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Customer Review

117 of 129 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Definitely not as good as the 1st three, June 20, 2002
This review is from: Drums of Autumn (Outlander) (Mass Market Paperback)
Ostensibly, "Drums of Autumn" is about reunions with fathers. Gabaldon, however, seems to meander about quite a bit before she remembers her theme. Although I didn't do an exact count, I agree with the reviewer who commented that the first 500 pages are terrible. "Drums" begins with Jamie and Claire attending the execution of one of Jamie's fellow inmates. Jamie and Claire, plus entourage, are heading to a Scottish settlement in Wilmington, North Carolina, where his aunt owns a plantation. The first half of the book mostly involves the mishaps on their journey north, life at the aunt's plantation, Jamie's debate over whether to strike out on his own or accept his aunt's generous offer, an adventure-filled trip to the wilderness, and ultimately, getting settled in a home in the new world.
While I don't want to suggest that all these events are mundane--this is Jamie and Claire Fraser we're talking about, after all--the events are very episodic. Gabaldon lacks any kind of overriding theme to organize the plot. In "Outlander," we had Claire's ultimate decision about whether to return to her 20th century life. In "Dragonfly in Amber," we had their attempt to prevent Culloden. In "Voyager," we first had Claire's search for records of what happened to Jamie, and later the search and rescue of Jamie's nephew Ian.
Also missing in "Drums" is a good villain. With the deaths of Jack Randall and Geillis Duncan, Gabaldon has to create a new bad guy or two. She does introduce her villains fairly early on--only their true malevolence does not become apparent until much later. In other words, unlike the way the threat of Jack Randall loomed in "Outlander," the threat of these villains seems to disappear when they initially disappear from the plot.
About halfway through "Drums," the Frasers' daughter, Brianna, who remains in the 20th century, discovers something about her parents' fate and decides to travel to the past to warn them. Her boyfriend, Roger Wakefield, follows her. Once Brianna and Roger wind up in the past, the plot tends to liven up, and the direction of the book also begins to make sense. Without revealing certain plot twists, I will note that certain events should create a sense of urgency to get certain issues resolved--and yet Gabaldon does not really leave the reader that worried about the potential outcomes. Gabaldon does manage a few nice little plot twists at the end, so keep going. Suffice to say that Roger has an interesting encounter with an ancestor, and Frank's influence comes into play.
Despite my tepid praise for this book, as historical romances go, it's still quite good--just not as good as the first three. One aspect that I appreciate about Gabaldon's books is that she does not overly romanticize the hardships and harsh living conditions of the past. She also deftly avoids overly sentimentalizing certain situations or going for the cliche. For instance, when Brianna meets her real father, at long last, after traveling through time and across the ocean, she first seems him behind a pub, urinating--not in some idealized encounter.
I'm crossing my fingers that "The Fiery Cross" is better, but I'm not optimistic.
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Showing 1-10 of 16 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 24, 2008 11:31:47 PM PST
SciFi lover says:
Finally my thought exactly.

In reply to an earlier post on May 28, 2008 9:27:23 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 28, 2008 9:28:12 AM PDT
Miner says:
SciFi lover and Seaside Wanderer:

I agree with both of you regarding Drums of Autumn. I got through 2/3rds of this book and that's enough. I am thoroughly sick of Claire and won't read the rest of the series.

Posted on May 21, 2009 4:52:57 PM PDT
I asked my brother to send me a copy of Drums all the way from Seville, Spain, so I could read it cover to cover before adding my comments to these reviews (having read all three previous books in the series), and what I find is that the pace slows down because the plot demands it. The main characters, with the help of some secondary ones, travel to what eventually becomes Fraser's Ridge, start building their homestead, and face life in the wilderness: on their way there they are robbed by Stephen Bonnet, a remarkable villain if there ever was one, then when they get there they encounter Indians, Jamie nearly dies in the snow, Claire nearly dies in a storm, they find a snake inside their "privy", they are joined by Lord John, and by Willie, and so on and so on, before Brianna and Roger show up. It's slow and you're meant to savor it. Outlander did not have a frenetic pace and neither did Dragonfly in amber nor Voyager: if you want fast just don't read the first five hundred pages of Drums, but you'll miss out on a lot.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 1, 2010 1:38:16 PM PDT
Andrea says:
Speaking of Lord John Grey and WIllie. What REALLY happened to them? You will notice that Gabaldon leaves us with Jaime leaving Willie in the cave waiting for him to come back from being with the Indians, and leaves Lord John Grey with Claire recovering from the Pox. She aggravates me, because she jumped from these stories right into Roger and Brianna and left us wondering what the heck happened to them??? Yes, they come back later in the book, but we know nothing of how they got back home or what prompted them to go back or anything like that. I seriously thought I missed something and had to go back and re read some of the chapters because it bugged me so much that I didnt know what happened to these characters. And what about ( I cant remember his name now) the guy that had gotten angry and scalped the Indians. He went to Claire's and talked with her, but that was it.... where did he go? What happened to him? Maybe I am just missing something? Was it not that big of a deal to everyone else? Just curious

Posted on Apr 17, 2011 9:26:38 PM PDT
Sandy says:
Loved your review. I'm almost done with the book and came online to see if others felt the way I do, and your review was spot on.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 10, 2014 12:27:46 AM PDT
No, you are not alone in wondering what the heck happened there... where IS willie??! John shows back up later in the book and no mention of his whereabouts is made as far as I could find...?

I'm fine with skipping scenes but at least put in an aside somewhere in the narrative about where a character has suddenly disappeared to. :/

Posted on Dec 31, 2014 6:54:06 AM PST
deb says:
I am so glad I am not the only one who is having trouble getting through this book. I haven't hit page 500 yet. It has been hard for me to read this one, with any interest. The others, I couldn't put down. I am disappointed on how the author is writing about thiings that really do not matter. It is like reading what one did in the day of a is boring. I am hoping to force myself pick this book up again after reading your review and the comments afterwards. I will keep trying to get this read. Thank you. I also hope the next book is better. I have 7 of the books and am now hesitant about getting no.8 and kinda sorry I bought the seven.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 31, 2014 6:57:34 AM PST
deb says:
So far, after 300 pages, I don't feel like I've missed anything good. It is hard to keep my concentration on this book. After the other three, it is a bit disappointing.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 15, 2015 3:04:08 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 15, 2015 3:06:19 PM PDT
Sometimes, in the real world, you just don't get to know, you never know! Its true to life, as all the books have been... harsh, ugly, awful things that happen in life. Especially when you can't know.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 15, 2015 3:05:19 PM PDT
I recall Willie dying... but darn if I can recall which book. It suited his character, though... he was just too dumb to live!
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Review Details



K. Bourn

Location: Portland, OR United States

Top Reviewer Ranking: 248,273