01 January 2015

Dragonfly in Amber - Diana Gabaldon

This is BOOK TWO of the Outlander series. If you care about spoilers and have not read book one [or if you have only seen the show (whyhaveyounotseentheshowjustlookathim)], you've been warned.

Amazon Link

I first read Outlander on the longest. planeride. ever. back in 2003, but somehow I didn't realize it was a series because I was in my "punk rock journalist" phase and wasn't reading books (that didn't last long, Music is loud.). So back when book 6? 7? came out, I read the whole extant series. Now that the show is happening and there's a new book out, I'm revisiting over the holidays.

Here is how you feel when you finish Outlander:

And here is what happens when you start chapter 1 of DiA:

Then you go to Goodreads or Amazon or Diana Gabaldon's website and check to see if somehow the publishers are calling any old follow-up a sequel these days, and what is the language coming to? But no, this is definitely book 2.

If you'd asked me before I started this re-read, I'd have said that one of the strengths of the Outlander series is how Gabaldon avoids the trap of having her characters interact with Famous People from the Past at every available opportunity. By-and-large, that's still true as far as I remember, but I had forgotten this book.

Errrrone be famous in here. It's like one of those movies with the poster full of Name Brand Actors, and I'm really glad that Gabaldon shifted away after this book. There are dukes and duchesses and Ladies of the Court, two kings (or rather, a Real King and a Boy Who Would Be King), a bunch of Highlander chieftains, and probably some other famous characters I didn't recognize. And all of them looooove Jamie and Claire. Which is fine but you have to be willing to take your disbelief and put it on a slow ship to somewhere Far Far Away (Madagascar? Sierra Leone? Rio?). I like fantasy and time travel so I am very experienced at this particular trick. Plus Jamie is an idealized man and Claire is, of course, all of us ladies who deserve an ideal husband, so of course everyone would simply adore them both.

This is the book where the Frasers try to change history so that the massacre at Culloden doesn't happen, and I'm a little embarrassed to say that as much of an Anglophile as I am, approximately 98.7% of my knowledge of Scottish history comes from these books; Austen, Bronte, Dickens, Gaskell, and Hardy have all failed me in this regard and should be properly ashamed of themselves. Needless to say, those of us acquainted with the Rules of Time Travel know that there are fixed points in history that have to happen, and apparently Culloden was one of them. Something something about being able to change little things but not major events, blah blah.

Most of the book is spent at the court of whichever Louis was king at that point - I've returned the book so I can't look it up - and we get some interesting observations about What Life Was Like Back Then. Mostly cold and smelly, it would seem. We also meet Fergus, who is one of my favorite characters; I have a thing for plucky orphans.

The story is crafted well enough that by the end, you've mostly forgotten the WTF moment at the beginning, so when it comes around again at the end, it's a bit of a shock. - quite the clever little device.

Outlander is great fluffy fun with a main course of Historical Fiction, and I'm thoroughly enjoying the whole thing. It is worth noting, however, that no one in these books gets the plague or sails down the river in a punt wearing a boater, so the Jury of Me is still out on whether Connie Willis still wins everything.

Just kidding. Of course Connie Willis wins everything. But the new show of Outlander has some pretty great knits in it, and also kilts.

8 out of 11 Highlanders in Full Regalia

I should also mention that I'm participating in the Cannonball Read 7's Full Cannon for 2015, wherein I intend to read and blog about 52 books. For those of you coming over here from there, a few notes:
- the alphabet tags are for the first letter of the title and the author's last name, respectively.
- I use my own rating system, which shifts around somewhat but always goes to 11.