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A Breath Of Snow And Ashes: (Outlander 6) Paperback – 7 Sep 2006
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"The sixth instalment of the adventures of Claire and Jamie Fraser, already number one on the bestseller list, is a whopping 980 pages of action-packed escapism. It also has surprisingly melancholy and insightful views on the experience of growing old and dealing with the losses that entails... One of the things that sets Gabaldon apart from other romance writers is exhaustive research of the times in which her characters live, so evident in her attention to period detail.... plot lines and stand-alone yarns are expertly woven together with the overall theme of impending doom and the question of predetermination." (The Toronto Star)
"Fans of Diana Gabaldon's popular Outlander series have another rousing historical-science-fiction-romance novel to savour in A Breath of Snow and Ashes... For fans, this book is another slam-dunk hit. It's a massive, long-lasting source of entertainment." (The Gazette (Montreal))
"Riveting. Gabaldon has a true storyteller's voice." (The Globe and Mail)
"Triumphant. . . . Her use of historical detail and truly adult love story confirm Gabaldon as a superior writer." (Publishers Weekly)
THE SIXTH NOVEL IN THE BESTSELLING OUTLANDER SERIES.See all Product description
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Yes, I've finally finished A Breath of Snow and Ashes. It took months of painful slogging, but it's done, and I never want to speak about it again. What? You want to hear about it? Oh, all right then, but frankly I don't know where to begin - I feel like a Capri Sun with all the juice sucked out of it. This book has simply drained me - intellectually, emotionally and physically.
Right, it's 1773 and the fires of unrest and Revolution are springing up all across Colonial America. Claire, Jamie and co are still struggling to survive on Fraser's Ridge, while at the same time dealing with political intrigue, betrayal, war, violence, rape and kidnapping. As usual.
That's about as deep as I care to go with this one. If I was to try to accurately convey the full scale of this book's plot, I'd probably exceed the Amazon word limit four or five times over.
Part of the problem with ABOSAA is the ridiculous, melodramatic, self-indulgent, bloated and overwrought story it tries vainly to tell. The other part is the sheer mind-crushing depth with which it insists on describing every single thing that happens. This book is like a chronic incontinence sufferer that's just drunk several pints of beer - so full to bursting with tedious dialogue and descriptions that they leak out at every turn. Everything that was bad about The Fiery Cross is worse here. ABOSAA is like a beached whale literally suffocating under its own weight.
The main plot is turgid enough, but the irrelevant side stories slow things down further, reminding me of the awkwardly tacked-on side quests to be found lurking in most below-par Role Playing Games. I could be missing something, but I really don't understand why we're meant to care about the dozens of periphery characters that come and go in the course of this book.
It gets no better on the main character front either. Claire and Jamie, once vibrant and lively, are like stale digestive biscuits now - still edible but boring and hard to digest. And despite being well into her fifties, Claire seems to suffer none of the complaints that one might expect of a woman of that age. She's still hale and healthy as always, and apparently as physically fit as she was thirty years ago.
Roger continues to be Diana's insipid whipping boy, getting punished and humiliated at every step for having the temerity to actually exist. And Brianna is starting to remind me more and more of Princess Toadstool from Super Mario - an utterly useless brat whose miserable parasitic existence is only occasionally livened up by a good kidnapping drama.
ABOSAA is a pretty difficult book to review with any degree of impartiality - partly because I went into it with the kind of dread normally reserved for condemned prisoners walking the green mile, and partly because I'm beginning to suspect that all the things I dislike about it are the same things that most fans find appealing. Some people just like that kind of thing, I guess.
If you're one of those people... well, I suppose you'll already have bought, read and reread ABOSAA. If on the other hand, you like your stories focussed, exciting and compelling, you'd do well to run away from it very fast. And never look back.
First of all, the book is LONG and HEAVY and the print is SMALL compared to the usual. All this makes for a LOT of reading, which would be wonderful if it didn't drag on, wasn't filled with needless trivia, incomprehensible words and at times, seemingly endless background filler.
The book itself is more a series of small stories brought together under one cover than it is a novel with one straightforward storyline which is really what is missing. On the other hand, for those interested in military strategy, the minutia of the American War of Independence and its lead up, then this will probably suit. However, to be frank, I did find much of this book hard going. I normally finish DG's books in under a week, even less if they're really good - this one took a month, which says something.
Physically, the print is small, the book is heavy and cumbersome and whilst it was nice to be with Jamie and Claire again, there really wasn't much to go on in terms of a storyline. Also, some of the language is incomprehensible, in that it's either foreign (i.e., written under the assumption that the reader understands Scottish endearments) or so advanced one needs a dictionary (at times).
Lastly, this is the latest book in what is a multi multi book series - I think it's number 6 or 7. I read the first back in 1994 when it first came out - or thereabouts. I don't know about other readers, but I for one do not remember each and every incident which took place over the course of the series. Yet the author doesn't seek to 'refresh' the reader's memory, but instead relies on the assumption that all will be remembered. In my case, I struggled to remember what happened and to whom in the last book, let alone in the first!
DG is an excellent writer, which is clear by the following she's built up over the years. And whilst I'm loathe to criticise her literary efforts, with this book there was an unfortunate but definite decline in holding the reader's attention.
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