Note: There are no spoilers in this review.
This eighth book in the ongoing Outlander time travel/historical fiction series begins in 1778 in Philadelphia, in the thick of the American Revolution. The story picks up right where it left off in the seventh book, An Echo in The Bone, but the author does a good job with contriving circumstances in which she can fill in background without engaging in obvious info dumps.
If you already follow the series, you won’t want to know any spoilers, and if you don’t follow it, you probably won’t be interested in what happens during the eighth installment of a series you aren’t reading. What can be said generally is that this saga is replete with everyday family interactions, love, sex (with most characters having three similar body-part fixations), violence, lots of information about medicine, fighting, Scottish rituals, early American history (with many historical cameos – reminding one a bit of Forest Gump in that regard), and occasional speculation on whether people from the future can or should affect events in the past.
For those who aren’t fond of the characters of Roger and Bree, they figure much less prominently in this book, although William, another unpopular guy, plays a large role.
As with any book this long, there are a number of things that would have been better omitted, but of course opinions about what those things might be will vary among readers. In terms of my own preferences, I would have strongly encouraged the author to expurgate some sentences that seemed racist or prejudiced to me; I would have begged Gabaldon to abjure her fixation with a couple of body parts; and I would have suggested she not feel a need to record every instance of every character belching. I would definitely have omitted the eye-rolling disquisitions on what it means to be “a man.” I also thought the treatment of Lord John Grey by both Claire and Jamie was disgraceful, and not in keeping, it seemed to me, with either of their characters. And how is it that such a nice guy like Lord John would have such a jerk of a son?
[As for the exhibits of racism and prejudice, I think it can be justified if it helps you understand a character or the times in which the character lives. In the case of this writer, however, I saw some of it as gratuitous or perhaps even unconscious.]
There is, on the other hand, lots to like about this particular installment, especially with the large role given to the eminently appealing characters of Ian and Rachel.
Evaluation: It’s entertaining to make fun of some aspects of this series, and yet these books are compulsively readable. The books are also so long that you can’t help but feel you know these characters thoroughly, and want to know what happens to them.
Published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, 2014
Note: The Outlander television series runs on the STARZ channel. The casting is terrific. There are lots of trailers to watch here.