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Customer Review

59 of 66 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, could do with a bit more focus SPOILERS AHEAD!, 1 July 2014
By 
This review is from: Written in My Own Heart's Blood (Outlander) (Hardcover)
***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.
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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Jul 2014 19:43:12 BDT
M. Mundon says:
Well written! absolutely loved your review...you've saved me the trouble of writing a review my self...you said it all...thank you!

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jul 2014 20:19:47 BDT
Jo says:
Thank you! I went on a bit longer than I meant to! I thought people would probably get bored of reading my babbling. There was a lot to ponder over with this one, wasn't there?!

Posted on 6 Jul 2014 04:01:20 BDT
I was pleased it wasn't the end of the series. I want more. I like the details about the American Civil war, yeah, they are a bit dull but they make me pace myself reading the book! I hope that the loose ends will get tied up in future books too but essentially this is a love story not science fiction and if DG wants to make stuff up or leave stuff out, fine by me as long as J & C stick together, I'm happy. Rape has been a much more common occurrence in the past than in our times, it's not so very long ago that it wasn't even legally possible for a man to rape his wife so I think the level of sexual assault in the book is realistic. Good point about Claire's age and the sex, Claire, in my head, stills looks like she did on the cover of the edition of Cross Stich I bought all those years ago so it doesn't put me off!

Posted on 9 Jul 2014 10:59:56 BDT
great review. I've loved the past books, my copies are held togehter with elastic bands as they've been read so many times but i was really disappointed in Echo. Cliffhangers are a major no no for me and i was so shocked at how echo ended with mutliple cliffhangers especially knowing how long DG takes to write these books. I would never have believed a couple of books back that i'd be considering whether to bother with a DG claire and jamie book or not but....there are now so many great books out on kindle, and as a blogger/reviewer i've lots of ARC books on my list, that i can't decide if i can justify investing time and money in this. For now its a no, maybe sometimes in the future.....and inside i still feel shocked at that decision!

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Jul 2014 19:51:21 BDT
Jo says:
Thanks Jeannie. I'm not a big fan of cliffhangers either, it just seems like a good reason for writers to torture us! I'm a fan of the Game of Thrones books and I'm still reeling from the last one. I wouldn't mind so much if I thought I would read the next one in a year or so, but the long waits are so frustrating!

I enjoyed Echo, but I think that had something to do with the fact that I knew I wouldn't have to wait too long until I could read the next one! I'm relatively new to the series; I've never had to experience the agonizing wait like many other Outlander fans have! I guess I will now though!

It's sad when you lose interest in a series; it's happened to me before and I feel bad when I don't see a series through! I can understand why some fans have ditched these books. For now I will be sticking with J&C. I just hope the next book is the last one and DG doesn't drag it out too much longer.

Posted on 13 Jul 2014 09:52:35 BDT
Brilliant review, I agree with all your points! Sometimes I skip read the boring parts about battles etc then, when the storyline seems foggy, i wonder if I have missed some salient point by doing the skipping! But now I realise its not just me. I also feel there are too many strands now in this enjoyable tapestry. Give us more Jamie ,Claire, Bree, ian (& a few Mohawks??) & less war mongering generals! Still, I do enjoy these books & wait with tongue hanging out for the next lengthy"episode".
I was so pleased I pre-ordered this on Amazon, it was such a lovely surprise when I received it prior to my holiday.
Thank heavens for my kindle, it means I could transport Claire, Jamie et all around the world, rather than face paying excess baggage charges if the hardback version was in my suitcase!

Posted on 22 Jul 2014 21:59:37 BDT
M. Bauer says:
Just to clarify, Gabaldon does not write about the American Civil War, but about the American Revolution. The Civil War occurred about 80 years after the Revolution. I know you are not interested in American History, but that is probably the minimum one should know about it. There is a huge difference in the Civil War and the Revolution.

Posted on 4 Aug 2014 02:13:45 BDT
I totally agree with your review. I just give up, had enough of DG.

Posted on 9 Aug 2014 22:08:05 BDT
DebbieB says:
Absolutely agree with everything you wrote. I have wondered for a long time about the mysterious kilted stranger that Frank saw. But it's been made pretty clear that Jamie can't time travel. I think this will be a loose end left loose.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Aug 2014 14:33:41 BDT
Jo says:
I've tried to come up with a few different theories of my own about that scene, and I'm still none the wiser! I'm not sure that it's really 'ghost' Jamie, but the only real alternative is that he's travelled forward in time, and like you say, when he tried before it didn't work for him. I think if he were somehow able to travel at some point then that might be a very interesting plot point though, maybe in the final book. What if he wanted to try to stop her going through the stones, or if he wanted to make sure she went there? What if he wanted to warn her about something? Or maybe he just really desperately wanted to see her again, after she'd died? I'm really looking forward to finding out!
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