An Echo in the Bone what we’ve come to expect from Diana Gabaldon and infuses it with a jolt of super-strength espresso. Rather than simply switching between Claire and her Jamie to Brianna and Roger Mac, Echo is the second book in this series by Diana Gabaldon and an improvement on the first instalment, Fallen. That book took a long time to get going, but An Echo in the Bone shows us a much more comprehensive view of their world. Bouncing at a frantic pace from place to place and person to person and time to time might leave the reader feeling a little drunk and dizzy in the beginning. The voracious need for more helps to offset that discomfort.
Tidbits and breadcrumbs are offered piece by piece as the tale is fleshed out. Much like Dragonfly in Amber, the story is an interwoven afghan of many lives and times. Jamie and Claire along with young Ian prepare to head off across the wide blue ocean to rescue Jamie’s printing press. Fergus and family navigate the rocky waters of the pre-war colonies as People of Interest. Brianna, her Roger Mac and their children, inhabit a modern Lallybroch of the 1980s. William is a grown man and has become a soldier on American soil for the Brits, while Lord John offers advice via letters in vagaries. Jamie’s sister, Jenny, makes a solid appearance. It is a complicated yarn, just as one might expect.
The ancestral home of Lallybroch is as much a minor character as Claire herself is, and it is a truly fascinating portrayal. The blood and tears that went into the stones, and the lives and loves of the Frasers and Murrays that grew within, all made their mark on the place. Gabaldon captures that odd, magically surreal quality that very old homes seem to take on. In much modern literature, characters are portrayed like multicolored paper chains. Each link is simply added to further the plot - colorful, but not rich and full. Diana Gabaldon’s books are populated with people, not simply “characters.” Book seven of the saga begun by The Outlander continues the lives and world of Jamie and Claire, not by simply adding more links to the chain but instead by giving more breath to the characters who have captured the obsessive attention of so many fans. Echo offers more insight and further adventures to her fully vibrant yet exquisitely ordinary cast of imperfects, with Lallybroch being only one incredible example.
If there is a single, solid theme goldenly threaded though An Echo in the Bone with all of its various offerings, it would be the deep exploration of the circuitous nature of life. There is a lot of familiarity bred into each page and each individual story told without being a repeat of the first six novels. Long-time characters come and go, and with those comings and goings are rampant emotions as Claire’s world flexes and changes.
The mention of “The Minister’s Cat” is a small happiness given to fans who have been with the series since the beginning - one example of the little things that seem to be woven in as much for readers as for the characters themselves. Not one thread has been dropped. An Echo in the Bone is everything a fan expects of a new Diana Gabaldon book. It is 800-plus pages of battle, tears, humor, history and, yes, serious cliff-hangers. The one frustration is that it reads a little like a teaser trailer, setting up the stories just for the next book. It doesn’t stand on its own laurels quite as strongly as the previous books in the Outlander saga have. While it isn’t a good “stand alone” novel - indeed, someone who hasn’t been following the saga would be very lost - it is great fun for the addicts.