Top positive review
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Great book, could do with a bit more focus SPOILERS AHEAD!
on 1 July 2014
***This review will contain spoilers! I wouldn't read it if you don't want to get spoiled and if you haven't read the book yet. It's a bit long as well, sorry***
I was expecting a lot from this book. Firstly, for a long time I expected it was going to be the last one, and therefore was excited to have everything nicely tied up, and lots of wonderful epic scenes with plot twists and danger and tears and.... well, you know, all that awesome stuff. But then DG said it wasn't going to be the final book, and I was strangely disappointed. It's not that I want to say goodbye to these characters exactly, it's just that things seem to have been drawn out for so long and what should be important plot points dragged out or ignored or only hinted at for so many books, that I'm just feeling a bit tired. Don't get me wrong, I love the series, and I really enjoyed this book. But I want an ending! I want things to calm down for these characters and for them to settle and live out what is left of their lives happily, in peace.
So, anyway, onto the book. I bought the hard back copy and it was HUGE. Like, really heavy, so I didn't carry it around with me to read on the bus or at work, which I suppose meant that I drew it out a bit longer than I might usually. If you're thinking of buying this book, and you've got an ereader, download it rather than buying the book version.
We still get lots of chapters from Claire's POV, but increasingly over the series we have followed the path of lots of other characters, too, and WIMOHB was no different. Most of the time I did enjoy this, but other times I felt it just dragged the book out unnecessarily and many plots went on for too long, and ended unsatisfactorily or unresolved.
I think one of the main problems I had was the way we are now following so many character strands; the breadth of the book felt pretty huge, with different time zones, plots, and POVs to read through, I found it sometimes difficult to remember what was happening with everyone (I didn't read this terribly quickly, so was picking it up over a period of about a month), and sometimes (I'm almost ashamed to admit) not really caring about some of the plots very much at all. I get why it had to be done, now that the Outlander world has expanded so much, but I think when you're writing chapter after chapter about a long battle, something in terms of attention has to give. Maybe it just needed some more ruthless editing.
For me, I did find myself struggling at the beginning, the pace just seemed a bit slow in parts, and unfortunately as I'm not terribly interested in the American Civil War and it's history, I did find I got bored sometimes around the middle. There were so many generals and colonels who I didn't care about or even remember whose side they were on half the time. I don't know, the military aspect of these books was always a bit lost on me; I just don't really care. Some of William's and Lord John's parts were also a bit laboured in my opinion; I get that they have to have storylines of their own now, but unfortunately they just weren't that interesting.
William finds out he's a bastard and goes all angry and mopey, then tries to take care of a couple of young prostitutes, which fails, then goes off somewhere? Lord John gets captured and escapes and has a poorly eye and then tries to find his nephew and fails. Is Ben dead? What's with his wife and child? What is the point? These plots should have stayed in Lord John book territory, IMO.
Bree and Roger's storyline started out fairly exciting, and Bree got to be pretty badass in parts which I enjoyed, but then Roger's story with Buck just got lost somehow, and by the time I'd finished the book I felt like I missed the point of all that. It either needed more time to develop, or needed to end with a more exciting conclusion. Their chapters seemed to appear sporadically and when I was closing in on the last fifth, they seemed to have disappeared entirely. In the end I was left wondering what the point of their storyline was at all. I don't know, for me it just didn't work as well as it could have.
Oh, and the letters which we had in the last book, which Claire was writing to them for them to read in the future. They hadn't finished them by the end of the last book (why? I'd have been reading them all at once, straight off!), and then in this book they get glossed over as Bree reads them all really fast, but we don't find out anything interesting about them. I had expected there to be some revelations pop up there, and that they'd play some sort of exciting part in a plot, but they didn't, which was disappointing. Bree finds a letter from Roger written in the past, which was found rather 'conveniently' (she finds one from Frank Randall, as well, in a similar way, which is all mysterious, talking about prophecies and blood lines, and danger for the family, and we don't find out much more about, unfortunately), and you have to wonder what would have happened if she or someone before her had found that letter at a less ideal time.
I was a little confused by their ending. Roger was way back in the past, and Brianna and the kids went through the stones to him from the 1980s. But then they appear in Claire and Jamie's time? So they would all have had to travel through the stones again to get to the future with Claire in it. They'd also have had to travel across the Atlantic. It all seemed to happen too quickly and with no explanation, like there should have been more to their story and how they got to Claire, but DG had no time to write it. And those poor kids! They're going to be seriously messed up, time-travelling so much!
If you are going to have a character thread in a book, then you at least need to follow it through and have it make sense. For Bree and Roger's it felt like there just wasn't the space or time to develop it to it's full potential, and therefore it felt weaker than it should have at this point in the series.
Saying that, when I do try and recall what happened, some of Roger's storyline was entertaining. He goes back in time with Buck (still sort of suspicious about this character) to find Jem who isn't even there. There is a nice part where he meets Jamie's father, Brian, and a young Jenny. It's always nice to be back at Lallybroch. The two men meet Geillis and, for some reason which I can't quite fathom, Buck wants to have sex with his own MOTHER. There's a time-travelling healer who seems quite interesting, I feel like we'll learn more about this, and that somehow there must be a link with Claire and her potential abilities. Anyway, Roger goes on another search, this time for his father, who he finds, helps, and then who quickly LEAVES and we don't know whether he makes it out alive or not. There were some interesting moments for Roger, but mostly it didn't feel wrapped up, and I just ended up with more questions than answers. And for God's sake, when is he going to get his singing voice back?! It seems like every five minutes he's coughing loudly and feeling like he dislodged something which will make his voice return, then it doesn't happen.
And seriously, which one of us wasn't hoping that Roger would meet the young version of Jamie? I mean, how cool would that have been? How it would have effected the space/time continuum type thing, I don't know, frankly, I don't care! DG missed a trick there, surely? It would have been so great to see young Jamie again, and have him interact with Roger.
What I found myself itching for most was Jamie and William interaction, and while we did get some, I just never found myself satisfied. There were some nice moments, and I realise it's not going to be easy to quickly develop such a complex relationship, it wouldn't be realistic if it was. William does appear to be slowly coming to terms with it all, and I do enjoy how they have the characters behave so alike. William has moments where he remembers 'Mac' with a real fondness that sort of breaks my heart. For me, these types of moments are key to the success of this series, and they are what DG writes so well with great emotion, but not overdone.
William did get a lot of time in this book, and while some of his plot seemed a bit pointless, we did get to learn more about him, and spending more time with him made me warm to him a bit more. He's got a lot to learn, and sometimes he seems to make some terrible choices, but he's becoming more of a stronger character, in my opinion. The whole plot with Jane and Fanny just seemed to be a device to get Jamie and William working together in the end, which was nice, but she died anyway so it fell a bit flat. I just hope we'll get more of him and Jamie in the next book, as I'm sure that's what most of the fans want.
The second half of the book seemed to flow more easily, and my interest picked up somewhere, probably after the main battle finished. I read maybe the last third of the book much more quickly. Everyone seems to be getting pregnant and having babies; the Outlander family is just getting bigger and bigger. I think Rachel, Dottie, and even Marsali ended up pregnant, which seemed a bit much! Is it mean to say I don't care much for Marsali and Fergus? I'm not sad that they get less book time. I forget sometimes that Marsali is Laoghaire's daughter and not Jenny's, I've never found her particularly endearing, and Fergus went off for me when we heard he might be beating Marsali a couple of books ago (that just seemed to get forgotten about).
In general I do enjoy reading about some of the more minor characters, like Ian and Rachel, but I hope that we won't see much more of Dottie and Denzel, and even Hal. While I do like Lord John, it's really only when he's involved with Jamie and Claire that I enjoy his parts, I don't care much about his family, and hope DG will keep them to his own books from now on (if she writes any more in that spin-off series). Oh, and all the Quaker stuff I find a bit annoying; again, I just don't care! I hope the next book will focus on Jamie and Claire, Roger and Bree, Ian and Rachel, and William.
In terms of Jamie and Claire's plot, it's much of the same, and I'm fine with that. Jamie is being Jamie, and Claire is doing her thing. I could happily read a full book all about them, rather than focusing on other characters, though I appreciate the variety DG brings with the others. The main troubles for them this book are when Jamie turns up alive in the beginning (there were some great interactions here), and when Claire gets shot. Tension like this is what I always want in these books, it's what keeps me on tenterhooks reading until late in the night.
There's also some heartbreak for the Frasers when one of the grandchildren dies, I was really sad about that. I can't believe there was another fire! I felt like that plot hung in the air a bit. Who set the fire? I expected it to be someone we knew, or that we would find out and appropriate revenge would be taken, but that didn't pan out.
There are some lovely moments between the two main characters; seriously, I just never get tired of the romance with these two. I was starting to feel tired for the two of them, like they just need to settle down again, and I was pleased when they went back to the Ridge. I was thinking, though, wasn't there a reason they left the Ridge in a previous book? Didn't everyone hate them and want them dead or something? Weren't they going to burn Claire as a witch? I can't remember, but I did feel strangely uneasy, like there was unfinished business there that I'd forgotten about.
I do want to mention a few things which annoy me about these books, these mainly being that Claire can cure anything, everyone gets raped, money for things they need just seems to appear out of nowhere, and the amount of detail the author goes into about how sweaty and dirty everyone is and how everyone is always 'stifling a small belch' or farting all the time. Sweat trickling down arse cracks is something I can happily do without. I'm sure this is supposed to ground us in the reality and times, but I just don't want to know about it! Describe the clothes, the food, the buildings, the social and historical context, GREAT! I love it, and she usually does this wonderfully. But please, DG, please stop all your characters belching every five minutes. We get it.
By the way, I worked out that Claire is now 63 years old. Gabaldon does not mention her age in the book, as far as I can remember, or really make a point of drawing attention to it. Maybe she thinks we won't feel the same sense of enthusiasm for a couple still getting jiggy in their later years? Anyway, whether it's intentional or not, I still picture Jamie and Claire as being rather younger than they are.
I'm moaning a lot. I always find I need to moan a bit when I write reviews. The truth is, I enjoyed this book on the whole. There was lots to love and enjoy, some excitement, some action, some humor, some romance, some tears, all the things we have come to know and love with the Outlander books. I love Claire and Jamie as much as ever, DG writes them so well and with such affection, they just draw you in and make you love them more. Ian is great, too, he's probably become my favourite secondary character, and I'm glad he's found a love with Rachel that could one day maybe even rival Jamie and Claire's.
I think the weakness was the number of different threads, some of which just didn't seem as exciting as they could have been. It would have been better to tighten them up, maybe lose some of the Grey's stuff. The strength and the reason I give it 4 stars is because the essence of what I love is still there; Jamie and Claire's epic love story, and the adventure DG takes us on with them every book.
At first glance, the way the book ends could seem like a perfect way to end the series; Jamie and Claire are building a new home, Bree and family are back on the Ridge, Ian is happy with Rachel and his newborn son, Jenny is with the family, there's a warm, comfortable feeling which it was nice to leave with. But then there are still so many things that need tying up from this book. There's the question of how and in what circumstance Bree and Roger get back (forward?) to Claire's time. There's William, where's he gone off to, and when is he going to accept Jamie as his father? Are the kids still in danger (and what were they really in danger for in the first place - was it the gold, or something else)? What's with their telepathy thing? And this whole 'Fraser Prophecy'? Did Jamie kill that man who raped Claire, if so, how, and is there going to be any fallout from that? How will Jamie end up in the 1940s future (as he appeared in the first book)? Is Claire going to become one of these weird 'blue' healers? And to a lesser interesting extent, where did Buck go or not go? Is Fergus going to speak to Percy and inherit some big estate or something? Is Ben Grey alive or dead?
I love this series, but I do hope that the next book is truly the last. While I enjoy reading the adventures of these characters, by now I have such an overwhelming need for their story to be tied up (in an awesomely epic way, hopefully) that I will do without the company of Jamie and Claire and further multiple books in favour of one final epic one. Please! Give us something awesome to finish and lets have some closure.