I have been listening to the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon on Audible for nearly a year now. I began listening to the audiobooks when I started my new job to fill my long commute time. The audiobooks are long, 30-50+ hours each and the books are enormous. Each one, at least so far, is narrated by Davina Porter, who won an award for her reading of Outlander Book 6: A Breath of Snow and Ashes and has many audiobooks readings under her belt. She is a pro.
I enjoyed the first two books in the Outlander series immensely, and I have held the belief, which gets stronger with each subsequent novel after Book 3, that Diana Gabaldon probably should have ended the story of Jamie and Claire at the end of Book 2. But I am a sucker for a happy ending, and I feel like the longer we go, the higher the chance of a final tragic end for the lovers. However, this is an older series, the first book was published in 1991 which makes it 27 years old and there are eight books in the series to this point with a ninth one in progress, so I am a little behind. But I was born a year before the first book came out so I can be excused for at least the first thirteen or so years of the existence of the series, probably longer as the content is mature.
Regardless of this belief, I have committed myself to this series. Listening to the story of Jamie and Claire and their family nearly every day for a year has fully invested me in their stories, however, they eventually end.
I will say that I felt a personal connection to Claire and Jamie’s story because my husband was deployed when I first listened to this series and when they are separated before the Battle of Culloden, I felt Claire and Jamie’s pain very acutely. I think that connection also keeps me reading the series even though the height of Jamie and Claire’s romantic drama seems to have ended.
That is my segue into the actual review of Outlander Book 5: The Fiery Cross. I adore Jamie and Claire and their dynamic in this book. They are still in love, but they are finally able to be comfortable in their love and settle into a capital “R” Relationship. There are many real-life benefits to settling into this stage as a couple but far less drama which makes for less compelling reading. Ms. Gabaldon introduced Claire and Jamie’s daughter, Brianna’s relationship and all the excitement that comes with young love. Not that I don’t like Brianna or Roger Wakefield (Mackenzie)’s characters, but I started the series for the Jamie/Claire action and inevitably as they age that is winding down. They are sweet, but their love story is no longer front and center plot-wise.
To compensate for the lapse in romance, the author introduces mystery, action, and paranormal activity. And other romantic storylines but frankly since Brianna gave birth to Jemmy, her and Roger’s love story is not super impressive either. We all love the drama and excitement of new love, I guess, even as voyeurs. The mystery/action/paranormal activity has kept me on the edge of my seat, hands gripping my steering wheel many times through this book, notably the hanging and near death of Roger. I swore that if she killed Roger off, I was done with the series I was so into this scene. It was so dramatic, the author pushed me as a reader as far as I could go into hopelessness, Roger was definitely dead, I saw the corpse hanging from the tree, she pushed then pulled me bodily back from the precipice. It was terrifying to see what power she had over me as a reader.
There is no doubt she has a mastery of writing. And her settings and historical details seem to be spot on. I haven’t heard anything that pulled me out of the story and made me think that wasn’t possible for that character in that time. She has spent thousands of pages building her world, so I was already well established in the setting before starting The Fiery Cross which is the benefit of series, you can really dig deep into worldbuilding which is fun as a writer without sacrificing story and character development.
I guess my overall impression is that I love these characters she has created, and I am invested in their destinies, but for the sake of plot quality, I think this story, and its intentions as it began, has peaked. Every book after Book 3 just feels like a completely different type of book, if that makes sense.
I would very much like to read a different story by this author.