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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Breath of Snow and Ashes

**** A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon. Historical fiction.

Historical fiction? General fiction? It's really not romance anymore. If you ask me, only the first book, Outlander, was romance, but nobody's asking me, darnitall.

And while we're on the subject of things nobody's requesting my opinion on--is this not the plainest, most makeshift cover? I have the hardcover, and it's just really dull. Light gray, plain font. I'm the first to complain about cheesy covers with those shaved-chest cover models (okay, maybe not the first), but surely there's something between embarrassing and something this boring and... well... unprofessional-looking.

On to the book. A Breath of Snow and Ashes is the 6th book in the series that begins with Outlander. I suppose you could read this without having read the rest of the series--but why would you want to? The vast majority of my enjoyment in reading this book came from being invested--for over 15 years--in the saga of Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser and James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser.

If you've somehow managed to avoid hearing about this series, Claire, an English nurse in WWII travels back in time via a stone circle to Scotland, just before the 2nd Jacobite rising. There she meets, falls in love with, and marries Jamie. Now, in the 6th book, they're in America--North Carolina--just before the American Revolution, and once again, Claire knows what's about to happen, but is powerless to change anything in a more than individual way.

I'm not really going to say anything about the plot because at nearly 992 pages, there's not one overarching plot covering the book. I'm guessing that it simply covers a time period, and that the event at the end (no, I'm not going to spoil it, though if you look through the Amazon reviews, you'll find what it is easily enough) was the point Gabaldon wanted to reach by the end of this installment. Unfortunately, most of the action was concentrated at the beginning of the time period covered, and toward the end of the book, weeks and months got skipped over to jump ahead to the prescribed date of the climax.

Pretty much every sort of plot thread you can think of in immediately pre-revolutionary America gets covered--from the fascinating but dangerous dilemma of how and when to change allegiances from the Crown to the Colonies when you know what's going to happen, to a disease epidemic, to the plight of women alone at that time. There's the uneasy melding of different nationalities and religions, the heartbreaking story of the effect of birth defects at that time, the changing relationships with the Indians, and a creepy but strangely sweet 3-way romance.

We catch up with almost all the characters from previous books, find out some of what happened with Young Ian, learn who really fathered Jem, discover more time travelers, and see Roger find himself.

And then there are the inventions. I suppose it's inevitable, and that if I were to travel 200 years into the past, I'd probably be trying to recreate as many modern conveniences and life-saving practices as possible, too, but it got a little old. Claire by herself stuck mostly to the medical and sanitary side of things, but now that Brianna's settled in, she's putting her engineering skills to use and inventing things left and right. Poor Roger's only contribution to modernity is to carve "vrooms" (cars) for the children to play with.

I'd be vastly happier with a 300-page episode every 1 or 2 years that followed a single plot thread from beginning to end than these 1000-page meandering tomes every 5 years or so, but the stage was set from the beginning, so there's no point in changing it now. I'll continue to read the series as long as it lasts, and no doubt I'll edit the books in my head, but I'm not going to complain too much, because I do know what to expect.

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Darla - Tell us how you really feel LOL!

This front book cover may not be the bestest, compare to the other books in the series, but atlease it better then the cheesy covers, right? ;) I agree though that it is a plain cover. Compare that with the overseas book covers, their is more prettier then our IMO :)

Maybe my thoughts on this book will be differ then your, so I will let you know once am finish with the book :) You already know am big fan of Outlander series :)

Love visiting your blog and reading your review! :)
LOL, yeah, at least they didn't put a photo of a bland 20-something cover model on the front and try to convice us that's Jamie.
I read Outlander on vacation last year, after being told by many, many readers that I must Must MUST. It was a good romance -- I defy Diana Gabaldon to deny its romanciness -- but not a keeper: I left it behind at the hotel. Haven't felt any urge to pick up the following books, but I always appreciate reading reviews by both DG Lovers and DG Haters.
LOL Darla - You know, the fan still have not find our Jamie yet...and just like Roarke, no famous people would be the right Jamie such as it is with Roarke. No one gonna agree on the right one :)

Speaking of 20-something model, doesn't it reminded you of Katie MacAlister book cover for "The Last Vampire..." ? LMAO!

Hi JMC - Am glad you atlease try Outlander. But I wish you kept reading the rest of the series. It get better as each books. However you might get scared by the thick books and heavy deatailed, thought ;) But it didn't scared me :)
I enjoyed parts of this book a lot, and the rest I just put up with. But I wiill continue to read the series for as long as it is being written!
Marg, that's exactly how I feel. :)

JMC, I, too got the "you MUST read this" speech, accompanied by shoving a very thick paperback into my hands, but that was 15 years ago, at a time when I didn't read any romance, and when things like time travel only occurred in science fiction stories--in my world, at least. And it was just one person, not the hordes of fans there are now. So I was completely hooked, and now I'm invested.

Chances are, I'd have a different response to the series if I were just encountering it now, with my different reading experiences and so many people raving.
Marg and Darla - did you two get the emotional feeling like everyone else did from A Breath of Snows and Ashes? You know.....the sad moments, the happy moments, the shocking moments..etc? I hear this is the case alot :)

Darla - I know that you have differ response since you have many reading experiences, than me. I wish I can do what you can do :)
I really wanted to read this series (have heard enough of the ravings, hehe), but I guess the thought of going through those thick books scare me off... LOL! *sigh* Should I or shouldn't I? ;)
I'll continue to read this series even after FC, the dull last one.

The cover, who cares? What was inside was what was important to me and you know my penchant for hunky covers? We've already gone through the picture covers with the original O. Now the publisher has elected to go with plain and I suspect what they think of is classic? I can't imagine what they would have used if they chose a picture for this book. Although I know of a scene that might work. In my quilting group before this book came out we were to make a quilting block depicting ABOSAA and my rendition was of a cabin in the woods, snow covered and for contrast I chose an orange, black and bespeckled in gold batik. It showed to me the fire of the house on the Ridge. Maybe that or something similar would have worked.

Unfortunately I feel the same about the thickness of these books. They keep getting bigger and bigger. This one at 1550 pages unfortunately took me a long time to read. I too would have preferred two or even three books of half this size in half the time.

It was however riveting and beyond realistic with the almost too many things that happened to the characters. Bigamy, murder, that Tri incest sorta thing, heck all the sins and nasty events you could think of. But I believe they were deliberately put into this book by Diana in deference to the rather dull last book and the many criticisms -- it was it's complete opposite. The Fiery Cross goes down as my least favorite. But I have to say, in order to continue the story you had to have read it. This book ABOSAA too was necessary on the long journey of the life of the Fraser's

I don't believe btw Darla it is marketed as a romance novel but merely fiction. Diana has said that herself. It's not a romance, time travel, historical fiction or anything but a work of fiction.

I liked this book but unlike the first four which I've read twelve times each and the FC which I've read once and listened to thrice I doubt I'll be reading this one just because of the size.
sorry forgot to sign, Annie
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