Audiobook Review – A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon

A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diane GabaldonTitle: A Breath of Snow and Ashes
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Narrator: Davina Porter
Audiobook Length: 57 hours, 46 minutes
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Fantasy
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Release Date: 29 April 2008
Bottom Line: Please end the pain!

“The year is 1772, and on the eve of the American Revolution, the long fuse of rebellion has already been lit. Men lie dead in the streets of Boston, and in the backwoods of North Carolina, isolated cabins burn in the forest.

With chaos brewing, the governor calls upon Jamie Fraser to unite the back-country and safeguard the colony for King and Crown. But from his wife Jamie knows that three years hence the shot heard round the world will be fired, and the result will be independence with those loyal to the King either dead or in exile. And there is also the matter of a tiny clipping from The Wilmington Gazette, dated 1776, which reports Jamie’s death, along with his kin. For once, he hopes, his time-traveling family may be wrong about the future.”

Thoughts: The first book had me completely absorbed in the little details and fascinating plot, the second book made me angry by the huge jump in time and then made me happy, while the third book continued to hold my interest. The fourth book was a little slow. The fifth book made me wish for all that time spent listening back again because really, however many pages an author should devote to homesteading, Ms. Gabaldon surpassed it at least ten-fold. The sixth book frustrated me with its plodding story, with its hyper-attention to detail, and with the continued and inexplicable use of multiple narrators. This does nothing but prolong the agony. If the last two books have been less-than-ideal and even somewhat of a waste of time, why did I continue the series and move on to A Breath of Snow and Ashes? I wish I knew.

The writing sucks. It is not a well-written series at all, repetitive and worthy of many an eye roll or snort of disbelief. Ms. Gabaldon uses the same phrases, descriptions, and dialogue all the time. While continuity is important, the repetition becomes old very quickly. This is on top of the fact that the entire series is just one big, very bad soap opera – the kind where the villain suffers forty different ways to die but always survives to torment his victims. Stephen Bonnet is the eighteenth-century Stefano. One can practically predict which major character is slated for his or her turn at mortal peril because it happens to them all with such frequency. Yet, I keep listening, yelling at the characters for their stupidity and getting anxious on their behalf even though I know they all survive for at least two more books. I was sucked into the Outlander world, and I can’t seem to get out.

In the beginning of the series, the sex scenes were so unusual in a romance novel because they were actually vital to the story. Through their most intimate moments, readers learned more about Clare and Jamie, their vulnerabilities and their sensitivities. It was never a sex scene purely for titillation but a method by which the characters developed and grew. The same can no longer be said about any of the sex scenes within these later novels. First of all, there is nothing more to learn about Jamie or Clare. Readers have been with them for years now, and their characters are fairly set in their development. Then, there is the ick factor. Both are approaching 60 years of age, and while I appreciate that their love life is healthy and frequent, it is not necessarily something about which I want to read. Jamie’s comments about Clare’s body have him turning into a lecherous old man, and that is just wrong. Then there is the physical descriptions themselves. While Jamie is clearly an ass man given his many lascivious (and slightly disturbing) comments about the state of Clare’s derrière, I’m beginning to think Ms. Gabaldon is a breast woman herself. There is way too much attention and description devoted to all females’ breasts. Dresses cling to them, sweat trickles between them, they are fondled, kissed, and cupped, they leak milk, and babies release them with audible noises. If there is a woman in any given scene, Ms. Gabaldon will inevitably mention something about that woman’s breasts. Frankly, it’s annoying and disappointing.

Then there is the issue with Jamie and Clare’s daughter and son-in-law. I hate Bree and Roger. There. I said it. Bree is one of the most spoiled, stupid girls in print. Roger was great, if a bit weak and unmanly in comparison to Jamie, until he married Bree. With that one act, he became thoroughly uninteresting and superlative. As for Bree, she is just now thinking of the dangers of going back in time 200 years to the Revolutionary War – after the war has started. For someone who is supposed to have such a brilliant mind, she completely lacks in common sense as well as empathy. The scenes told from either of their points of view are just agonizing, as Roger spends most of his time thinking about Bree and Bree spends most of her time worrying about how certain events are going to affect her. Their sex scenes are not in the least bit erotic or even very romantic. Very rarely do they contribute something to the overarching plot, and most of the time, their presence causes more complications than solutions. It goes without saying that their removal from the story would also eliminate a good number of pages in this very bloated series.

The problem is that at an average audiobook length of 50+ hours, I have spent way too much time devoted to Jamie and Clare to quit the series now. I may not be quite as vested in their survival as I once was, but I would like to solve the mystery of how they die. I would like closure. Ms. Gabaldon has not yet written her stories to provide closure, and so I am stuck in this world of time travelers. I will continue with the series onto book 7 and eventually book 8 when it is released next year. Perhaps by then, Ms. Gabaldon will have made it possible for me to say good-bye. Until then, there will be more yelling and eye-rolling and general frustration at the slow pacing, repetitive syntax, unnecessary narrative shifts, and completely unnecessary sex scenes. It is most definitely the book world’s version of a daytime soap opera.

12 Responses to Audiobook Review – A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
  1. Michele Jacobsen (Readers Reaspite)
    October 1, 2013 | 9:50 AM

    Yes, yes, and yes. I am still in Snow and Ashes hell. I will soldier on with you if for no other reason than to gain closure. Dear Lordy, we need closure. And if we get very lucky, perhaps the writing will improve? Or at least perhaps the sex scenes will decrease? Crossing fingers….

    • Michelle
      October 1, 2013 | 9:52 AM

      One can only hope…if all else fails, at least we can just start laughing at the ridiculousness of the whole series.

  2. Christine Keleny
    October 2, 2013 | 9:21 AM

    This is such a relief to here you say these words. I thought I was the only one who didn’t like these books. They are so popular and I thought – really? Yes, the first one was good, but even in that one the sex scenes were a bit over done in my opinion, but I wasn’t looking for sex in reading the book, I was looking for a good story. I read book two and stopped there. I was thinking I should give the series another go, but now know not to bother.
    Thank you!

    • Christine Keleny
      October 2, 2013 | 9:22 AM

      I mean relief to hear you say these words. (hit the send button too fast) – ha, ha!

    • Michelle
      October 2, 2013 | 9:56 AM

      You are very welcome! I’ve discovered that there is a small minority who feels the same way I do about the latter half of the series as they have gone from interesting to ridiculous. The truly sad part is that even after audibly groaning my way through the sixth book, I already know I am going to continue onto the seventh and eventually the eighth after it is released. That need for closure is more than my antipathy for such a melodramatic series.

  3. Brighid
    October 3, 2013 | 1:27 PM

    When referring to A Breath of Snow and Ashes I have to disagree on your negative take on it and I wonder why you kept reading. A Breath of Snow and Ashes was not only well-written but it received an award. I thought it was the best one in the series and I believe Diana Gabaldon is the best writer I’ve ever red.

    • Michelle
      October 3, 2013 | 1:40 PM

      Ah, well, this is why we all have our own opinions. As for why I keep reading, or in this case listening, to the series, it is all about closure. As much as I have difficulties getting through the books and dislike some of the main characters, I really do want to find out how it all ends. As for Diana Gabaldon being the best writer you have ever read, well, I have no answer to that. There are so many other writers out there, alive and dead, who are SO much better than she is. I would be happy to provide you with some recommendations if you so desire.

      • Michele Jacobsen (Readers Reaspite)
        October 3, 2013 | 7:29 PM

        I tell you…we keep reading because I am quite sure we will receive a MEDAL when we reach the end. Really. I want my damned medal. Michelle and I intend to wear them proudly everywhere we go….on our foreheads. 😛

  4. Chrisbookarama
    October 3, 2013 | 7:42 PM

    57 hours! *faints*

    I read this when it first came out. I can’t remember much of it. They’ve all sort of blurred together. Nothing will match the first one, but I keep reading them.

    • Michelle
      October 4, 2013 | 7:41 AM

      It was a rough passage. I’m not certain I ever want to listen to an audiobook this long again. They definitely do all blur together.

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