and advice. We have emailed you to collaborate with you and your blog to help spread the good word of Christianity. I look forward to your response regarding this matter. Thanks!

    Rev. Robert Wright

  7. I"m with Heather. Enjoyed the first book and put down the second without finishing it.

    I'd have to re-read the first book in order to get going again.....;-)

  8. Slice,

    I appreciate the offer, but I've actually read the first book in that series and it didn't really grab me. :)

  9. Alana,

    Huh. Well, I suppose it is technically possible for some people to not love these books as much as I do... :)

    Yeah, you'd definitely have to reread the first one to get into it though. Like I told Heather, the second book starts out a bit slow, and is sort of jarring given that you're suddenly back in 1968 instead of 1744, but it does pick back up.


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