Wednesday, February 09, 2011

An Echo in the Bone

I finally read Diana Gabaldon's latest in her Outlander series (aka the Claire and Jamie Fraser saga), An Echo in the Bone, in December and January. These are long books--most are around 800 pages--so it did take awhile to get through.

I have been studiously ignoring the many reviews and posts about the book as I didn't want to bias my take on it, and I really hate spoilers (I picked up one inadvertently and I was looking for the event to happen during the whole book, which is annoying!). One of the things I've really liked about each of the books in the series thus far is that each is a standalone story, with a defined beginning, middle and end. Even though you know that a lot went on previous to the start of the book, and that Claire and Jamie's story is not yet over, Gabaldon was able to wrap each book nicely, providing satisfying resolution to the major plot lines of the particular book and pulling those plot lines together into an overarching theme.

Sad to say, this didn't hold true with An Echo in the Bone. She really should have titled it An Echo in the Bone, Part I because it ends abruptly with at least half a dozen cliff hangers and an extremely strange position for Claire and Jamie to be in. I am pretty generous when it comes to suspending my disbelief, but I confess to rolling my eyes and feeling a bit miffed at devoting a few weeks of my life to reading a book that didn't deliver a satisfying ending.

Will I read the next book in the series? Absolutely. But...fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Book seven in a series is not a time to go messing about with a tried-and-true formula, not to mention devoted readers. Now, I'll have to go and read other reviews and discover whether other readers were bothered by the ending as I was.


To be fair, for most of the book, I really enjoyed the story.

I love the time travel element of the book, and was thrilled to see Brianna and Roger and the kids back in Scotland in the 20th century--dealing with dislocation in reverse and how they handled reintegration. I also loved how William Buccleigh Mackenzie ends up in Scotland with them and "haunts" them. I also loved how Bree "felt" the force of the rocks when she was in the tunnel--that was actually kind of cool, in a shivery sort of way.

I enjoyed the pirating aspects and the general history of the early days of the Revolution, the Benedict Arnold connection, and the new characters, especially the Turners. At first, I didn't care for William, Lord John Grey's stepson, but he definitely grew on me and I became much more interested in his story.

I enjoyed Claire and Jamie's return to Scotland and their interaction with Jenny and her family, although I didn't care for the way Claire started telling her time-travel story and cluing the relatives in to what was coming in France. I'll buy that Jamie believes her story, but this is inconsistent with the rest of the series.

I hated Claire marrying Lord John and performing her wifely duties with him. This really stretched the limit, was overly rushed, and made me, for the first time, actually dislike Claire. Jamie's response when Lord John told him the situation also defied belief. This whole aspect of the story felt unthought out. I wish Gabaldon had ended the book earlier in the story, and left this part for the next book, she might have not written herself into this corner if she had.

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