Outlander, Book 0.5
Reviewed Dec. 2018
Narrator: Allan Scott-Douglas
Length: 3 hours 3 minutes
Publisher: Recorded Books⎮2016
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Mourning the death of his father and gravely injured at the hands of the English, Jamie Fraser finds himself running with a band of mercenaries in the French countryside, where he reconnects with his old friend, Ian Murray. Both are nursing wounds, both have good reason to stay out of Scotland, and both are still virgins despite several opportunities to remedy that deplorable situation with ladies of easy virtue.
But Jamie's love life becomes infinitely more complicated - and dangerous - when fate brings the young men into the service of Dr. Hasdi, a Jewish gentleman who hires them to escort two priceless treasures to Paris. One is an old Torah; the other is the doctor's beautiful daughter, Rebekah, destined for an arranged marriage. Both Jamie and Ian are instantly drawn to the bride-to-be - but they might be more cautious if they had any idea who they're truly dealing with.
The Audiobookworm's Review
Rating: 4.25 Stars
4.25★ Audiobook⎮I don’t normally put a lot of stock into novellas, and I certainly don’t make a habit of reviewing them, but Virgins made such an impression on me that I had to pass my thoughts along. I’ve just finished the 7th Outlander book and I’ve begun to realize that it may be awhile before the ninth is released, so I wanted to bide my time before plunging into #8. Luckily, there are quite a few novellas set in the Outlander universe and a spin-off mini-series focusing on Lord John Grey.
Virgins is a prequel to the Outlander series. In it, Jamie and Ian (Sr.) are young lads having adventures in France. These adventures are sometimes alluded to in the main series, so it was a treat to hear about them first-hand. It also takes us closer to the events surrounding Jamie’s father’s death, as Virgins begins right after his (first) mutilation at the hands of Blackjack Randall and Brian Fraser’s subsequent death. We don’t necessarily learn anything new about those events, we just hear about them from a slightly fresher perspective.
Virgins was actually quite humorous as well. Gabaldon’s sense of humor is very cheeky. I’m sure she had a wonderful time writing about young Jamie and Ian as virgins in France. Their conversations reminded me of those had by pubescent lads exchanging (mostly incorrect) information regarding females and their anatomy. It is especially funny because we know the men Jamie and Ian turn out to be.
The main takeaway from Virgins was the closeness of Jamie and Ian. I mean, I knew that they had a close friendship, practically a brotherhood, but knowing something and seeing it are very different. In Virgins, I was able to really see their relationship as it was at possibly its strongest point. It was very moving, especially after reading the events of An Echo in the Bone. Virgins also shows us the meaning of “On your right, man”, a meaningful phrase between Jamie and Ian that becomes even more poignant in An Echo in the Bone. The events surrounding that phrase and its explanation in Virgins exemplify another important takeaway from the prequel. Diana Gabaldon is a “ show” type of author, rather than a “tell” author. She perfectly understands the pacing of a story and how to filter information through it. I think I learned more about her writing style in this 3-hour novella than I have in hundreds of hours of the main Outlander series. She doesn’t do information dumps and she would rather show something than tell it. I likely won’t remember the plot details of Virgins for much longer, but that won’t matter because it wasn’t Gabaldon’s point in writing the story anyway. Her message was that of the bond between Jamie Fraser and Ian Murray (Sr.) and I received it loud and clear.
Narration review: I began Virgins prepared to be disappointed by the narration, simply because no one can possibly compare to Davina Porter. It just isn’t fair. I’ve been so spoiled while listening to her narrate the main series and I’ve come to exclusively associate her voice the Outlander characters. However, Allan Scott-Douglas did an admirable job of voicing Jamie and Ian. I will say, as much as I adore Davina Porter’s narration, it was refreshing to hear Jamie and Ian voiced by a male narrator. His interpretation of Ian was spot-on. I could perfectly envision Ian Murray when hearing him voiced. His interpretation of Jamie was a little less accurate, though. I’m not sure if I was comparing it to Davina’s interpretation or Sam Heughan’s on-screen portrayal, but something about it didn’t fully line up. Not that it was a huge problem, however. It may have bothered me more in a longer story, but I was able to enjoy Virgins just fine and I hope Allan Scott-Douglas narrates more of the Outlander novellas. ♣︎