Review: Outlander

Posted: January 4, 2018 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Diana Gabaldon, Alternate Historical Fiction, Romance

Romance isn’t exactly a genre that we here at EBR dip our toes into very often. In point of fact, I just looked up how many reviews of books we have that are labeled as being tagged as “romance”. Want to know how many there were? Two. And one of those, I was tricked into reading. Seeing as how having only one review in a given genre is kind of silly, and having two seems more like an excuse to remove the genre than even one did, I thought I’d add to that total and provide the third review in this oft-forgotten genre here at EBR. I know. I’m too much. You can thank me later for my generosity. No, in all seriousness I also kind of wanted to review this book because then I could mention the fact that the author of this book is none other than Sam Sykes’s mother, and if you don’t know who Sam Sykes is, then you should watch out for my next review. Until then, there’s this one, and it ain’t too shabby either.

OUTLANDER (Amazon) is the first in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon and has been around for a long time indeed. 1991. Yeesh. I was still in high school back then. In the 26 years that have passed since, the author has managed to write eight books in the series, with a ninth planned and on the way. They’ve been released about every 4 or 5 years. So, about on par with what GRRM has been favoring us with. Stars picked it up for adaptation to television, and they’re now working on season four. So, it stands to reason that there are all sorts of people that already know about this series, and love it to pieces.

Claire Randall is a British Army nurse living in post-WWII England, visits Scotland with her husband on a second honeymoon and inadvertently stumbles into a time hole whilst wandering around some old relics atop a well-known hill. This time hole plops her down on a younger version of the same hill, nearly 200 years into the past. Ostensibly, the resulting story is about her efforts to get back to her own time, and her loving husband, once she works out what has happened to her. Whilst cavorting through the past though, she meets a man named Jaime Fraser, and slowly but surely things get progressively more complicated.

Whilst technically I categorized this book as Alternate Historical Fantasy, it really is a romance at its heart. I could easily tell that because I constantly found myself saying, “Yeah, yeah. They’re falling in love. So when is thing going to get good?” Not to say that the story wasn’t good, or that the romance wasn’t well built. It was. It’s also quite well plotted and structured. The writing was great. Characterization is spot on. If I had a technical complaint it would be that the pacing could do with some more get-up-and-go. Still, it was able to keep my interest as long as I kept telling myself that this was a romance, and I needed to pay attention to the romantically-specific details that the two main characters were building upon in each scene. There were a few chapters around the middle of the book that were ridiculously long too. That’s getting kind of nit-picky though.

Romantic historical fiction... with a small speculative element thrown in for plot excitement. Not our cup of tea, but OUTLANDER may be yours.

All in all, I think this is a pretty solid romance novel. I mean, if I were a fan of romances, then I’d probably be drooling all over this book and slavering for the next one in the series. It was most definitely a romance novel from the get-go, and for that I’m appreciative. After reading that Stephen King novel that was a romance masquerading as a… well… as a something else, I’m not exactly sure what, it was refreshing to get some honesty from this one.

So, if you’re a fan of romance novels, this is probably a novel for you to read despite the fact that we didn’t rate it ridiculously high. If you can swallow the single idea that there’s a time hole of some sort that lets Claire travel 200 years into the past (it only comes up in the book twice, and I know that non-speculative readers can sometimes choke on plot points that are clearly not realistic), then I’d say dive in. Still, for us here at EBR, this is a little too much of a mundane book, as it has so very few speculative elements in it for us to enjoy. Because, I mean, I can enjoy a fiction novel for what it is. Sure. The only problem is that when I do, I so often find myself pining for the speculative, that it results in me not liking the book as much as I otherwise would have. And that was absolutely the case here.

  • Recommended Age: 18+
  • Language: For the large majority, very mild, but strong a few times
  • Violence: Detailed violence and gore, but not a lot
  • Sex: Frequent scenes with romance-novel detail, some beset with violence

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