Thursday, 17 March 2016

A Breath of Snow and Ashes

Author: Diana Gabaldon
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: #6 in the Outlander series (read in order)
Source: Personal Library
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 980
Publisher: DoubleDay Canada
First Published: September 27, 2015
First Line: "The dog sensed them first."

Book Description from GoodReads: The year is 1772, and on the eve of the American Revolution, the long fuse of rebellion has already been lit. Men lie dead in the streets of Boston, and in the backwoods of North Carolina, isolated cabins burn in the forest.

With chaos brewing, the governor calls upon Jamie Fraser to unite the back-country and safeguard the colony for King and Crown. But from his wife Jamie knows that three years hence the shot heard round the world will be fired, and the result will be independence - with those loyal to the King either dead or in exile. And there is also the matter of a tiny clipping from The Wilmington Gazette, dated 1776, which reports Jamie's death, along with his kin. For once, he hopes, his time-traveling family may be wrong about the future.  

My Review:  This book, similar to the other books in the Outlander series, was a big read.  My hardcover copy was just shy of 1000 pages. Yup, it's a biggie.  I had actually bought it over 10 years ago and even got Gabaldon herself to autograph it.  {Book Geek Heaven!} But after struggling to get through the fifth book in the series, The Fiery Cross, years ago I was hesitant to pick up another book in this series.  Yes, it took me a whole decade to come back to the trials and tribulations of Claire and Jamie. 

Though a good writer, Gabaldon has a tendency to wax poetic and get too verbose for my tastes.  Her characters are amazing, her large story arcs are great but sometimes she gets stuck in the minutiae of daily life and the lives of numerous tertiary characters leaving me to wonder why certain scenes were added in the first place. 

After a decade of waiting I wanted to get back on the proverbial horse so I took time to reacquaint myself with her characters and story lines by re-reading the first two books as well as very detailed synopses on the other three books (there was no way I'd ever read The Fiery Cross again.  Evah.). 

In this latest installment Gabaldon has several great story lines which were interspersed with some of the daily goings on of life on Fraser's Ridge.  It was nice to get reacquainted with Claire, Jamie and their brood again.  There were some tragic and emotional scenes that had me at the edge of my seat and reminded me why I love Gabaldon's writing so much.  Those stellar scenes would follow with some quiet, much smaller story lines involving secondary/tertiary characters which were okay but not to the energy level of Clarie, Jamie or Bree's story lines.  I think she's going for a well rounded idea of what life was like back then but she adds so much detail and so many secondary story lines that the pacing is all over the place.  One minute you're on the edge of your seat as someone is rushing to save another character and next minute you're watching a rather mundane task being carried out by a character you can barely name.  Also, since she's written thousands upon thousands of pages some of the high action scenes are starting to feel repetitive (multiple kidnappings, abuse).

In the end this was a good installment.  It felt much more personable and less political than The Fiery Cross. Personally I'm in it for the characters and not so much the politics of the time.  The ending was great and has my interest piqued for the final books in the series but I think I'll wait a bit before jumping into another big book of Gabaldon's.  Not ten years but perhaps a couple of months.  While they are a good read, they demand a lot of your time and with the next season of the Outlander TV series expected in another month that will tide me over with all things Outlander for a wee bit.

Note: This is not a series that you can pick up at random.  You really must read them in order because of the vast number of characters and story lines involved in these very popular books

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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