Last year, The Year of the Pandemic, I blew through all 8 existing Outlander novels (disclaimer for those who will ask: I have not yet watched the show). I fell in love with the entire series. Like, ignored-the-dishes-growing-new-lifeforms-in-the-sink fell in love. I preordered not only Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone right away, but also the Sassenach whiskey created by the Outlander show star Sam Heughan (hey, even if I haven’t watched the show, I can still enjoy the franchise, right?). Bees was probably my most anticipated book release of 2021.
Diana Gabaldon is a fantastic worldbuilder. A series built off the premise of Claire, a post-WWII nurse, accidently going back in time and falling in love with Jamie, a Scottish Highland warrior, sounds incredibly cheesy, but Gabaldon’s ability to vividly transport her readers into the crisp mountain air of the Scottish Highlands and later, the American Appalachians, with a realistic touch of human heart and lack thereof is simply masterful.
Unfortunately, like too many bees in a hive, there are simply far too many plot threads in Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone to make it feel like a coherent narrative. We return to Fraser’s Ridge, home of main characters Jamie and Claire and their massive assortment of biological and adopted families, as the American Revolution continues to wear on rebellious Americans and English loyalists alike. A character dies quite suddenly and violently, and a “modern” 20th century character–who in the last book was struggling mightily about their choice to bring their family back into the 18th century past–thinks, “Oh no, maybe I shouldn’t have come back,” for a moment and then the plot hurtles onward. Another character’s brother is captured, thrown in prison, escapes from prison, and vanishes, and that character never once comments on this development when they find out, even though their familial bond was incredibly tight in the last book! Character personalities feel thin and a little more one dimensional than I’m used to seeing in the Outlander series, even the ones who have been supporting main characters for 6 or 7 books. Galbadon clearly had a ton of plot lines buzzing around in her head and felt obliged to cram them all into Bees, regardless on their overall worth to the main story, checking off plot beats while racing to the end.
Gabaldon has also stated that there’s one more book to go in the saga of Jamie and Claire, so it’s possible she was rushing through some plot points in order to set up our characters to be in the right situations for the beginning of book 10. It’s unfortunate that she seems to have sacrificed her trademark ability to weave a multitude of idea into one engaging tapestry to do so, though.
Are you an Outlander fan craving more of the daily life of Little House on Fraser’s Ridge while a historical battle looms in the final pages? You’ll likely enjoy the return to Fraser’s Ridge and seeing our cast navigate the conflict of the American Revolution amongst the backdrop of the Appalachian Mountains, even though characters aren’t explored quite as in depth as previous novels. If you’re a newer fan, I recommend reading through the other 8 novels in order first–throw back a glass or two of whisky if you’d like! Here’s hoping that the bees will bring back the trademark Outlander magic for the final book.
Disclaimer: I bought this book with my own money and read it on my 10th generation Kindle Oasis. I was not paid for this review, and all opinions are my own.
Title: Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Publication Date: 23 November 2021
Print Length: 960 pages
Marie’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars