Friday, 11 December 2009

An Echo In The Bone by Diana Gabaldon (Book Review)

From the inside cover flap:

Jamie Fraser, former Jacobite and reluctant rebel, is already certain of three things about the American rebellion: The Americans will win, fighting on the side of victory is no guarantee of survival, and he’d rather die than have to face his illegitimate son—a young lieutenant in the British army—across the barrel of a gun.

Claire Randall knows that the Americans will win, too, but not what the ultimate price may be. That price won’t include Jamie’s life or his happiness, though—not if she has anything to say about it.

Meanwhile, in the relative safety of the twentieth century, Jamie and Claire’s daughter, Brianna, and her husband, Roger MacKenzie, have resettled in a historic Scottish home where, across a chasm of two centuries, the unfolding drama of Brianna’s parents’ story comes to life through Claire’s letters. The fragile pages reveal Claire’s love for battle-scarred Jamie Fraser and their flight from North Carolina to the high seas, where they encounter privateers and ocean battles as Brianna and Roger search for clues not only to Claire’s fate but to their own. Because the future of the MacKenzie family in the Highlands is mysteriously, irrevocably, and intimately entwined with life and death in war-torn colonial America.”

This is the seventh book in the Outlander series, consisting of historical adventure laced with romance and time travel, one which I had eagerly awaited and was not disappointed as the stories within unfolded. Each time I pick up any book of the series it is like seeing old friends after a long absence to catch up on past news.

There were several secondary characters to make their reappearance: Lord John Grey (whom I particularly enjoy reading about despite his predilections); Ian Murray (Jamie’s nephew) and his wolf-dog, Rollo; Fergus Fraser (Jamie’s adopted son from France); William Ellesmere (Ransom) (Jamie’s illegitimate son and stepson of Lord John Grey); Harold Grey (Lord John’s brother); Archie Bug; Jem and Mandy MacKenzie (children of Brianna and Roger MacKenzie); Jenny Fraser Murray (Jamie’s sister) and her husband Ian Murray; Laoghaire Fraser and her daughters (Jamie’s ex-wife—complicated with a history); and William Buccleigh MacKenzie.

Several new delightful characters were introduced: Denzell Hunter, a physician, and his sister, Rachel, Quakers; Henry Grey (Harold Grey’s son); and not so delightful, Robert Cameron.

Historical figures Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), Benedict Arnold, Benjamin Franklin,and Major John André made brief appearances.

Jamie Fraser, Jacobite, laird and 18th century Scotsman, has decided his participation in the American rebellion for independence is best suited with his printing press, and with Claire returns to Scotland to get it. Their journey is fraught with pirates, privateers, sidelined to assist the American rebels at Fort Ticonderaga before continuing across the Atlantic to Edinburgh.

There are love triangles, battle scenes, vengeance, comeuppance, reconciliation, deceptions, surgical procedures, visits to Quebec City, secrets, conspiracies, confessions, betrayal, greed, and surprise marriages between unlikely partners. The thoroughly researched historical medical descriptions and in-depth look into the early days of the Colonies with their desire for independence from British rule have kept me well entertained.

Ms Gabaldon has provided several cliffhangers plus a particularly excellent twist at the end to keep readers anxiously awaiting the next in the series.

There are multiple POVs meshed in with the numerous subplots, but were relatively easy to keep up with. This is a book that could be read on its own as hints from the past are included as explanations throughout. Many of the preceding books are not true stand alone books. I had begun with the third book, Voyageur, on the recommendation from a friend to read the passages about sailing, and once I was finished it I went out and bought the first book. I haven’t looked back since.

Book format: hardcover, 848 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Canada, division of RandomHouse Canada
Author website: Diana Gabaldon
Published: September 22, 2009


Reb said...

Oh, I love this series. Thanks for the review, now I know what to get a friend for Christmas ;)

Barbara Martin said...

I felt I could not put too much about any plot or there would be instant spoilers. Diana Gabaldon packs alot of story with many threads into her books.

Ronda Laveen said...

The seventh book in the sereis? Wow! I have some serious catching up to do. I think the last one I read was #4.

Teresa said...

This is a great review, Barbara. I'll look for the book when I go to the library on the 19th AFTER my finals and papers are finished.

Barbara Martin said...

Ronda, this series covers interesting American history in the Carolinas, some of which I was unaware until reading it in Ms Gabaldon's books.

Teresa, you may be lucky to find a copy so soon after publication in a library.

laughingwolf said...

thx barbara, on rex murphy's 'cross country checkup', yesterday, the whole series was recommended, and murph promised to add them to this year's reading list for cbc radio listeners...

EG CameraGirl said...

Gibaldon is fun to read even if she does write thick books. Nice review!

Barbara Martin said...

I love the thickness of the books as it is good value for the money. Also, with the main plot and accompanying subplots makes for an enjoyable read while becoming immersed.

L.A. Mitchell said...

You'd think with my *thing* for time travel, I'd be all up into this series, but I haven't reached that point yet. Not sure what it is. Great review, though, Barbara:)

Barbara Martin said...

L.A., there isn't a lot of the time travel in the series, only brief bits of it. The books are more historical fiction set in the late 1700s in America and Scotland.

Bernita said...

A really fascinating series.
Thank you, Barbara.

Barbara Martin said...

Bernita, it will be quite interesting to see what Ms Gabaldon does with the next book. Whether it will be the final in the series or another in tieing up loose ends to culminate in a satisfying conclusion.

Brasil said...

I am a huge fan of the Outlander series and Diana's Lord John books as well, so I was glad to see all of the characters together again in one book. The majority of the book felt like those that had come before. Then the tornado hit. In the last couple of chapters, it seemed as though Diana was writing a parody of one of her own books. It felt like she realized she didn't have much room left, and so threw the rest of the story * splat * in my face. Very many things happened in very little time, with the characters acting very out of character. I realize the entire work is fiction, and some of the other scenes were not very likely either, but this was ridiculous. And while I can appreciate a good cliff hanger, the way she left the storyline involving Brianna, Roger and Jem was an insult. I normally can't wait until the next book comes out, and reread the others in the meantime.

Barbara Martin said...

Brasil, Ms Gabaldon made her choices to fit in with the next novel so the pieces would fit. She tends to write in blocks of scenes and then links them together.

The later third of the book did come as a surprise to me as well, but by telling readers ahead of time makes for a plot spoiler.

The next book in the series is supposed to be the last one, so perhaps everything will come together by then in a satisfactory conclusion.