Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is really only fantasy because the protagonist Claire Randall travels back in time to 18th century Scotland via some rocks. Prior to reading this novel I had included it on my TBR for Fantasy December, but really this novel is historical fiction with a slight fantasy twist. Although the novel wasn't a straightforward "fantasy" novel I still ended up really liking it. I think this series is my next guilty pleasure. Give me more!
Firstly, I have a few comments on some of the most common complaints I saw in reviews about this book. Yes, there is a lot of sex in this novel, but I don't think it's fair to compare the book to Fifty Shades of Gray. Some of the sex scenes in the novel were not very long or descriptive and basically came off as "and then we did it." Except for the last scene of the novel, be prepared for that one.
The second thing that I saw a lot of reviews pinpoint on was the violence towards women and rape or attempted rape that was happening in this novel. There is violence towards women so you have to be prepared for that while reading this novel. You also have to remember the time period where Claire lands and how the English soldiers treated the Scots at the time. There is one particular scene between Jamie and Claire that left a sour taste in my mouth. I think that Gabaldon choose to include the scene to really show the differences in gender roles from Claire's time and the time she had journeyed to. In the 18th century woman were supposed to be obedient and always listen to their husbands, so when Claire disobeys Jamie he thinks it's perfectly acceptable to punish her for it with physical harm. It's totally not okay, and I hate that scene so much, but I think it's accurate to the gender roles of the time. Claire had an unusual upbringing so she had a lot of liberties, but I think even in her time this sort of mentality was accepted. My stomach is still churning from reading this scene.
[END OF SPOILER]
So those issues aside, I really liked this novel. Similarly to when I read Grave Mercy, it was a book that I thought, "Okay, I'll try it but I don't think I'll like it," but I ended up loving it!!! One of the reasons that I really enjoyed this was the writing style. Gabaldon's writing is clearly well researched and descriptive enough that she sucks you into the world of the Scottish highlander clans. It's been a long time since a book has truly made me feel like I've been transported into its pages, but this one did that for me. I don't know a lot about Scottish history but it appeared to me that the author really knew what she was talking about in this novel.
Another reason I really liked the novel was because I think the author wrote Claire as a complex character. At times she could be flighty and I wanted to shake her and scream, "Why are you picking this fight right now?" Other times I thought she was really quick on her feet and adapted to her situation really well. I also loved that Claire was a nurse, because it allowed her to use her skills to be an asset rather than being seen as the "damsel in distress" archetype. She did have her moments when she irritated me, but I think that's what made her so real to the reader.
One final discussion point before I get to my final rating. Frank or Jamie? I felt bad for Frank a little at first but as the novel progressed I just wanted Claire to get together with Jamie. I mean this is supposed to be a fantasy/romance novel and it's not like Frank was even alive yet when she met Jamie, right? So as it got towards the end of the novel, I cared less and less about Frank. At one point in the novel Claire is actually faced with the choice of going back to her own time or staying with Jamie. I won't give away her answer, although it's pretty obvious, but I'm Team Jamie all the way.
I really enjoyed this book, and I'm excited to read the sequel. If you want a fast-paced romance novel with a lot of adventure and historical fiction this is the book for you. I'm highly recommending this one right now.
Rating: ★★★★☆What are your thoughts on Outlander? Are you Team Jamie or Team Frank?
Happy Reads Everyone!