December 20, 2009

A history lesson, heavy on the brothels

Gabaldon, Diana. An Echo in the Bone. New York: Delacorte Press, 2009.

No, I haven't just been lollygagging since the last post--I've been working my way through the 800-plus pages of the latest offering in the Outlander series. Here's what I said about the series before:
I like historical fiction a lot, especially when there's a bit of romance, and these books are the perfect blend of heated battles, heated romance, and time travel. Yes, time travel, from 20th century Britain back to fighting-against-the-English Scotland, and it works out quite nicely for the heroine. As a bonus, the books are all hundreds to more than a thousand pages long, so there's plenty of time for the story to develop. Good for me, not for the faint of heart.
All that still applies, except that the narrative has trundled along deeper into revolutionary America, including the Battle of Saratoga and chats with General Benedict Arnold pre-treason. The characters have all gotten a little older, but they generally don't show it except for the occasional creak when standing up. There's still time travel, but now we're trying to figure out why there is. Of course, there's still plenty of sex.

I spent the first quarter of the book trying to remember what went on in the previous books. Probably only a thousand or two of the preceding pages linger in my memory. Eventually, I got into this book's storyline enough to enjoy it on its own, but now I can see why a friend of mine went back and restarted the series after reading this one. These books aren't just long: they're densely packed with historical detail and intraseries references. That's sort of the problem with this installation, which mostly felt like a history lesson and the laying of a foundation for some big doings that might happen in the next book. I liked it, but the per-page payoff wasn't huge. However, the groundwork was laid, and I'll probably read the next book whenever it comes out, assuming Gabaldon doesn't die of exhaustion first. (Another short and quirky Lord John book is apparently due early next year, but who knows when the next Jamie-and-Claire 1000-pager will arrive.) Maybe it'll be the first not to have a giant pitched battle!

Rating: *** (more if you're into the series and you have to read it)

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