To me, there’s something completely magical about being drawn into a series of books that you can’t seem to put down. There have been a few series like that for me, starting with the Babysitter’s Club and the Boxcar Children series when I was a child. But right now, the Series in Question is Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.
I’m a bit late to the Outlander party- understandably so, considering the first book was published when I was quite young (I think I was maybe six or seven) when she first published Outlander. I became curious about the books when I worked in cataloging when I was working at the library, and A Breath of Snow and Ashes was released. However, when I realized it was the sixth book in a series about time travel, I shrugged it off. To me, time travel was too much like fantasy, and I’ve failed to get through enough fantasy novels that I didn’t want to bother. But in the back of my mind, I was still curious. What could be wrong with a series with such beautiful book titles? A Breath of Snow and Ashes? Dragonfly in Amber? There was almost a beautiful whimsy to them.
Late last year, I wanted to find a series of books I could invest some real time in. Stand alone books are great. But one of the great things about series books is that the characters begin to feel like old friends. After all, Kristy and the girls of the Babysitter’s Club were friends that defined my childhood and firmly cemented my status as the class bookworm throughout elementary school. I wanted new literary friends to invest in as an adult, and I knew that it would probably have to be historical fiction of some sort. And I remembered the fascinating titles of the Outlander series and began to wonder why, if they were time travel books, they weren’t shelved in the fantasy section of the library. So I looked into them a little further, and realized that the fantastical element was only a small part of the story, and that romance and historical fiction were at the heart of the story. So at Barnes and Noble one afternoon, I took the plunge and bought the first book of the series. It took me a month to get through Outlander, and I absolutely loved it. I felt for Claire as she struggled to adapt to her unexpected new world, and as she gradually began to fall in love with Jamie Fraser, so did I (as I’m sure many other readers have before me). Dragonfly in Amber was a tougher read for me. I began it immediately after completing Outlander, but it took me close to six months to complete. I would neglect it for weeks at a time in favor of the stand-alone books that were a little less daunting in size. I can’t say why it took me so long; my interest in and love for Claire and Jamie’s story never diminished. I think that the knowledge that Claire and Jamie would have to be separated made me try to prolong the inevitable.
On Friday, I finished it. And with the completion of the book came the assumption that if it took me that long to finish the second book, it would take me until the seventh book is published late next year to get through the remaining four books. But then I began Voyager right away, and at the rate I’m going, it will be done by the end of the week (though likely not, considering I have graduation next weekend, and party preparations during the next week). Maybe it’s my eagerness to see Jamie and Claire reunited. Maybe it’s the influx of interesting new characters alongside old favorites. But though some of my interest seemed to flag during the second book, the third book seems to be reawakening my love for the series. And for that, I’m glad. I really believe that, when all is said and done, the Outlander books will come to be some of my favorite books of all time.
If anything else, I’ve also learned something of a minor lesson: I will no longer be judging books based solely on genre. That’s not to say I’m going to become a fan of fantasy novels; I’ve tried several more traditional fantasies, and haven’t been interested in them at all. And science fiction books will never be my cup of tea. But I won’t ever write off a book because some elements of it might not interest me. It’s made me more open-minded as a reader.