I am a sucker for a good series when it comes to fiction. And even if the series starts to falter in its quality, once I become attached to characters or enthralled by a storyline - I just can't seem to let go.
Thus, when I was at Costco last month and saw Diana Gabaldon's latest installment in the Outlander series, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, I had to pick it up. If you haven't read this book, and intend to do so, don't worry - I won't give anything important away.
Outlander had been recommended to me by a number of people a couple years ago. Yet, the description kept sounding different - was it a romance, was it fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, a mystery? Part of Gabaldon's genius is that it was all those things. It centered on the time traveling Claire and the 18th century Scottish Highlander, Jamie Fraser. I can honestly say that Jamie Fraser is the most incredible man I have seen in fiction (and yes, I am including Mr. Darcy - whom I love very dearly, just about as much as Elizabeth Bennett - but Jamie would still be #1). Outlander was an incredible book - one of the best I have ever read.
I enjoyed the next two installments, but by the fourth the story was dragging. By the time the fifth came around - I was wishing she would just get on with it and get the story told.
This sixth book is worth the read if you are a lover of the series, yet I kept hearing Edgy Mama's voice - being the writer that she is - saying, "She is just such a popular writer that she doesn't really get edited anymore." How true. Diana - I love you and think you are beyond talented - but the book needs a good editor! I give the book a B-, but it could easily move to a B+ or maybe higher if we shaved off about 250-300 pages. Now, I like long books. Reading hundreds of pages is not a problem for me. But - this was extraneous material. No, I did not need a detailed play-by-play of an 18th century hemorrhoid operation. The book was also heavier in tone than the earlier ones - more depressing, and less mix of the levity Gabaldon can display.
That being said, overall the story was interesting. I realize part of my interest is being a North Carolinian, where the story is placed. Gabaldon proposes an interesting interpretation of what happened to the Lost Colony - I liked that. She continues to craft interesting characters, who interact well with each other. Yet, the story itself would drag - due to the lack of being edited! It needed to move at a faster pace. Even if some of the more minor characters were minimimalized - that would be for the better. In the next one, please don't give me one more young woman with a sordid sex story. I had enough in this book.
Another interesting part of the book is a character who deals with a calling from God to the ministry. God and faith have always been part of Gabaldon's writing, but this was a new take that I felt she explored in a respectful, truthful way. I didn't expect it, and due to my own profession and pulls in my own life, I found this struggle quite interesting.
I think it will have to be a B-, but it could be more. Gabaldon is still an excellent story teller who combines various genres (did I even mention mystery?) in wonderful ways. Next time - let's cut down on the extraneous storylines, characters, and descriptions - and get things rolling and moving to where I am up all night reading and in tears (like I was once with Outlander).