8 Things You Need to Know About Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series


If you’re already a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s killer series Outlander, I think I know how you’re spending your time these days: either making polite yet pointed comments about how the books have been around forever, or counting down the days to the first week in August. Let’s be real: You’re probably doing both.

And who could blame you? With the Starz Network’s steamy new adaptation due to hit the small screen in August, Outlander’s about to get a lot more popular! That’s kind of impossible to consider, given the cult following Gabaldon’s books already enjoy (hi, I am in this cult). For all you newbies, I’m here to share some essential Outlander-universe knowledge, so you can walk into the written series (or the televised one) like a professional. If you’re already a diehard Claire-and-Jamie-4Eva enthusiast, none of this intel is going to be new. That said, it’s still going to get you totally psyched for the series launch. Slight spoilers ahead:

1. Time Travel Is Real
You don’t need to believe in dragons or zombies dwelling beyond the wall (I’m looking at you A CERTAIN BELOVED FANTASY SERIES), but if you’re staunchly anti–time travel (do you also hate birthdays and glitter?), you’ll have no fun reading this series. Also, you probably won’t have much fun in life. The entire series is predicated upon the fact that moving between times (SEXY TIMES) is a thing which is indeed possible. Hence Claire Randall falling from the 20th century to the 18th through a ring of stones just outside Inverness.

2. Magic & Science Are Equals
This is, to me, one of the greatest things about the series. Although Claire is a woman of science, she does not rule out the possibility of something existing beyond her scientific reasoning. This also goes for Jamie, her gigantic Scottish paramour. He doesn’t necessarily know what he believes in, but he keeps an open mind. The willingness and guile of the central characters is captivating and feels totally authentic. I wish I could believe I’d stay so calm if I woke up and it was the middle ages. In book terms, I’d probably spend 60 to 80 pages weeping and throwing up and going “no, no, no, no.” That would not make for very compelling reading.

3. Know Your Clans
Not since Braveheart has something stirred the Scot in me so! The Scottish clans Claire interacts with (especially in book one) put every single mafia movie to shame. Banish all thoughts of dudes in kilts being charming and hurling around small trees (though, I mean, that’s part of it). The schemes, betrayals, and intrigue put Robert the Bruce to shame.

4. Love Is Complicated
Is there space in a person’s heart for two people? That’s a question that’s pretty central to the series, at least insofar as our protagonist Claire’s story goes. Don’t be fooled by others into thinking you’re diving headfirst into a consequence-free lovefest across the heath. Claire’s story is much more complex than that. Watching as she navigates her feelings for her first husband, Frank, and her feelings for her second husband, Jamie, is absolutely riveting and at times, heartrending. Also there is much lovin’ across the heath, but WHATEVER, it’s great.

5. The Jacobites Do Not Play
Even if you go into this saga knowing nothing about political climates in England, France, and Scotland in the 18th century, you will come away, if not an expert, than at least insanely curious. I maybe finished the second book and bought an excellent book about Bonnie Prince Charlie. There is zero shame in that game, y’all.

6. Girl Power
The best thing about a thoroughly modern woman traveling back in time are all the opportunities she gets to be like, “WOMEN ARE THE GREATEST,” and Claire does this often. She has no time for fools or misogyny. Granted, this occasionally means people try to kill her and maybe some folks think she’s a witch, but that comes with the territory. That said, in the first book there is some disturbing Jamie-punishing-Claire-via-spanking stuff that happens. But I’m willing to view that through 50 Shades-colored glasses if you are.

7. Gingers Rule
Oh sure, people might argue the idea of male redheads as sex symbols, but Jamie Fraser? Jamie Fraser steps on your petty tress-based prejudices. He laughs at them, auburn locks shimmering in the sunlight. He is tough, strong, sexy, goofy, and basically the king of all that is hot and awesome. I’ll admit a bias here, but Frank and his “delicate hairless hands” never stood a chance.

8. Genres Are Overrated
People will try to tell you these books are romance novels. They are wrong. People will try to tell you they are fantasy novels. They are also wrong. In fact, no matter what anyone tries to tell you these books are—science-fiction, historical fiction, thrillers—they are wrong. The best thing about the Outlander series is its ability to bust through the strictures of genre. There is quite literally something for everyone in this series.

Have you read the Outlander series? Are you excited about the new Starz series based on the books?

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