The reviews seem mixed on this, with people either loving or hating it. I'm surprised to find that I loved it, as I read Outlander years ago (before I had GR, so no review) and liked the story but was pretty disappointed about the book itself. I only picked up book 2 because I've been enjoying the show – but I loved this! All of the reasons people dislike it are really valid and why I dock a star, but I think the awesome vastly outweighs the weaknesses.
I personally find older!Claire MC to be a plus. Stories about plucky heroines in their 20s are very common, and I love seeing 'older' women represented as main characters. The book, unlike the show, opens with Claire 20 years later, so I guess she's mid-to-late 40s. The story alternates between 'present' (1968) Claire and her flashbacks in the 1740s with Jaime. While it mostly worked fairly well, one downfall is that I found the POV switches between third person (60s, male MC) and first person (Claire, both 60s & 1740s) to be very jarring. I think those could have been much smoother and less confusing.
The story itself was great, and I was glad to see Jaime's intelligence shine a bit more as he delved into the world of politics. The book was obviously well researched, and Gabaldon did a fantastic job of making various historical characters come to life as individuals, friends, and foes. Place names and battles came alive in ways I've never quite gleaned or been able to separate one from another in history books. Little details, such as work-related injuries Claire tends from people in various professions or how nobles behaved around/what gifts were given to royalty, made the story and worldbuilding so very rich. The only downfall of this is that we are so very often hopping between one city/palace/manse and visiting between various nobles & royalty that it can get confusing or even redundant. I do wish that had been streamlined quite a bit more, and it would have easily helped a lot with the pretty serious length issue.
The scenes with Jaime and his family and those with Jaime and Claire shone most of all. Jaime was definitely the highlight of the book. I love his sense of humor and his sense of honor. I do think that Claire acted stupidly for the sake of the story a few too many times, but Jaime only seemed to gain intelligence and wisdom. Many of his lines were profound or even heartbreaking. This book made me cry so many times that I lost count, so I was definitely impressed with the writing much more than I had been with Outlander.
I did have a major, major issue with the treatment of rape (tw for this paragraph) in this story. It's joked about more than once, and I was so appalled that I nearly stopped reading. I can handle a rape storyline when it actually serves the story and isn't gratuitous, and the rape in this novel counts for more than one reason, imho. However, I certainly didn't need and found it extremely distasteful to have Jaime joke about wanting to rape his wife on the spot because she looks so lovely. Especially since Jaime is a rape survivor, and another rape survivor is treated extremely callously for the story. Not just in the story, like the asshole patriarchal society that saw such women as 'disgraced' but which is sadly accurate...but also having multiple men grapple with and overpower her in bed on multiple occasions. And also jokes? Not the 18th century men so much as the author really screwed up here. If you're going to tackle rape, at least be a little more conscious about word choices and plot ploys and the fact that at least 1 in 3 women is a victim of sexual assault. I almost docked a star alone on this issue, but the overwhelming majority of the novel had me hooked and really empathizing. That makes it all the more disappointing though.
There are a few typos in the ebook if those kinds of things bother you. They do me, but I guess it could be worse for an 800 pg tome. There's also the issue of a certain card played at the very end that had absolutely zero lead up or foreshadowing, except, of course, what we know of 1968 Claire, so it felt a wee bit deus ex machina to get her back home, and another thing or two about the end reveals were pretty obvious to me early in the book (and should have really been to the intelligent Claire that we usually know), but some other things were not. One whole side plot seemed completely out of character and downright evil of Claire, especially since she should have seen the obvious and not freaking meddled. But the book did have me hooked, and I sped through it faster than I expected to with the size. Overall, I quite liked it. It would have easily been a 5 star book with a more respectful treatment of characters' rapes and a (very easily accomplished) streamlining of plots/characters for clarity and a lot less chaff.