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Outlander: 20th Anniversary Edition    by Diana Gabaldon order for
by Diana Gabaldon
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday Canada, 2011 (1991)
Hardcover, Paperback, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

It's hard to believe that it's already twenty years since Diana Gabaldon burst onto the historical/fantasy/romance scene with Outlander, now available in a beautifully bound special anniversary edition. An introductory note from the author tells how she came to pick a Scottish time travel theme for her wildly popular saga and how her fertile imagination came up with leads Claire Randall and James Fraser. They have now survived seven adventurous episodes (the last being An Echo in the Bone) and collected an ever growing train of family, followers and adversaries. This Outlander edition comes with a CD of three original songs from Outlander the Musical and one bonus track of the new song, Claire's Message.

Outlander is told from the perspective of feisty British Army nurse Claire (the original for many of the kick butt heroines populating urban fantasy today) who is sent back in time through the standing stones at Craig na Dun from 1945 (post World War II) Britain to 1743 Scotland. A recent graphic novel version, The Exile by Diana Gabaldon and Hoang Nguyen, tells part of the same story from the perspective of Jamie, who has recently returned to his country from exile when Claire appears on the scene. Gabaldon introduces plenty of conflict from the beginning as well as an unusual love triangle. While wed to history professor Frank Randall in 1945, Claire ends up forced to marry Jamie in the past - and she loves both in different ways.

Complicating matters is Frank's vile ancestor, British captain Black Jack Randall (Frank's spitting image), who has it in for Jamie and viciously assaults Claire. Along the way, Claire is accused of witchcraft, and meets another time traveler (Geilie Duncan) accused of the same. After revealing who she really is to Jamie, Claire plans to return to Frank, but changes her mind at the last minute. When Jamie takes his Sassenach to his family home at Lallybroch, he is betrayed to the English and tortured by Black Jack, though he does win Claire's freedom by agreeing to his captor's carnal demands. Then Jamie is rescued, he and Claire escape to France, and she becomes pregnant. The first episode ends beautifully: 'And the world was all around us, new with possibility.'

Aside from the time travel twist, the Outlander books remind me most of Sergeanne Golon's Angélique series. Both share a great romance (subject to many cruel separations) between passionate (actually, perpetually aroused) leads. Both narrate the wide-ranging adventures of a feisty heroine who crosses the ocean from Europe to the Americas in later episodes. And both give credible details of daily life based on thorough historical research. Fans will want to own this first volume in the totally engaging series - and if you've somehow missed the entire saga, then this first book is definitely the place to start.

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