Book Review – Outlander 3, 4 & 5

I’ve just been tearing through the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon at a rate of knots so this time I’m reviewing 3 books at once, 3 – 5.

I have to be honest up front and say that I didn’t enjoy these as much as I did the first two. It’s not because they’re badly written, because they’re not at all, and I’d even go so far as to say that my issues with these books are nothing to do with the author and everything to do with personal preference and issues with the publisher.

My issues with the publisher are thus – considering the price of these books and the fact that they come from a reputable publishing house (Cornerstone Digital is an imprint of Random House, as far as I’m aware), I’m kind of astonished that they’re as full of spelling mistakes as they are. I can only assume that the typos are transcription errors caused during conversion from paper to digital, but frankly it’s not good enough. If you’re going to charge £4 – £9 for an ebook, at least have the decency to copy edit it before putting it out.

There are also significant structural issues with the book – storylines that don’t appear to go anywhere and at least two glaring plot holes that I’ve seen so far. No, I don’t blame this on the author. Writing is a fickle and extended thing. A decent editor should have picked up on those at any one of the dozens of edits it must have gone through between first draft and print. I’ve heard of editors noticing when a character is wearing the wrong colour socks. Errors such as these should never have been allowed through. If there is a storyline that doesn’t go anywhere, such as the prophecy about Brianna, then it should have been stripped out of the story. I’m all for an indulgent and detail rich book of 800+ pages, but there shouldn’t be loose ends all over the place.

It’s also bizarre how the characters just seem to keep bumping into people they know, as though the world is only the size of a small town. They spend 3 months on a ship to the Americas and happen to just meet John Grey and an aunt of Jamie’s and Geillis Duncan. Coincidence was just stretched a little too thin and again, an editor should have suggested other courses for the plot. One coincidence can be squeezed in. By the time you’re getting to the third, it’s a little ridiculous.

In terms of my preferences as a reader, my issues are two-fold. The first is that I miss Scotland. The magic of the first two books for me was that they were mostly set in Scotland in and around the area where I live. It really took it to that next level of ‘special’ for me. I loved the books and I fell head over heels for the characters. These next three books are set at first in the Indies and then in the New World of America. I just couldn’t get on board with Brianna and Roger but, to be fair, they were never going to be another Claire and Jamie. Then when the wolf appeared as Ian’s trusty sidekick it occurred to me that it was like a super-extended version of Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman with Ian reprising the role of Sully and suddenly I couldn’t take him seriously any more.

My second issue of personal preference is that the tone of the books has changed completely. The first two had a direction and focus; everything was heading towards Culloden. Everything that happened in that thrilling and fast-paced rush towards catastrophe had a purpose. This section of the series doesn’t have that. There’s nothing to aim for, nothing for them to build towards. They make mention a few times of the coming War of Independence, but they’re just small asides in passing, with no real sense of connection to the characters. The story just meanders around aimlessly. It’s become a family saga and while I’m on board with that now, it’s taken a significant adjustment in my world view of these books. If I didn’t love Jamie and Claire so much, I don’t think I’d enjoy reading about the minutiae of their lives.

So, there’s all the negative out of the way!

Do I still love my Jamie and his Claire? Hell yes!! Although I love Claire grudgingly because I wish Jamie was mine. I know he’s fictional but still… *sigh* He’s just as funny, sweet, endearing and yet incredibly masculine all at once as he was in the first two books. Despite his age in these books, he still has a peculiar innocence to him that’s hilarious and poignant in equal measure.

Did I stay up reading til 3am, five nights in a row? Yes. Yes I did.

Am I still learning history in a way my school teachers couldn’t begin to imagine? Yes. SO much history. It’s still fuelling my search for my ancestors and deepening my love for this gorgeous country in which I live.

While I don’t like Brianna and Roger as much as Claire and Jamie, they’re good characters in and of themselves. Let’s face it, they were never going to measure up. Claire and Jamie are special. I think what I like most about Gabaldon’s characters is that they’re realistic. They do stupid stuff and make snap judgements and behave in ways they regret, but it’s an even balance with the good things that they do. They’re not too perfect.

So all in all I’m still enjoying the books. I have 6 and 7 downloaded already so I’m looking forward to getting on with those!

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