When a good friend of mine found out that I was a fan of Game of Thrones, she turned me on to Outlander after it had aired last year. Although comparisons have been drawn to Game of Thrones, these two series are not entirely similar (admittedly, both of the book series were difficult to market, were “word of mouth” books and took a good while before being translated to screen). But Game of Thrones is epic high fantasy that takes place in a world nothing like our own and is dependent on magic, dragons and family sagas. Whereas Outlander takes place in a historically accurate Scotland and is more historical fiction/romance with a twinge of science fiction thrown in the beginning.
Our story opens with the heroine Claire Randall, a former British Army nurse seeking to reconnect with her husband Frank after a WWII-induced separation. Their story begins on their second honeymoon in Inverness, Scotland, where Frank indulges his passion in genealogy (which you can do with the Library’s resources), while Claire focuses her energy on botany. After witnessing a pagan ritual at an ancient stone circle with her husband, Claire ventures out alone to gather some specimens. She’s drawn to a standing stone and, as far as her husband in 1945 is concerned, vanishes without a trace. This serves as the jumping-off point for her adventure as she struggles to grasp what’s going on around her, when she is and where she is.
Though she quickly realizes she’s still in Scotland, she can’t quite figure out how she landed on a cinema set for a costume drama. However, she soon gathers this is no set when she notices that the actors are firing live ammunition. Through a stroke of bad luck, she runs into Captain “Black Jack” Randall and is almost raped, but is saved by Dougal McKenzie’s band of Scots and taken hostage. It is at this point that she discovers she has fallen through time to 18th century war-torn Scotland, where being an Englishwoman isn’t always a great thing to be. Her captors lead her to Castle Leoch, the heart of the McKenzie Clan. She is suspected of being a Sassenach spy and tasked with the unpaid job of healer, while they try to figure her out. If you expected a damsel-in-distress story, this isn’t it. Claire is a capable, clever (and thanks to her husband Frank, knows her history), complicated, independent and stubborn modern-day woman (for 1945 at least).
Devoted fans of the Outlander series who have been waiting (… and waiting … and waiting) for these novels to be successfully translated to the small screen, have had their patience rewarded tenfold with the Starz series. There is demonstrated effort to keep the series as faithful to the books as possible. Created by Battlestar Galactica show runner Ronald D. Moore, this series enlisted author Diana Gabaldon as a consultant, thereby assuaging any anxieties that Gabaldon’s loyal fanbase may have had. If nothing else, watch for the great scenery, fantastic costumes and dedication to historical accuracy. Mr. Moore has an amazing team of costume designers, set decorators, writers, weapons and riding experts and Scottish Gaelic language coaches for the actors that would rival Game of Thrones any day (well, except for the dragons …).
If a bit of adventure, time-travel, history and romance are your thing, by all means check out the DVD sets (volume 1 and 2) today. In the meantime, take some time out to brush up on your history of the Jacobite Rebellion and Bonnie Prince Charlie. If you want to take it to a whole new level (and please do!), you can also learn a bit of Scottish Gaelic using the library’s resources. Season 2 of Outlander begins in April on Starz.