Thursday 19 February 2015
#CBR7 Book 16: "Written in My Own Heart's Blood" by Diana Gabaldon
Rating: 4 stars
Hey everyone, guess who finally got caught up with this series? My epic re-read is done and I can now join the ever-increasing (I'm just taking for granted that more people will be reading the books as the TV show makes them curious and/or desperate for more Jamie and Claire) ranks of people languishing in wait for the next book.
WARNING! SPOILERS FOR EARLIER BOOKS IN THE SERIES WILL FOLLOW, SO AVOID THIS PART IF YOU AREN'T CAUGHT UP.
While this is the shortest book Gabaldon has written in about two decades, there is still a LOT of story here. As always, the book is split into multiple sections. In some, we follow Jamie and Claire and all their family members, friends, acquaintances and antagonists in the late 18th Century, where the American War of Independence is in full swing. Other parts focus on Jamie and Claire's daughter Brianna, who has more than enough to deal with in terms of her own challenges in the late 20th Century. Such as the fact that her husband, Roger MacKenzie Wakefield and one of his ancestors is off in the middle of the 18th Century, looking for Jem, their son, who they believed an unscrupulous neighbour kidnapped and took through the standing stones in search of the gold treasure Jamie Fraser hid in a previous book. Except Brianna fairly quickly locates the boy, but has to worry about the crazy dude and his accomplices who will stop at nothing to find the gold, and the certainty that Roger will not return from the past until he's found his son, a task that will prove utterly impossible.
Claire's joy that Jamie isn't dead after all is quickly turned to worry when Jamie promptly abducts her current husband, Lord John Grey, to use as a hostage to avoid being captured by the British troops in Philadelphia. After Lord John foolishly, but oh so honourably, confesses to having had carnal knowledge of Claire when they were both drunk and grief-stricken, Jamie proceeds to beat the snot out of his former best friend, then leaves him to fend for himself against a bunch of rebel soldiers. Badly done, Jamie! I was not best pleased at this. While worrying about both her husbands, and her step-son, Lord William Ellesmere, who just discovered his true parentage when coming face to face with Jamie Fraser, in the process of abducting William's adopted father, Claire also makes the acquaintance of Lord John's older brother, the Duke of Pardloe, newly arrived in the Colonies and looking for the various members his family (his son is recovering from surgery and his daughter wants to marry a Quaker). Trying to keep him distracted from looking for his brother or nephew proves easier than expected once he is incapacitated by a powerful asthma attack, which Claire, aided by Jamie's sister Jenny, helps him recover from. Much of the first half of the book is taken up with the Frasers and the Greys and their extended families being separated, and reuniting in various fashions while fighting in the Revolutionary war. I am amazed at the many near-death encounters the various members of the Fraser clan can survive.
When it's been a while since I've read one of her books, I keep forgetting how very funny Gabaldon can be. I frequently laugh out loud when reading the books, as well as occasionally curse the characters for their poor decisions or roll my eyes at the preposterous situations they find themselves in. Unlike in several of the previous books, I didn't think there were huge sections where nothing much at all happened, most of the plot strands felt purposeful and drove the story and the characterisation onward. The exception to this, to a certain extent, was Roger's jump back to the past. While I understand why Gabaldon probably found them fun to write, these chapters with all the mention of time travel back and forth and all over the place, all got a bit too wibbily wobbly timey wimey for my tastes. While it gave the readers a chance to see certain familiar characters from earlier in the series again and in a slightly new light, I was mainly just bored and wanting to get back to other characters in other times when reading these bits.
If you've made it through the previous seven books in the series, I don't entirely see why you wouldn't read this as well. I agree with most of the other reviews I've read of this book that it's probably the best since Voyager. It's got its fair share of historical cameos (George Washington. Benedict Arnold. Benjamin Franklin, you get the gist). There are weddings, funerals, babies being born, people dying, people being taken prisoner, people escaping, Claire performing some truly grisly medical procedures, time travel, battles and wonderful quiet family moments. We reconnect with the characters we already know and get to know several new ones. Whatever you do, do not choose this as their first Gabaldon book. If you want to experience these massive books and get to know its huge cast of fasciating characters, start at the beginning with Outlander.
With this book, I also complete my first reading challenge of the year - complete at least four different series, in the Finish the Series Reading Challenge.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.