I had read a few audiobooks and had even joined Audible. But until I read this book I did not understand the magic of the format. Before reading this book I had no interest in1) romance 2) science fiction or fantasy and 3) time travel genres. I'd heard enough about the series that it piqued my interest because I loved historical fiction. Especially the period of time I knew the book covered. And I always found the challenge of tackling a big book rewarding.
This book changed so many of my perceptions of genre and reading format. While I still argue that though there is definitely a romantic and sexual relationship at the books core, it was only one part of the adventure. It still doesn't fit the romance genre to me, but it did such a good job of weaving romance and sexuality into the adventure it made me curious to read more traditional romance novels and see if they handled the topic as well. They didn't, but I discovered other good books I never would have tried of not for Outlander.
Likewise, other than Anne Rice's Vampire series which I had read many years ago, this was one of my very rare ventures into fantasy-science fiction. Setting aside my understanding of reality to accept someone else's is always difficult. But reading Outlander and the subsequent books in the series, I found myself trying to work out in my mind how this might have happened. It encouraged me to explore this genre more thoroughly as well. Even more surprising, it made me evaluate my perception of "time", what it means and how it works. I found myself paying more attention to physics and the study of the time and space relationship.
The twists and turns of the plot kept me turning the page just like the best mysteries I read. While reading the book there were enough unanswered questions, clues and short glimpses of scenes or events that caught my attention and made me store them away to remember "when all was revealed." But all was not revealed at the end and I found myself turning over these clues and snippets, trying to determine their significance, what I thought they meant and what their purpose was. One requirement of a great book is that you cannot get it out of your mind after you turn the last page. This book met that criteria. I thought about it for weeks.
Most importantly I learned that other voices can bring a whole new level to the reading experience, if it is the right voice for the right book. I would have enjoyed this book regardless, but if I read it myself and heard my voice in my head the characters would never have come so alive as they did in Davina Porter's voice. This is a perfect marriage of book and narrator. I was so surprised when I later discovered more about Porter's age, experience and background. She made a 21 year old Scotsman come to life. Her voice is Jamie to me. She handled each character wonderfully, although it is the first and only time I have ever listened to a book or series of books and thought a woman narrator did a better job on the men's voices than she did on the women's. I have loved hearing how the narrator has aged the character's voices throughout the series. You hear the young Jamie in the middle aged Jamie's voice, but you also hear the growth and maturity. I have accepted the narrators in the Lord John series, even when the book includes Jamie and actually think they are narrated well. But I am not certain I could accept another narrator for future Outlander books.
Finally, my initial interest in this book was from a historical fiction viewpoint. A good historical fiction novel, by Bernard Cornwell or Sharon Kay Penman sticks to as much historical fact as possible but presents it in an engaging and relate-able format. It makes you interested enough in the times and events that you will endure the dry-er, less lively recitation of facts of that same event or time in a nonfiction book, just to learn more. Outlander and this series delivered that in spades.
This was often a side-splittingly silly book. It was totally unbelievable but that didn't matter. The plot was convoluted and difficult to follow but that didn't really matter ...much. The romantic hero was totally unappealing because he was either dead, Satan or nothing but grey smoke and it is hard to make any of that sexy. It is just creepy.
But the snappy writing, the quick one-liners and the silly naivete of the heroine made all of those faults totally unimportant. And the whole book was written so tongue-in-cheek that those really weren't faults. They were part of what made the whole package so fun to read.
Because of who the characters were, the story could have so quickly gotten bogged down into philosophical discussions of good versus evil, spirit versus soul, etc. The author could have easily pulled an "Anne Rice" on us. But she didn't. She kept it light, fluffy and entertaining.
Her secondary characters were well written and strong enough to not wilt away in the glow of the main character. I loved her best friend, the various apparitions in her life and especially, Rocket.
The narration was great
My only complaint is that the bits of information that actually moved the plot forward, that explained what was going on and ultimately, what would lead you to read the second and third books in the series were so buried under the pithy one-liners and double entendres, that if you blinked you missed them. I finished the book not sure I had a clue about what actually happened in the plot. And wishing she had focused more on certain traits of Charley, like the fact she had perfect memory of everything that happened from the second she was born. But this might have been a timing problem on my part. I'm not sure I was up for quite so much humor in my current read when I sat down with this book. And if you are not in the mood for good-natured silliness, the book can be unfulfilling. Like eating your favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry's when all you really wanted was toast. But that is not the author's fault.
Molly Harper writes sharp, witty very, very, very, very funny books. I have yet to be disappointed. This is the first in her vampire series and the second book of hers I read and the second book of hers I fell in love with.
The books are somewhat similar to the Sookie Stackhouse series but lighter, tighter and funnier. Harper's vampire series' books don't get bogged down in the elaborate creation of an alternative universe, as the later books in the Stackhouse series do. They just enjoy the world they've been plopped down in.
Harper's books have some plot and some suspense but are chock full of fascinating characters. Her characters are so entertaining, you almost resent when she pulls you back into the plot and away from relating to an individual character. Dick Cheney is one of my favorite characters of all time and should have a series of his own.
The first book is spent setting up the series. You meet almost all of the characters, you get quite a bit of background about each. And you laugh, a lot. I've said before, I see a lot of similarities between Harper's books and the early Janet Evanovich books. Reading this book I found myself bursting into laughter at the most inappropriate times.
The narrator fits perfectly with the writing style and the flow of the book. She is very much the voice of Jane Jameson, a great heroine, but she is believable with all of the characters.
I really recommend this book.