309 of 338 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A little too much left hanging, but ....
I found the book a wee bit slow to get started, and a tiny bit choppy. But that's because the main character's lives have changed dramatically, and the whole *family* is no longer on *The Ridge*. But once I got into the flow of the story, I found myself reading faster and faster to find out what happened next, which means I'll have to go back and reread it to catch...
Published on September 24, 2009 by C. Person
836 of 874 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, but boring
I never in a million years thought I'd give DG less than five stars. She's one of three authors on my release-date auto-buy, and I've been eagerly awaiting this book for years. But having spent the last couple of weeks reading it, I really don't even know what to say (I know I should take that back - I ALWAYS have something to say and I'm about to say it)...
Published on October 11, 2009 by Reader 200
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836 of 874 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, but boring,
I never in a million years thought I'd give DG less than five stars. She's one of three authors on my release-date auto-buy, and I've been eagerly awaiting this book for years. But having spent the last couple of weeks reading it, I really don't even know what to say (I know I should take that back - I ALWAYS have something to say and I'm about to say it).
Problem one: It took me several weeks to read. I'm a compulsive reader. I can't sleep with a story unfinished, and yet Echo never grabbed me. I went several days without evening picking it up because I didn't feel like it. I never felt emotionally engaged. A good lot of the time, I just didn't care what was happening. And even worse, I felt bored by the story.
Problem two: The book is so physically big that it hurt to read. And I mean that literally. I had shoulder and elbow pain from holding it up. It really, really needed to be cut. There was a point where I wished DG had cut out the last 150 pages and replaced them with "Six months later." There was just too much of mundane life and while beautifully written, it had no presence, no force, no suspense. The book overall needed more focus on story and less on how to fix a collapsed lung using nothing but tar and a bird feather. Many of the elements got lots of story didn't end up leading anywhere (such as Ian & the two orphan girls. I expected them to show up again.)
Problem three: Timing. The book is really three different stories. Jamie & Claire in 1777 America (mostly), William (Wee Willie) Ramsome in about the same time period, and Bree & Roger in 1980's Scotland. But the timelines didn't happen evenly and so I was often rather confused. For example: William is leaving to go find Dr. Hunter in the rebel camp. Then we switch to Jamie/Claire and cover 7-8-9 months time in a hundred or more pages. Then we go back to William who has found the doctor a day or so later. This went on throughout the book, and made me crazy. Since one of the main foreshadows of the book is that Jamie & William would meet again, I could never tell if they were even in the same time / same place.
Problem four: Pacing. The book has more of an episodic plot rather than linear. It unfolds around smaller incidents that contribute to a greater whole. Many of the smaller incidents involve the William, Lord Grey, and the battles of the American Revolution, Jamie & Claire trying to make it to Scotland, Roger and Bree making a life in more modern Lallybroch. Things move slowly, but beautifully. I have learned to expect that from DG, and she is so good at it that I enjoy the details and the history and the true-to-life characters (knowing that she is as historically accurate as possible). But in this book it was way TOO slow.
And the last couple hundred pages (the ending?) were just strange. First things slow down so much that pages and pages are devoted to reminiscing and revisiting the past and death and... (well I can't tell you everything!) Then it switches so that the story & people move so fast I can't keep up. And the turn-about surprises are SO surprising that I have a hard time believing them. I'm left with a feeling of `where did that come from?' and `why did that happen?' and `you've got to be kidding me!' The end was hugely dissatisfying, and yet that was (to me) where the real story was. The good stuff was glossed over.
So while DG is still one of the masters of the written word and I will probably fork out another $30 for her next book, I overall am rather disappointed. I feel like she is more interested in showing all the neat historical details she has learned than in telling a story. She has lost the story. And that makes me so sad because I have spent something like 16 or 17 years following these characters and being invested in their final outcome (we all know it comes back to that ghost watching Claire brush her hair). Please DG, go back to telling us their story rather than showing us what it was like to live in the eighteenth century.
532 of 557 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I don't know whether to give this book one star or five!,
OMG! I just got to the end of the book... I can't say I finished the book, I'll just say that I got to the end of it.
Loose ends are loose ends, but Diana.... what is this about? I read this on my e-reader and I kept paging back and forth, trying to find the rest of it, thinking, "This can't be over. There's no ending!" It leaves far too many characters hanging with life or death situations, far too many conversations in mid-sentence. It's worse than a soap opera!
And let's talk continuity, here. Does she even have an editor? At the end of the last book, Jamie stood with John Grey, watching Brianna and William in the street. In this book, Jamie claims not to have set eyes on William since he was 12. There are about a half a dozen major continuity conflicts in this story that would have been really easy to fix, if anyone was paying attention.
Now I love Diana's characters and her writing and I get so wrapped up in her stories that it threatens the rest of my ability to function in life, but this ended so strangely that I'll be jarred and marred for days!
I enjoyed reading this book and I'll buy her next one, but I recommend that no one read this one until the next one is available. Leaving us hanging here, for possibly years until the next one comes out, is too upsetting.
SPOILER ALERT: THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THE COMMENTS
309 of 338 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A little too much left hanging, but ....,
I found the book a wee bit slow to get started, and a tiny bit choppy. But that's because the main character's lives have changed dramatically, and the whole *family* is no longer on *The Ridge*. But once I got into the flow of the story, I found myself reading faster and faster to find out what happened next, which means I'll have to go back and reread it to catch nuances.
But there were some story lines that left me thinking *why*? Why reintroduce a character and then not have that character have any more to do in the story ( I am not naming that character so as not to spoil it for others#.
Another reviewer mentioned why adding Lord John and William into the mix, and not just concentrating on Jamie & Claire's story. Well, then we'd only have half the book we have now, and probably half the total number of books to begin with if their lives aren't fleshed out. And once into the full series of book you want to know what's going on with the extended family, who was doing what with who. And Wlliam isn't just a nobody.
But as I read faster towards the end, I began to think that all the time & effort spent on the story around Ft Ticonderoga, while interesting, left the ending not as well fleshed out by comparison. As if the ending was rushed in the writing. I really felt there ought to have been another 200 pages to flesh out what was happening.
And then the ending. There are quite a few *cliff hangers* at the end. But. But, I am still hooked. And beg Ms Gabaldon to start the next #will it be the last?) book as soon as possible. Cause I need to know!
All told, I love The Outlander series. I love books that are this long and this interesting. That we get to see a love story and lives fleshed out as well as Ms Gabaldon does. Hopefully she will continue the great work.
110 of 120 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I tried, really I did..,
I know there are rabid Gabaldon fans out there who would gladly read her shopping lists and give them rave reviews, but I just can't be one of them for this book.
I've been reading this series since the beginning. I've been involved in the online message boards, raved to friends and strangers alike about them, but it's Jamie and Claire's story I am interested in. This book is, what, 1/4 Jamie and Claire? I haven't read the Lord John books, and am not interested in them at all. I want to know the rest of the Fraser's story, and am really pretty sick of being strung along while we wait for Lord John books, companion books, picture books..
The story is choppy and difficult to stick with. The events toward the end of the book show Claire so out of character I found myself rolling my eyes and wondering what the heck was going on. The ending..gah. I'm all for having some suspense for the next book, but this was just nuts. I'm not the only one who was wondering if the printer messed up and cut off a chapter. It was like that jolt at the end of a movie that ends badly, the kind that has you looking at your date going "um..okay?"
We're not reading a story that comes full circle, just an ongoing soap opera that more and more things get added to. We're literally going on 20 years of this. Wrap it up already. Many of your die hard fans are flat out losing interest.
128 of 142 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I'm torn. Love the series. But.....,
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
(will cross-post to goodreads and amazon)
Hmmmm.....I've been trying to sort out my feelings about this book since I finished it last night. I really am confused and feel somewhat betrayed I guess. As a devout fan of this series, I feel that Gabaldon is just stringing her fans along with no real respect for them, and it irritates me.
1. Obviously I love this series. No one gets to the 7th book in a series, each book being between 500-800 pages long, and each book being published 3-4 years apart, without being quite the fan.
I love Gabaldon's straight-forward writing style. I love her attention to historical and medical accuracy. These things are what make her books stand out for me. I continuously try to explain to people that this series is NOT a Time Travel Romance series. It is SO SO much more. This last installment HAS all of these elements, which is why I gave it a three star rating rather than something lower. I also had to respect my status as a huge fan, and Gabaldon's obvious hardwork and research that goes into her writing.
2. I probably shouldn't have read an excerpt on Gabaldon's website a few years ago, because the excerpt (involving Jamie's return after being supposedly dead) colored my expectations of the action in this book.
Throughout the reading, I kept waiting to get to THAT part, and everything else just felt like filler until those big plot points in the excerpts.
So, I'm waiting for these elements of the story to arrive, and all the characters to converge as I felt they eventually would. But they never did!!!
There was so much excruciating detail about things that it seemed the reader should care about, but I just didn't. Lord John's spy business. Percival Beauchamp. Why do we need to care? If it's important later on in the series, I don't know WHY. William lost in the fog. TWICE. And the excruciating minutaie of his experiences. His experiences do eventually become interesting, but in the meantime, I skimmed MANY MANY pages. This book easily could've been 500 pages insead of 800.
So, as I skimmed pages, looking for the events that I knew were coming (a la the excerpt) I found I had quite reached the end of the book. The details in the excerpt DID come to pass, but not until the final 50 pages, and everything was not the same as it was in the excerpt. Then, the ending (I'll get to THAT later).
3. Jamie and Claire are always the main thrill in these books. They actually didn't have a big part in this novel. The skipping around of POV was highly irritating. Just when I became interested in William, POV would change to Bree and Roger. Lord John's role was never interesting.
The Bree and Roger POV was interesting to me. I did love the emotionally heart-rending scenes when they read letters from Jamie and Claire. I loved to see them reintegrate into modern society and how they dealt with the knowledge of time travel. THEIR action got REALLY interesting in the final scenes of the novel.
Jamie and Claire. Love them. But I feel that Gabaldon took PAST scenes in past novels and just replayed them for Jamie and Claire. Claire preforming surgery on Jamie. Jamie and Claire involved in piracy and sea battles. Claire following Jamie to battle and performing medical procedures on the battlefield (over and over again to much excruciating detail). Really, there was more than one occasion when I had an acute since of deja vu, and I didn't like it.
4. THE BLEEPIN' ENDING!!!! ARGH!!!!
This is where my feelings of betrayal come in. It takes Gabaldon many years to publish these books. As a show of good faith, it is not right to leave the reading with SERIOUS cliffhangers. I mean, literallly, in the middle of the action, CLIFFHANGERS. Mid-scenes. Ugh.
AND--I did not care AT ALL for what went on with Claire and Lord John at the end. The reunion of Jamie and Claire should've been touching but it was made inappropriately comical. It felt wrong. The entire, rushed, ending felt wrong.
The revelations William came to....just all wrong. Too fast. Too horrible. I'm very upset and disappointed. Now what? Another four years? Hmm
93 of 102 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I Waited For THIS??,
So disappointing. I don't think my star rating would be so long were I not an addicted Outlander fan.
Claire and Jamie are the reason I fell in love with the series. Where the heck are they in this book? If I wanted to read about John and William, I would read Lord John's series.
I don't want a bridge to another series about different characters. If you're done writing about Claire and Jamie, then finish their series and start a new one for the new characters. It's as though the author spent the last few years working on 3 different books and then thought, "Oh crap, I'm supposed to be writing an Outlander sequel", combined the seperate books she'd been working on, and hastily wrote Claire&Jamie portions to *try* to tie it all together.
I'm very sad. I feel like I've been waiting years for a reunion with long-lost friends only to find they've skipped town and sent their cousins to meet me instead.
111 of 124 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I had to restrain muself from throwing this book across the room!,
If this book was less than the 800+ pages it is, I would have thrown it across the room and into a wall! To say that I am angry and disappointed would be an understatement. I have the feeling that the author simply doesn't care any longer for the characters and is simply writing for the money. I have always felt that Jamie, Claire and other members of the immediate family were fully developed personalities, for whom I truly cared. The author now has these familiar people doing things that are against their developed personalities. Come on, Claire sleeping with Lord John and giving him a tender hand job! Give us a break! She agonized for years over having submitted to the French King in order to save Jamie's life and now she hops into bed with with a man whom she knows is a homosexual in love with her husband. I don't like the Lord John Grey character and have failed over the years to understand why the author seems so taken with him. The John Grey stand alone series, does just that: stands alone among the other remainders.
I am simply sick and disgusted with this book and although there is a great deal more that I could say, it simply isn't worth the effort.
So farewell, Diana Gebaldon; I thought you were an incrediable story teller but with this book, in my opinion, it appears, you became another hack, out for the money.
I can not in good faith recomend this book to anyone! Had I been aware of the character distruction and content of this book, I would not have purchased it.
46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars If you are looking for a good read, this is not it...,
This review is from: An Echo in the Bone: A Novel (Outlander) (Paperback)
This is a very long review for a number of reasons not the least of which is that I have been a devoted fan of these books for the last 15 years and I feel that if I am going to skewer this book and its author, I should be specific and thoughtful. I also hope prospective readers and other fans find it helpful, and be forewarned that in talking about this book, I have given away some information.
If you are looking for a novel that is a good read, this is not it. What it is, however, is the latest disappointing installment in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, her fans having waited four years since A Breath of Snow and Ashes, the previous installment where the author's vision, pacing and characterization also, albeit to a lesser extent, seriously faltered. An Echo in the Bone is at best a transitional work which is thin on plot, devoid of character development, filled with blatant inconsistencies, omissions, and wrong choices, and no ending except for a farcical scene that is a sham, all of which should be an embarrassment to a writer of Gabaldon's experience.
If you are wondering whether or not to invest your time and money in the Outlander series, this is how I would rate the seven books in this series: Outlander - 5; Dragonfly in Amber - 5; Voyager - 3; Drums of Autumn - 4; The Fiery Cross - 3; A Breath of Snow and Ashes - 2; An Echo in the Bone - 0. The rating of 2 is an average for the entire series lowered by one star to reflect the author's clear lack of investment and care in writing this book.
Previous books have had something solid to offer fans of Jamie and Claire Fraser's story (although you could skip the last half of Voyager). Their story begins to devolve, however, in A Breath of Snow and Ashes which, while not completely lacking merit, plods along filled with a sinister overlay almost totally lacking in suspense until a rushed ending and surprise announcement so seemingly out of character and wrong, given the main characters' emotional investment for their homestead developed in the preceding two books, it leaves one cold. Add to that, a cheesy and nonsensical second epilogue - a cheap attempt at creating "suspense" in case [please] the ending wasn't enough. It wasn't. And, if you do start the series, you may find yourself, like many, stranded at the end of seven books feeling cheated with no satisfactory conclusion in sight. So a word of caution - caveat emptor.
The biggest failing of An Echo in the Bone, in my opinion, is the overall structure of the story itself, where Gabaldon mostly ignores the accepted tenets of what constitutes a well-written and compelling novel; that is, a focal character, plot, conflict, denouement, etc. Criticized for her lack of character development in the past, it has never been more deserved than in this book as she focuses on four groups of characters previously depicted in the Outlander series in descending emphasis, rather than one focal character: William Ransome, Earl of Ellesmere and Lord John Grey; Brianna and Roger MacKenzie and their son, Jemmy; Ian Murray; and Jamie and Claire Fraser. Diehard Jamie and Claire fans are sure to be disappointed at their secondary status in this story, and while it seemed inevitable after thirty-plus years and six books, the transition to the next focal character could have been seamless had Gabaldon exercised more care and some imagination.
William, Earl of Ellesmere and Lord John Grey. I have never understood Gabaldon's fascination with Lord John Grey. He is a likable character, and while I admire him for what he's done on Jamie's behalf, I have no interest in learning any more about him outside of the Outlander context. Considering the lack of the Lord John Grey books' popularity, you would think Gabaldon would let it go and get back to her bread and butter, but apparently not. Here she insists on bringing the Lord John storyline into the Outlander series which adds nothing relevant, severely miring the story, and confusing readers not familiar with the Lord John series. If she wanted to leverage the Outlander series for additional writing, a better choice in my opinion would have been to write a series of prequels leading up to the original Outlander story which I think would have been of greater interest to Outlander fans.
William, Earl of Ellesmere, on the other hand is a source of curiosity, but not so much as to warrant leading off the 7th book of the Outlander series with him at its center. First, he's appeared only briefly in previous books as first, an infant, and then, as a small boy and a twelve year old. Simply put, William hasn't earned the right to be the focal character of this book, the 7th book in a series, although it was inevitable that he would eventually make an appearance in one of the books. One could take the position, however, that this was a bold move on Gabaldon's part given that the sole test in front of William, a child of privilege protected by a well-connected adoptive father, was the discovery of his true parentage, and that the title of the book, An Echo in the Bone, refers to it.
Gabaldon has been criticized in the past for rehashing scenarios in her books, but this would have been the one time to do so. The use of parallels to the past and the use of irony would have been powerful (as long as she didn't actually dredge up past villains or their progeny), particularly at this time of history, and would have firmly anchored the story by exploring the similarities between William and his biological father. In that case, William's story should have been on the order of an Outlander reboot where throughout the book William is faced with intrigue (intelligencing) and challenges of great intensity and where to his peril, he is forced to make choices like his father before him, all the while showing us through his actions the man he has become - ending, of course, with a gut wrenching scene involving the discovery of his true origins, and a moral, or life or death dilemma. Absolutely none of this, however, is evident in the book.
What we do learn is that William secretly carries something with him from childhood, but Gabaldon chooses to let William remain silent on its meaning to him or his view on how he acquired it. A lost opportunity to learn something about his psyche and his past. Instead, the only fact about his past that is shared in the space of a paragraph is that he inexplicably shares a trait with his half-sister. As the book progresses, we follow him through ordinary military assignments, mired in historical facts, neither of which adds to his development as a character, nor provides the suspense necessary in a great page turner. The only close calls relate to meeting his real father, and by the end of the book the only real similarities we have seen between them are a predisposition to seasickness, a propensity for foreign languages, a close physical resemblance and a bad temper, the latter two already well established before the start of this book.
Roger MacKenzie seemed a likely choice as a focal character trying to deal with 18th century violence by becoming a preacher, but in the violent times ahead, how would he remained on the sidelines if his family were threatened? Instead, Gabaldon removes Roger and his family back to the 20th century and their story becomes squarely centered in the mundane, as both Roger and Brianna struggle with adjusting to present time. Their story centers around reading Jamie and Claire's newly-discovered 18th century letters, Roger's preference for now writing by candlelight and Brianna eschewing panties, indicators of their longing for their recent past. It falls flat even when Roger mistakingly mixes up a primer with some other papers and his past nemesis appears - these plot devices are so contrived that they, well, border on, forgive me, the outlandish.
The one bright spot is Jemmy, who I would swear - if he hadn't been born in the 18th century - was a reincarnation of Jamie Fraser himself, notwithstanding the inexplicable psychic link between them. He is darling. The cliff hanger and red herring in this story segment are absolutely awful - can we really believe that something in a letter from 200 years ago on another continent would be sought by someone in Scotland in the present day and that someone could still now find it, especially considering there is another viable villain at hand with a solid motive, means and opportunity? - It is a blatant and desperate attempt at keeping readers' interest which actually made me angry. That any author who considers themselves a professional writer would stoop to something so low as to expect her readers to wait years for a resolution is unconscionable.
Ian Murray also seems a perfect choice for the next protagonist. An affable lad at the beginning of Voyager, by An Echo in the Bone he has now undergone a radical transformation and in many ways is as deadly as his uncle. Another possibility in terms of the title's meaning. While Roger McKenzie is Jamie's "son of his house"- albeit Ian wasn't around when that happened - it's Ian who most often unfailingly stands with his uncle. In ABoS&A when Jamie announces "It is myself...", Ian quickly stands with him and says "And I." His struggles, however, are more internal as he tries to fit in with civilized society, and put the past - his time away from Fraser's Ridge - behind him.
It's no surprise that Gabaldon never explains the dichotomy and one inconsistency in Ian's character which is his lack of certainty in meeting the threat made against him at the beginning of the book. By all evidence, he's never been bested and when we do hear from him in first person, what we hear about is that fear rather than the true nature of his struggle - and the fact that he apparently is a voyeur as he watches his aunt and uncle across a campfire as they make love. Apparently, not the first time either, telling us that he can guess what his aunt is doing to elicit his uncle's response as he muses about numerous women, including his cousin Brianna, as a mean to relieve himself of his own urges. It is a lost opportunity, and cheapens the character.
There is a major development in Ian's love life in this story, but Gabaldon all but ignores it, except for three short scenes in the book, another lost opportunity to engage readers - instead trying to lead readers astray and create tension unsuccessfully through the girl's contact with William. Ian's story in terms of what kind of man he truly is - is worth telling - but Gabaldon chooses not to, except circumspectly when he returns to Scotland. What he does prior to and at a funeral (the wrong one, I might add, if one were to choose properly) are both really interesting, but we are left to guess the reasons for it. A major and glaring omission. Greater still is the lack of reaction on the part of his family to it when he returns home. Not a word. A brief conversation about headstones with his mother; a truncated, perfunctory and one-sided final conversation with his father. Both are the types of shortcomings with which Gabaldon's writing are rife in this book while she describes in great and agonizing detail events and people which do not move the story forward - always a criticism of her writing. In this instance though, it shows a lack of interest and investment on the part of the writer.
At the end of the book, what Ian tells Rachel about himself and about what she is to him is a powerful summation of his character's journey and belies the immature characterization of him in the rest of the book. One might presume that it was Gabaldon's intent that Ian was the focal character as he appears on the book's last page, and this book should have and could have taken us on his journey to manhood, but the reality is that his story was not prominent, and was told in the worst half-hearted way.
Jamie and Claire Fraser. These two characters have been the heart and soul of Gabaldon's story since the beginning.
In An Echo in the Bone, the two major complaints related to these characters are: 1) that they play a secondary role in this story, and 2) their characterization is unrecognizable. That they would move to secondary status over time is inevitable, but it needn't have been as stark as it is, and in fact, they occupy more of the story than I expected based on the reviews here. As to characterization, in fairness to Gabaldon, it is always a challenge to portray characters over a thirty-plus year period convincingly. Characters age, and age and experience - as in the case of Claire in ABoS&A - elicits change. I am willing to concede the point - but characters tend to become real to readers and take on a life of their own. If an author has done a good job in creating them, and shared them with a multitude of people, there comes a point where the characters no longer are the authors to do with as they wish. Not and get away with it. And such is the case in this story.
In my opinion, in order to understand the problem with the characterization of Jamie in An Echo in the Bone, you have to look at the books before it. By the end of The Fiery Cross, Jamie is the de facto laird of Fraser's Ridge, surrounded by his men from Ardsmuir, and others who he's rescued from a life of hardship and penury. It's no surprise that life is good for everyone, even if there are some threats ahead, and if some people aren't quite sure what to make of the lady of the Ridge. What ensues in ABoS&A is nothing short of a complete breakdown of the community from a series of events on the Ridge and a nearby settlement as well as external forces, all of which seem to catch Jamie Fraser off guard. From everything we know of him, beginning in Outlander, it would have never happened. In the face of attacks on other homesteads, Jamie takes no steps to protect the Ridge and its inhabitants from the very real threat. Unlikely. When Claire is abducted, the men rally to find and avenge her without question. When an internal threat presents itself, Jamie's men abandon him, and he chooses not to use his considerable powers of persuasion and his longstanding relationship with his Ardsmuir men, including Tom Christie, to reach some resolution. Jamie Fraser may have never had gold in his pockets, but he was born with a silver tongue in his mouth and the vision to see a threat far off in the distance. Moreover, while the Frasers were no slouches at intrigue in their own right, he not only learned at the knees of the masters - Colum and Dougal MacKenzie, but was able to outwit them at their own game. Barring that, anyone on the Ridge who didn't believe him would have left or been made to - we are taking about Highlanders after all.
It seems clear, in my opinion, that Gabaldon in ABoS&A committed the cardinal sin of writing; that is, faced with the daunting task of coming up with what to do next, she sacrificed her central character for the sake of the story. She would have us believe that the majority of his men would believe him capable of dishonor after all they had endured with him, knowing what they do about his character, Culloden, their time together in Ardsmuir, and his lineage, magnanimity, and history solely for the sake of moving the story forward. ABoS&A ends with Jamie Fraser in semi-disgrace freely skulking away, albeit temporarily, from everything he had built over the last decade without so much as a fight or backward glance, leaving the untested Bobby Higgins, branded as a murderer, in charge as factor for the Ridge instead of a trusted Ardsmuir man. No calling of the men together. None of the men asking Mac Dubh for his side of the story? It's not possible. Not by any stretch of the imagination. By the end of ABoS&A, we see a very different Jamie Fraser, a man who seems to have lost his footing, and it is this counterfeit portrayal of him that is carried forward into An Echo in the Bone, and throughout the book, one is left with the feeling that Jamie never quite regains his game. He does nothing to chide Arch for his suggestion to Ian as if anything could compensate him for Murdina, or to talk to him about the accident, about how they feel about the loss - one more example of how off Jamie's characterization had become. One wonders if this entire scenario was concocted to move Jamie and Claire off the Ridge, when the arrival of a letter with an urgent and emotional demand and the reminder of a promise not kept would have more simply accomplished the same end.
The disintegration of his character is complete when at end of An Echo in the Bone Jamie appears in Philadelphia without explanation (another rushed ending) pursued by the British hot on his heels, he seemingly fails to understand or make mention of the inappropriate domestic setting in which he finds his wife and Lord John. Faced with a critical moment of revelation, eloquence fails him and what he says to his son borders on cruelly mocking him. Both reactions are totally out of character. Jamie's responses and direction to Lord John as they quit Philadelphia are shockingly unrecognizable as the dialogue is clearly Jamie not himself, but more like a two bit highwayman - the worst sort of parody.
Perhaps in the end, the best argument and prima facie evidence that the criticizers of this book have about Gabaldon's portrayal of Jamie Fraser in An Echo in the Bone is that other characters who know him well are equally stunned by his reactions or lack of them, a perfect example his response to Lord John's confession, "Oh, why?" and Lord John's surprise. Why indeed.
Notwithstanding her improbable swashbuckling behavior, Claire for her part delves into what she knows best throughout most of the book: medicine - although one gets the feeling that she, too, is ill at ease in the face of her husband's changes while she is trying to support him. When she asks Jamie whether he is mad, you get the idea she's asking about more than the one incident that provoked it. Her interaction with Jenny Murray falls flat on both sides - this is a woman who will explain medicine to anyone will listen, and she chooses to say nothing about why she cannot do what Jenny asks, having already shared the truth of her history. It would have been a simple matter to do so and it's another example of Gabaldon betraying a characterization for the sake of false drama - and writing dialogue whether dramatic or comedic disproportionate to what's immediately preceded it - a common occurrence in her writing. The lack of genuineness diminishes the validity of the exchange and disrupts the flow of the story. Moreover, that Claire would accede to the appeal of Laoghaire and remove young Ian from his family at a moment of crisis so soon after his return when the wait would, by Claire's own admission be short-lived, - or that Ian's mother, provincial in every other respect and whose relationship with Claire is strained would encourage Ian to depart with her, was amateurish on Gabaldon's part. One wonders whether there could have been some other device used to bring us to the end of the story Gabaldon planned, however shoddy that end turned out to be.
It may come as a surprise to some that I concede that what happened between Lord John and Claire may have been possible, but it could have been far better written - opting for clearly drunk-induced mindlessness instead of a declaration by one of the parties, and frankly, it should have ended in the same room where it began - another example of inattention to detail - and been followed by some level mortification the morning after rather than conversation. Moreover, that Lord John might have found something heretofore absent in his life and so intriguing that he might have wished to explore further <forgive me> a reprise of any sort, in my opinion, would never have been possible. Never. Ever. That Claire offered what she did, and he accepted it was nothing short of ridiculous and an insult to both characters. Claire's immediate reaction to seeing Jamie upon his return rang false unless, of course, she planned that a good offense would be a good defense. The Claire Fraser I know and love would have had a decidedly "uh oh" moment before approaching her Highlander husband.
As for inconsistencies, they are inevitable in a series this long and generally are small factoids that appear several books apart which have no real impact on the story - the size of the cabin, Jamie remembering kissing Brianna behind her ear , Brianna knowing that Roger read her dream book, the amount of gold left to hide, Willie's age when Jamie left Helwater - and most can be explained away. This is the first time, however, I have ever seen such a glaring error within the same book about such a key fact in a story. It's hard to believe that it went unnoticed. The book OPENS with Jamie observing Brianna and William together in Wilmington (p.12- on two separate occasions if you count ABoS&A, p.947). Several hundred pages later on page 531 in rescuing Denny Hunter there is "He hadn't seen the boy since he was twelve, but he had memorized every moment..." Unbelievable.
There are several instances in the book where the movement of the characters defy logic and Gabaldon fails to explain the character's motivation for them, instead expecting reader to accept them solely as a matter of faith - something no experienced writer would do. One example is the Dismal Swamp episode between William and Ian. William has taken pains to get from North Carolina to the North where the action is, but Gabaldon would have us believe that there is a compelling reason for him to head four hundred miles south from New York for intelligencing - not to Williamsburg, or any other place in Virginia where the architects of the Revolution reside, but to the Dismal Swamp. Ian in Fort Ticonderoga leaves without explanation on June 12th, and has apparently made the 954 mile trek in nine short days to the Dismal Swamp to meet up with his Indian confederates, some of them Mohawk who would have been far afield of their territory, for reasons unknown. Why? Is there no fog or deserted wilderness between Ticonderoga and New York City? And how did Ian manage 900 miles in 9 days? Another form of time travel? <forgive me> One might suppose to meet the Hunters, but couldn't one presume that they might have been in Pennsylvania which was after all a Quaker colony? Having invested pages in this encounter, the very next time William and Ian meet, despite their earlier meeting and history from the Ridge, it's as if (from William's perspective) they are total strangers. It begs the question whether the author or the character had a bout of amnesia.
Finally, there are instances where what is presented in the story just doesn't add up. On example centers on the Bugs and their seventy-two months spent on the Ridge. Setting aside that at some point Arch Bug's enmity for the Fraser clan surely would have softened in the face of Lovat's - albeit recognized - bastard grandson's unwavering trust in him as factor, and Jamie's affection and respect for Arch's wife as the undisputed head of the daily household - yes, setting aside six years of that as totally worthless - if you believe what Arch Bug tells Jamie, the math doesn't work, not without a stretch. If you accept that Mrs. Bug was able to carry the gold ingot in her bag¸ that approximately half of the ten thousand pounds was in Hector Cameron's mausoleum, and that Arch took one ingot each time, but not every time he went to Cross Creek on Ridge business and was able to conceal it on his person or in a manner that would be undetected over 72 months, how would he have managed it? there would have to be 50 100lb. ingots; 100-50lb. ingots ;200-25lb. ingots - is it possible? - Questionable at best.
There are other instances which weigh the story down unnecessarily like the repeated physical descriptions, references to throat clearings, repeated appearances of past villains and their offspring (Hodgepiles, Randalls), red herrings that seem to lead nowhere except to muddy the water and weigh down the story with so much overwritten prose that if there are clues they are so obscured as to be unrecognizable. As for other omissions, who would have not liked to have heard exactly what Brianna told Lord John about her history and what was to come, considering it was the week that the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia? Had Brianna recited parts of it to him before any of it was publicly known, how could he have not believed her?
I wasn't looking forward to the end of this series, because I have always had an unwavering decades-long affection for these characters and didn't know how I would feel when I finally had to say good bye to them. Sad to say, I never envisioned that that day would come before their story was fully told, but it has.
Set against the backdrop of one of the most riveting periods of our history, this easily could have been a magnificent story. That it is not is tragic. What this shows in my opinion more than anything is a lack of effort on the part of a heretofore talented writer and disrespect for not only her readers, but also her characters. As an aside, I also found it interesting that for the first time in seven books, Gabaldon found it necessary to to add author's notes as if she felt something needed further explanation. Forsooth. I would like to see Diana Gabaldon reacquaint herself with the principles of good writing and once again get serious about her craft. Her readers and characters deserve no less. If by some miracle she is able to undo the damage done by this book to an otherwise wonderful saga, that will be a major accomplishment, but after 15 years, I will not be around to see it.
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The author has lost her way,
This review is from: An Echo in the Bone: A Novel (Outlander) (Paperback)
I discovered the Outlander series about five years ago. I didn't want to read the books at first, because I'm not a fan of romance novels. However, a friend of mine insisted that I give the books a try.
Well. I read the first three books within the space of a week. While I still do not consider the Outlander series great literature, the first two books come close to it. Dragonfly in Amber is Dr. Gabaldon's masterpiece.
I began to slow down during Drums of Autumn, and it took me almost a month to finish Fiery Cross. A Breath of Snow and Ashes was a little better, but not by much. Because of this, I wasn't in any hurry to read An Echo in the Bone. Now that I've done so, I can safely say that Dr. Gabaldon has jumped the shark completely.
I will not go on and on about what is wrong with the plot and pacing of this latest book, since others have already done so quite eloquently. One reviewer compared this series to the Star Wars franchise: the earlier installments were gold, the latter installments left much to be desired.
Others have complained about how there was too much Lord John and William in Echo. That in and of itself would not be such a problem, if Lord John and William were written well. The fact is, they were not. I greatly enjoyed Lord John in earlier books, but he's just not that fascinating to me in this one. Also, I loved the historical detail and, especially, the scientific detail of books past. In this book, though (as was true in Fiery Cross and A Breath of Snow and Ashes), they fell flat. Such things can be very compelling, if they are written in a compelling way. Good writing can make any topic interesting. But no matter how well you phrase a surgery or a battle, it becomes pretty meaningless when it does not move a story forward. Good writing isn't always about an eloquent turn of phrase or a pedantic observation on the trials of life. Good writing is also about proper pacing, and character development, and knowing when to stop. I say this as someone who is a great admirer of James Joyce's works, for instance. Many people find his books dull and/or incomprehensible, but he is true to the story arcs and the characters and the theses he writes about.
I wasn't sure what the thesis of this book was. It certainly wasn't about Jamie and Claire. There was no over-arcing theme here, or resolution. It was like a badly woven tapestry of scavenged, worn threads.
Honestly, I can't decide if Gabaldon simply lost her way, or is so contemptuous of her readers that she thinks she can write anything, and her readers will eat it up. I'd hate to think the latter is true.
At this point, I have to believe that Gabaldon's greatness in the first three books was because she was genuinely inspired by Claire and Jamie. It's clear she no longer cares about them. That's fine. As a writer myself, I know what it's like to lose interest in a theme. But to continue a story long after the subject has ceased to interest you (and I hear she's writing yet another book after this one?) is pretty depressing.
I hope whatever urgency is holding her to this series (her publisher, money, etc) lets her go soon so that she can wrap this up. I'm sorry to say that the last four books have tarnished my enjoyment of the first three. Maybe Gabaldon needs to go back and read some really excellent literature, or re-read her own earlier novels, to remember how a well-crafted book is written.
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Extremely disappointing and badly needs editing,
This review is from: An Echo in the Bone: A Novel (Outlander) (Mass Market Paperback)
This series was very good for the first three books. Then it started to decline in quality and it has become clear that the author is just milking the idea for as long as she can. This book very badly needs a competent editor. It flips back and forth between several different story lines in a very disjointed way and is too long. Tolstoy can get away with writing 900 or 1,000 page books, but this is not War and Peace quality. There are no smooth transitions and the book has a very choppy feel and reads like a soap opera cutting from scene to scene. It spends a lot of time focusing on previously very minor supporting characters that are just not very interesting and that the reader has been given no reason to care about, i.e. William. I suppose that is because after the 6 previous books, there isn't much left to say about the main characters. This would be OK if these new starring characters were dynamic, but they aren't.
There are also major plot problems. There are coincidences that are just so ridiculous that they make the time travel premise of the book seem believable in comparison. Just one example: William is wandering around sick and lost in a vast swamp in Virginia. Then he runs into his cousin Ian, who was last seen in New York and is apparently just passing through this vast swamp, just in time for Ian to save his life. What are the odds? If this happened to me, I would make sure to buy a lottery ticket on my way out of the swamp.
Then there are the cliff hangers. The books ends very abruptly with several very definite major cliff hangers. I believe a novel, even if part of a series, should be able to stand to some extent on its own. This cannot. And since the author takes about 4 years between books, there is no chance of getting resolution in a timely manner. It is a cheap marketing gimmick, and something I will not support.
I stayed with the series because the first 3 books were very entertaining and the 4th was still pretty good. But this was the final straw. The series should have ended at least a couple of books ago. The author may keep writing books 8, 9 , 10, etc., but I will no longer be buying or reading.
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An Echo in the Bone: A Novel (Outlander) by Diana Gabaldon (Paperback - June 22, 2010)