Review: Lord John Grey series

Hello, fellow Diana Gabaldon readers! This post is going to be a little different than my usual reviews, in that I’m going to tell a little about each part of an entire series, in one go. Most of the installments in Lord John’s spin-off series are short, at least compared to the average Outlander book page count, so I wanted to review them all in one place. Also, I hope that having a single ordered list will be an advantage to aspiring John Grey readers in keeping track of the chronology, which can be a little confusing with these stories.

Some general info: If you’re familiar with the Outlander series, you know there’s a time gap in the third book, Voyager, in which Jamie is apart from Claire, and fewer details are provided about events in that time. We have the general gist of where our main characters are at, and the most significant events of that time, but there’s a lot of room there for elaboration. In this gap, Jamie meets John Grey in Ardsmuir prison, who he remembers having an encounter with at Prestonpans. The two become cautious friends, and are further linked by the existence of William, Lord Ellesmere, and his unique upbringing. The Lord John series begins soon after Ardsmuir prison has been repurposed–while Jamie is employed as a groom in the Lake District of England on the Dunsany estate, and John visits him there periodically between trips abroad with his army regiment and several personal investigations of an often supernatural bent. These adventures are the stories that make up the Lord John series. Technically you can read them any time, but they make the most sense after reading Voyager, with the context of that time gap. There are a few references in the Outlander series of events in the John Grey books, but the John Grey books are not a necessary part of the Outlander series, just a fun addition. It isn’t strictly necessary to read the Lord John series in order, either, but past events are referenced as the series continues so I chose to read them in their published order to understand these references as they arose. I was also glad that I read the Lord John books in the middle of the Outlander series, so that I had a good grasp of John’s character and history by the time he became a much more significant character there. He does make appearances throughout the series, but he’s fairly minor until An Echo in the Bone, the 7th Outlander book. However you choose to read them, here are the pieces of the Lord John series, in the order in which they were published:

“Lord John and the Hellfire Club” (a short story in Lord John and the Hand of Devils)

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This book is a collection of 3 short stories about Lord John, which were not the first three Lord John stories published. The first story in this book, however, is where to begin, chronologically. There are a few brief references to Jamie, but he’s not actually present in the story.

He is, however, present in John’s mind. In fact, the story opens with Lord John doing a bit of a double take when he sees someone who looks a bit like Jamie. Set in 1756 London, a new acquaintance of John’s is mysteriously murdered in connection with a Hellfire Club. An old acquaintance (and lover) of John’s invites him to an exclusive meeting of this club, and John’s sense of duty leads him into danger–both for his life, and for discovery of his homosexuality, which could lead both to death and the ruination of his good name–as he investigates the murder.

The reader is introduced to John’s good friend Harry Quarry in this story, who helps the Greys in their endeavors when he can, and acts as sounding board even when he can’t. Some background information about John’s family is provided, and his army career, but there is little detail provided that doesn’t pertain directly to this story. As the first and shortest of the Lord John Grey pieces, this story is very self-contained, and has absolutely nothing to do with Outlander beyond a brief reminder that Jamie exists in John’s life.

My reaction: 3 of 5 stars. I began this story with the hope that I would learn more about John’s character, to carry over to my mental Outlander database and add depth to his involvement in that series. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much of that from “Lord John and the Hellfire Club.” John doesn’t really do much here. Things happen to him instead of by him so it’s difficult to see much of his personality. The murder happens right in front of him, he’s pushed into the investigation rather than seeking it himself, and he participates in the Hellfire Club largely because he doesn’t really have any choice about it. The solving of the mystery comes from John being forced into proximity with the murderer and coaxing him into confessing almost accidentally, as a stalling technique while John tries to preserve his own life. That said, this piece does give this series a good jumping-off point for its supernatural tendencies, as well as solidifying in the reader’s mind the difficulties that accompany John’s sexual preferences, both of which come into play over and over throughout the Lord John series and factor into the Outlander series. This story was probably my least favorite of the entire series, but it’s so short that it can hardly be considered a waste of reading time, and it does give some context for what comes next. And don’t worry, it gets better in:

Lord John and the Private Matter

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This second story of the Lord John Grey spin-off is the first novel of the series, and is not published in Lord John and the Hand of Devils. It is the shortest novel of the series though, and compared to the Outlander books, still feels a lot like a short story.

Again, Jamie Fraser–with the addition of his love for Claire–is mentioned briefly, but not physically present in the story. Tom Byrd, John’s favorite valet, comes into the series here, though, while John helps search for his brother in connection with a missing army spy and another mysterious murder. We are also introduced to Captain von Namtzen, who will make future appearances as John’s friend, and a young man at Lavender House (an establishment for homosexual men) who goes unnamed in this novel but becomes important later in both this series and the Outlander books. Set in 1757 London, a few things have changed in John’s life since the end of the last story, most noticeably his cousin’s engagement and John’s accidental discovery of her fiance’s condition–he has the pox, which, in this time period, is usually a death sentence. Clearly, John can’t allow him to marry his cousin and pass his disease along to her, but neither can he break off her engagement without inciting the kind of gossip that could ruin her reputation. Thus John finds his time divided between a secret military matter and a personal one, and finds that the two may be strangely connected. And, of course, he also manages to connect his thoughts to Jamie.

“He realized with a lurch of the heart that Trevelyan reminded him in some small way of Jamie Fraser. But no: Fraser was ruthless and quick, and might be equally passionate in his feelings–but above all, he was a man of honor. By contrast, he could now see the deep selfishness that underlay Trevelyan’s character. Jamie Fraser would not have abandoned those who depended on him, not even for the sake of a woman who–Grey was forced to admit–he clearly loved beyond life itself. As for the notion of his stealing another man’s wife, it was inconceivable.”

My reaction: 4 of 5 stars. This story delved more deeply into John’s personal life, which made it much more interesting to me than the last one, and a set of recurring characters becomes better established here, which helps the reader feel more invested in the events and acquaintances of John’s life. There’s also a reference back to the first story, which made me glad I’d read that one. However, despite the additional length in this story, the details provided are still very focused on only the matter at hand–there’s still a lot more to John than we can see here.

“Lord John and the Succubus” (a novella in Lord John and the Hand of Devils)

For this story, officially considered a novella, we return to Lord John and the Hand of Devils–“Succubus” is the second short piece therein.

Set in 1758 Prussia, John is away from London on a military matter that leads to his involvement in the widespread fear of a succubus who may or may not be killing men both local and military. Although John is skeptical about the succubus, he can’t deny that there are two mysteriously dead men, and once again is recruited to investigate strange deaths. Tom Byrd the helpful valet reappears in this story, but so does von Namtzen, which complicates matters when the widowed princess of the castle the two men are staying at makes her interest in John clear, and John is left to wonder whether von Namtzen is jealous on the princess’ behalf, or on John’s. There’s also an attempted kidnapping, a supposed witch sighting, and a jaunt through a cemetery at night, to add a bit of creepiness to the proceedings.

My reaction: 4 of 5 stars. The supernatural themes in the John Grey stories are intriguing, even when John doesn’t put much stock in them himself, and that aspect seems particularly prevalent in this piece. Still no Jamie Fraser present, as he’s not in Prussia with John, but he’s referenced in John’s thoughts. I had thought I’d be uncomfortable with that, on Claire’s account, but John is good about it. By this point in the series there are also more allusions to events of past Lord John stories, which are just as fun to encounter and more abundant.

Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade

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Part four of the Lord John Grey series is the second novel, and again, comes between pieces in Lord John and the Hand of Devils but is not included in that volume.

” ‘Fall back!’ he gasped, and lowered the hissing match to the touchhole. There was an instant of breathless expectancy, and then the world disappeared in a blast of fire and darkness.”

In 1759, the long-passed but unforgotten scandal surrounding the controversial death of John’s (and his older brother Hal’s) father, the Duke of Pardloe, is brought to new light. The members of a possible conspiracy pose a threat to the Greys, which sets John on a hunt for the truth that directly defies his brother’s orders to leave the past behind them. John finds unexpected companionship in his soon-to-be step-brother (John’s mother is engaged to remarry), whom John has met as a previously unnamed character in this series at Lavender House, a gathering place for homosexual men; the brother,Percy Wainwright, is very interested in establishing a relationship with John, which proves to be both blessing and curse in turn. John finds a confidant in Percy, but there’s only one person John can confide in about the uncomfortable request Percy makes of him, and that’s Jamie Fraser. John and Jamie have an unusual friendship that both allows and prohibits certain sorts of honesty and leaves them both at each other’s mercy in different ways. When John’s investigations into his father’s past lead back to the Jacobites, when he must voice his confusion over his unwanted control of Percy’s fate, and when trouble arises for the Dunsany family (which employs Jamie as a groom in their stables as part of his punishment for treason against the English crown) involving a sad death and mysterious birth, John talks to Jamie in ways he can’t speak to anyone else. Jamie, still John’s prisoner, has no choice but to listen, although he finds that he can react in ways that will ensure John’s silence on certain topics in the future. Suddenly John finds himself more alone than ever, and struggles to clear his father’s name when it seems that everyone is against him.

” ‘Why you.’ Grey sighed, and sitting down on a stool, indicated that Fraser should do the same. ‘Because, Mr. Fraser, you are an honest man, and I trust that you will give me an honest opinion. And because, God damn it, you are the only person in this world to whom I can speak frankly.’ “

My reaction: 5 of 5 stars. This was the first story of this spin-off series that really thrilled me to read. It’s definitely different than Outlander, and there’s more connection to that here because Jamie Fraser finally makes a few appearances in the flesh, conversing with John–but this volume increased my interest in John as a character in his own right rather than just how he would relate to the Frasers later on in the Outlander series. It’s not that I don’t think Gabaldon can write a short story well, but after having read a few of the Outlander books, there was a noticeable lack of the great level of character detail in the shorter pieces of this series that  I enjoyed so much in Outlander–and which finally reappeared here. If you’re interested in Lord John but don’t want to read this sub-series in its entirety, this is the piece I would recommend.

“Lord John and the Haunted Soldier” (novella in Lord John and the Hand of Devils)

This story is the final section in Lord John and the Hand of Devils. It is not the last short story in this series, but it is the last one in this book.

Picking up after Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade drops off, this story relates closely to an incident in that novel that leaves John seriously injured. When he is accused in 1759 by someone with a personal grudge of misusing an army cannon and thus causing its destruction, John must find the true culprit to prove his innocence. This leads to the inclusion of several new characters, including one of John’s half-brothers, and more than one man with a mask. Still a little under the weather from his physical ailments, John persists in following this new mystery involving treason, explosions, and a ghost.

“Grey’s heart gave a sudden bump, pain stabbed him, and he stiffened. He felt as though his chest were transfixed by an iron rod, holding him immobile. Tried to breathe, but was stopped by the pain. Christ, was he going to die in public, in a pleasure garden, in the company of a sodomite spy dressed like a rooster? He could only hope that Tom was nearby, and would remove his body before anybody noticed.”

My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. This was my favorite piece from Lord John and the Hand of Devils, but it wasn’t quite as exciting as Brotherhood. Jamie is absent from this story, as well, though some of our other established characters in this series reappear. I liked the appearance of the haunted soldier in this novella, but I wished he held more significance in the mystery. I also enjoyed the sense of continuity between Brotherhood and “Haunted Soldier”: they seemed appropriately divided into two pieces, but unlike the breaks between other stories in this series, didn’t leave me feeling like I’d missed a lot of time between the ending of one and the beginning of the next.

“Lord John and the Custom of the Army” (novella in Warriors)

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The next part of the Lord John series is found in an anthology of collected fantasy short stories edited by George R. R. Martin and entitled Warriors. I believe it is also available as an eBook, but I like a hard copy so I found it in this anthology.

Due to an incident involving an electric eel and a subsequent duel, Lord John takes his brother’s suggestion to leave London in 1759 and help resolve a military matter in Canada. Across the Atlantic, John becomes acquanited with an Indian named Manoke, confronts his cousin Olivia’s husband, and receives a strange packet of accusations against a man named Siverly by an old friend. This terminally ill friend is facing charges for failing to prevent a mutiny against Siverly, but Grey’s investigations into the matter are hindered by the request of his aid in the regiment’s attempt to capture Quebec and by Carruthers’ fate.

My reaction: 3 of 5 stars. John’s temporary relocation to a foreign country means fewer returning characters. More significantly, I realized when I started the next novel that this one seemed more like a prologue to The Scottish Prisoner than it’s own piece. It’s an interesting story, but it isn’t quite tied together the way Gabaldon’s stories usually are by the end–it took until the end of the following story for the plot threads that appeared in this novella to fully resolve themselves, which is a pretty unique tactic for a short piece in the middle of a series, and left this one feeling a bit incomplete and abruptly ended. In any case, I was glad I read the next novel immediately following this story for continuity’s sake, and would recommend reading the two pieces fairly close together for that reason.

The Scottish Prisoner

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Next up is the third and newest novel of the series, which was also the easiest for me to find.

“He was the fuse that would detonate this particular bomb. And he was all too familiar with what happened to fuses, once lit.”

“Perhaps it was freedom, the exhilaration of their escape. Perhaps the excitement of a hunt by night, adventure and danger before them. Or the knowledge that he was an outlaw–with pursuit and danger certainly behind him.”

John returns to London in 1760 and, though clearing Carruthers’ name will not help his friend, feels bound by duty to the army to look into the matter with Siverly further. John’s brother Hal, taking the lead on the investigation launched by Carruthers’ packet of information, orders John to retrieve Siverly from Ireland so that he can be tried by a court-martial for his crimes. However, there is an interesting piece of poetry included in the packet that the Grey brothers need Jamie Frasers’ help to decipher. John’s fight with Jamie (in Brotherhood) leaves him unwilling to travel to Helwater and request Jamie’s help, but Hal uses his military power to not only involve Jamie, but to bring him to London and from there send him on to Ireland with John. Jamie meets a number of old acquaintances, and finds himself stuck between fear for the lost Jacobite Cause that the poem involves and dislike not only for the English generally but the Grey family specifically. He wants to help his old friends, but he realizes that may mean turning them in to the English to prevent another bloodbath like Culloden. John, Jamie, and Tom Byrd seek Siverly and try to solve the puzzle involving new attempts at Jacobite treason, murder, an ancient Druid cup, the Irish Brigade, a tithe to Hell, and a deadly duel.

“He lay for some time, his throat aching, listening to the dark, hearing the voices of his dead pass by in the wind. His thoughts grew vague and his grief eased, comforted by the knowledge of love, still alive in the world…He touched the rough crucifix that lay against his chest and whispered to the moving air, ‘Lord, that she might be safe, she and my children.’ Then turned his cheek to her reaching hand and touched her through the veils of time.”

My reaction: 5 out of 5 stars. I was immediately excited by the prospect that this novel not only includes James Fraser, but frequently uses his perspective to aid in telling the story. Although this novel is technically part of the Lord John series, this book features Jamie as much as John. If you’re thinking about reading these spin-off stories for a further connection to Outlander, this is the story you’ll want to check out. Gabaldon switches from one perspective to another throughout this book to highlight multiple characters’ experiences, which makes this a particularly rich read.

“Lord John and the Plague of Zombies” (novella in Down These Strange Streets)

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The current final piece of the Lord John series is another anthologized novella. This one is found in a newer set of fantasy stories also edited by George R. R. Martin, titled Down These Strange Streets. Again, I believe the story is also available on its own as an eBook.

Set in 1761, this story takes Lord John to Jamaica, where he has been sent with large quantities of English troops to keep the citizens safe from a surge of Zombies and a series of attacks made on the plantations. Despite general concern about a band of escaped slaves, John doesn’t think the “maroons” of the island are behind the threat to the governor’s life. He encounters poison, lies, revenge, murder, and more than enough snakes in his attempts to restore order. John ventures deep into the jungle to rescue his own missing men, risking his own life again for the sake of duty and truth, and coming face to face with the supernatural.

“It was [the man]. But then again–it wasn’t. The glowing skin had gone pale and muddy, almost waxen. The firm, soft mouth hung loose, and the eyes–oh, God, the eyes! They were sunken, glassy, and showed no comprehension, no movement, not the least sense of awareness. They were a dead man’s eyes. And yet…he walked. This was the worst of all…This creature moved stiffly, shambling, feet dragging, almost lurching from foot to foot…The putrefaction reached Grey’s nostrils, and he gagged.”

My reaction: 5 out of 5 stars. This was my favorite short story of the set. Often the supernatural elements of this series either seem just a little too unrealistic for my taste or turn out to be no more than a mix of exaggerated rumors with a perfectly rational explanation for John to unearth; but the zombies of this tale walk the middle line, not quite explainable but not quite unbelievable. This story has a little love, a little tragedy, and a perfect pace to tie it all together. It’s not the shortest novella of this series, but it was the quickest read for me. There’s only a brief mention of Jamie Fraser, but there are other connections to the Outlander series–like Mrs. Abernathy–and the premise relates closely to details in Voyager. I was glad I stuck with this series long enough to read this one.

Overall thoughts:

In all honesty, the Lord John spin-off series has been touch-and-go for me from the beginning; John Grey is certainly an interesting character, but he wasn’t as easy for me to grow attached to as some of the other Outlander characters. A few pieces, though, I’m really glad I read, and all three of the longer novels are among those. I think Gabaldon does a wonderful job with the longer books; her writing style seems more suited to that medium. The shorter stories are nice bite-sized pieces, but in some cases they feel like chunks of a larger story that’s been shortened or divided, and I think we lose a bit of the richness that Gabaldon’s longer pieces are filled with–all the tiny details that color her fictional world and tie everything together. We still have detail and myriads of plot threads in the shorter pieces, but it’s not the careful recording of years upon years of the character’s lives but rather a glimpse of a single fleeting moment with mystery before it and mystery after–referring to the year’s gap between many of these stories.

I was worried about two things when I started reading this series: that I would be bored reading about Lord John while Claire was completely absent and Jamie could only make occasional appearances, and that I would be uncomfortable reading about John’s love life. First, it was a little sad to have such a close connection to the Frasers without their constant presence, but I did grow to appreciate Lord John, and I think Gabaldon handled the lack of Frasers well; there were many references to Jamie even when he wasn’t actually part of the story, and even Claire received her share of honorable mentions when Jamie or even John would think about her. In that sense, this did feel like what I would have expected of a sub-series: it has it’s own subjects, but it also has plenty of ties back to the main set. As for the second point, I found that John’s love life wasn’t difficult to read about, either. Any physical details provided were not too graphic, and it was easy to focus on John’s emotions and feel relieved or betrayed or surprised right along with him instead of dwelling on aspects I would have been uncomfortable with. I’m not against John or his sexual preferences, but I was afraid that I wouldn’t want to read it in quite so much detail; I was pleased to find that John’s relationships were described so tactfully that I didn’t have to resort to skimming, and was happy when John found someone he could trust, even just for a little while. With so much at stake in the case of discovery by the wrong persons, John’s love life is not only interesting, but increases the tension of many of the plots when love and secrets factor in at high levels. I didn’t love the Lord John series as much as Outlander, but some parts of it I did enjoy greatly and I’m glad I took the chance to read it.

My recommendations: If you’re seriously interested in Outlander or Gabaldon’s writing more generally, there are some great aspects to be gleaned from these stories, and the plots are similarly dramatic if you just can’t get enough of her writing style–go ahead and read the entire Lord John series, in that case. If you’re only interested in reading what little more you can get your hands on about Jamie, stick to The Scottish Prisoner because it’s the only piece of this series that reveals more substantial insight into his character and narrates through his perspective. And if you’re somewhere in the middle, primarily interested in furthering your knowledge of the Outlander world, curious about John, but not sure you want to invest your time in reading this entire series, pick up the three novels; those give the deepest insights into John’s life and personality and have the greatest connections to Jamie.

Further recommendations:

  1. If, for some reason, you haven’t begun the Outlander series yet, I definitely recommend that in connection with this series. You can find my reviews for each of those books, starting with the first one, here.
  2. John spends a good deal of time in London, and even more solving mysteries. If you like those elements, try Robert Galbraith’s (aka J. K. Rowling’s) Cormoran Strike series, which begins with The Cuckoo’s Calling. You can find my reviews for each of those books, starting with the first one, here.

Coming up next: I’ll be reviewing e. lockhart’s We Were Liars next, which is a perfect summer YA read, featuring a private island, a difficult love, an unforgettable tragedy, and the most unreliable narrator.

Happy reading,

The Literary Elephant

Review: Me Before You

inally, I have for you a book that is not related to Outlander at all, and is also not a work of historical fiction! A giant thanks to everyone who bore with me through Diana Gabaldon’s series… And here at last is a great book of entirely different categories. Today I’m sharing my thoughts on Jojo moyes’ most popular novel, the heart-rending romance Me Before You.

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About the book: a tragic accident leaves the lively, adventuresome Will Traynor permanently crippled. The life sentence of wheelchairs and caregivers and constant pain that accompanies quadriplegia (paralysis affecting all four limbs) could hardly have befallen a less willing target. Will was in his prime, a rich partner of an important firm in London, with a beautiful girlfriend, a love of traveling and exploring the limits of the world and his own body, and a brilliant future ahead; all of this was lost in the blink of an eye when a traffic accident resulted in the severing of Will’s spinal cord. Two years pass, in a haze of medical professionals and health complications, the loss of his job, London home, and many relationships, as well as the worst blow, the inability to make and carry out his own decisions.

Louisa Clark is hired as his personal caretaker when Will’s family becomes desperate to improve his quality of life. Knowing practically nothing about medicine or quadriplegia, Louisa quickly learns that she has been hired primarily as a babysitter, charged with “cheering him up.” Despite Will’s general unpleasantness toward everyone around him, and the complications her job creates in her relationship with Patrick, her boyfriend of seven years, Louisa is determined not to let Will drive her away from the job, which will provide her struggling family with money they desperately need. Every day with Will is a challenge to her mental and emotional state, but her unfaltering determination and attempts at cheerfulness make just as much of an impression as Will’s rudeness. When Louisa learns that Will wishes to end his life, she is horrified, but approaches her job with newfound single-mindedness to show him that even from a wheelchair–where he is completely dependent on others for mere survival, which is a strenuous fight in itself–his life is worth living. Will, after failing to scare her away, treats Louisa like his pet project, encouraging her to see that she’s not living up to her potential and is, in fact, wasting her time by failing to branch out into the world beyond her hometown and find a career she loves. From opposing backgrounds and personalities, they must show each other the good they see in the world and change each other’s course–before it’s too late.

“How could you live each day knowing that you were simply whiling away the days until your own death? How could this man whose skin I had felt that morning under my fingers–warm, and alive–choose to just extinguish himself? How could it be that, with everyone’s consent…that same skin would be decaying under the ground? I couldn’t tell anyone. That was almost the worst bit. I was now complicit in the Traynors’ secret.”

This is a book that makes the reader think about his/her own life, and what makes it worth living. There are so many opinions in Me Before You about what a person should be doing with their life, and whose right it is to decide whether trying to achieve those goals is worth the time they’ve been given. There’s the matter of pain–which kinds are worst, which are bearable, and which are completely intolerable. And, of course, how much a person can ask of someone they love.

Will and Louisa likely wouldn’t have met and struck up their unlikely friendship under any other circumstances, but the circumstances are such that that they can’t have the relationship they deserve. Is what they can have worth fighting for? That is the question whose answer will determine their fates, but none of them seem capable of addressing it.

One thing I didn’t like: Louisa has absolutely no aspirations or even thoughts of her future before meeting Will. She barely considers what life holds for her at all beyond the moment she’s living in, and even that she dedicates to worrying about someone else–her family, her boyfriend, her employers… My biggest pet peeve in books is finding a character that seems too fictional, too manufactured for the pages she/he is confined to; it’s hard to believe that this man whose dreams have been ripped away from him just happens to meet this woman who has so few dreams it’s hard to believe she even sleeps at night. Louisa is a kind and caring person, who works hard to help her family and support her friends, but it goes beyond selflessness–she doesn’t seem to have any opinions about her station in life or where she could be in the future at all.

“I was twenty-six years old and I wasn’t really sure what I was. Up until I lost my job I hadn’t even given it any thought. I supposed I would probably marry Patrick, knock out a few kids, live a few streets away from where I had always lived. Apart from an exotic taste in clothes, and the fact that I’m a bit short, there’s not a lot separating me from anyone you might pass on the street. You probably wouldn’t look at me twice. An ordinary girl, leading an ordinary life. It actually suited me fine.”

” ‘ I’m not really a hobby person…I don’t do much, okay? I work and then I go home.’ “

Louisa Clark is not a boring character, and she has had a trauma in her past that affected her behavior and view on life. Not all people are dreamers. But I was shocked by how content such a colorful person could be to simply exist. If I could change one thing about this book, I would want Louisa to be a little more strong-willed.

One thing I loved: Although this book is mostly written from the first-person perspective of Louisa, there are also chapters scattered throughout the book that give first-person narration to some of the other significant characters in this story. None of the people in this book are stereotypical, and seeing a slice of each of their lives sheds new light on our main characters, the complicated situation they find themselves in, and how their choices are affecting the people who love them. I am a huge fan of writing that employs all available views on a situation, and I particularly enjoyed the insights that these extra chapters allowed for the reader. Oddly enough, with that in mind, I also thought Moyes made a great choice in using Will’s narrative voice only in the prologue, before his accident. So much of this story is centered around Will that we see him from all angles just by reading about him through the other characters, and he’s sufficiently blunt about making his own position on matters clear with his dialogue. Moyes does a wonderful job of displaying the depth of each character to greatest advantage.

My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. I think Moyes did a beautiful job of presenting both sides of the conflict in such a way that the reader can understand both Louisa’s and Will’s perspectives; many parts of the story seemed predictable to me, but I was truly uncertain about the final outcome of this story, which is a tribute to the great character writing Moyes does in this novel. I found the movie underwhelming after reading the book, which is another sign that the careful details of Me Before You are fantastically woven in the novel. The romance is incredibly slow-building, which I usually appreciate, but here it left me wondering from time to time how much emotion was truly between Will and Louisa, how much was projected by them in consequence of their stressful circumstances, and how much was projected by me, wanting to see something there. I’m looking forward to delving into the sequel, where I think the aftermath of Me Before You will further solidify my impressions of these characters and their story.

Further recommendations:

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is a YA book dealing with the complications of cancer both inciting and interfering with romance. The biggest point that I think this book has in common with Me Before You is the sense of self-reflection they inflict upon the reader. There’s nothing like unfair medical tragedies to make healthy readers think about how they can make the most of their own lives. If you’re in need of a little inspiration, and don’t mind losing a few tears in the process, both of these books are great reads.
  2. Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train is another book set in England with a female lead. This one’s more of a thriller, but the characterization is brilliant, and this book will also leave readers contemplating how much of life is truly under their control. Check out my review of this book here.

Coming up next: Hopefully my review of Diana Gabaldon’s Lord John series will be posted soon, but I’m still waiting on the final novella to arrive so I can include my thoughts on that before I share. In the meantime, I’ll be working on a great YA summer read, e. lockhart’s We Were Liars, which is a beautifully mysterious tale of romance, expectations, and growing up. Keep an eye out for both of these reviews!

May the sun stay hot and your books stay long,

The Literary Elephant

Update: You can find my review of Moyes’ sequel to this book, titled After You, here.        P.S. there may be spoilers for Me Before You there!

Review: Written in My Own Heart’s Blood

Ah, the bittersweet (temporary) end to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. This is the 8th Outlander book, and currently the most recently published volume. There will be (barring unpredictable acts of God, such as the world ending or running out of paper) a 9th book eventually, but as yet no date has been set for its release. It was an immense relief to discover that the end of Written in My Own Heart’s Blood was not a major cliffhanger. There’s definitely room for more coming, but it leaves the reader with a manageable amount of anticipation, rather than right in the thick of things (ahem, An Echo in the Bone). If you haven’t read my reviews for the earlier books in this series, you can check them out here: Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, and An Echo in the Bone.

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I think it might literally have killed me not to begin this book immediately after An Echo in the Bone, so naturally I started this one within seconds of finishing book 7. Since there is no time gap between the end of 7 and the beginning of 8, I’d recommend reading them close together, although the conversation at the beginning of this book seems well-designed to catch up readers who may have forgotten where exactly they left off.

“I’d been numb, and John had ripped off the dressing of denial, the wrappings of the small daily necessities that kept me upright and functioning, his physical presence had torn away the bandages of grief and showed what lay below: myself, bloody and unhealed.”

About the book: Jamie has returned from Scotland, and thus apparently from death. War reaches the Frasers again, just as Jamie and Claire begin to sort out the bump in their relationship that John’s marriage caused. Ian devotes himself to Rachel, William is upset that he can’t win Rachel’s attentions but is also wrangled into helping a criminal whore with whom he has an odd sort of relationship. Almost everyone is injured when battle breaks out, one of them finds himself on the wrong side of the fighting, and everything is complete chaos. New(ish) characters become much more important in this book–like John’s niece (Dottie), her beloved (Denzell), and John’s brother (Hal)–but we also have an old favorite character returning–Jenny Murray!–as well as the return of Fergus’ family as prominent characters while Jamie and Claire are living near them for the duration of this book. Expect to find death where you never would’ve suspected, life where it seems impossible, and nonstop drama. And perhaps the biggest surprise of all involves Roger and his ancestor William Buccleigh, who have gone back in time to rescue Jem and find themselves somewhere (or somewhen) completely unexpected. All of the MacKenzies, in fact, are fighting just as hard for their lives and their sanity in the face of adversity as the characters involved in the war for independence. Also, do you remember that prophecy mentioned in Voyager? Well, it’s finally back. Every piece of the past is lining up together.

“It’s nay her fault. I know that. It’s nay her fault. They’d thought him dead. He knew what that abyss looked like; he’d lived there for a long while. And he understood what desperation and strong drink could do. But the vision–or lack of one…How did it happen? Where? Knowing it had happened was bad enough; not knowing the how and the why of it from her was almost unbearable…He needed to see Claire before he did anything else. Just now he had no idea what he would say–or do–when he saw her, but he needed to see her, with the same sort of need that a man might feel who’d been cast away at sea, marooned without food or water for weeks on end.”

My favorite aspect: we’ve seen Gabaldon use multiple perspectives in this series before; Claire’s sections are the only ones that use the first person narrative voice, but the sections that focus on other chearacters seem to give the reader just as much information about the characters’ actions and thoughts as with Claire. In this book, though, we don’t have one main voice with others used to highlight certain aspects that Claire is less privy to (though Claire’s sections are still the only ones narrated in first person)–we have eight main characters whose separate stories are braided together magnificently. This book is like a collision between both the Outlander and Lord John series: major characters from both are given…well, maybe not quite equal attention, but close. For the last three books, the timing of the switches between characters and times has been steadily improving so that the excitement and the tension of the book keeps building steadily instead of stopping and starting, and Written in My Own Heart’s Blood is a masterpiece of character and time. All of the pieces fit perfectly together and share an appropriate amount of information with the reader. There are some big surprises in this book–especially on Roger’s end of things–and they’re all handled with the perfect amount of explaining and cliffhanging (between sections) to keep the reader turning the pages as fast possible without leaving her/him feeling bereft and forced to slog through a section that’s important but less exciting. Everything in the whole series, for all of the characters involved, seems to have come to a head in this story and everything is happening at once, but the alternating perspectives keep the chaos controlled and manageable without dampening the energy.

Another great feature: despite how many years it’s been since Claire first fell through the stones at Craigh na Dune, there hasn’t been a lot of emphasis on the time traveling itself. The travelers worry about it when they’re planning to make another attempt, and Roger has been trying to record what they know so far, but really not a lot is known about the stones or the travelers they’ve encountered along the way. In this book, Roger learns a few things about his own and Brianna’s families through the workings of the stones, so we’re getting a few more details about the how and why of it all. There are still a lot of questions, and even more raised when the prophecy falls into Brianna’s hands, but there are also some answers, some decisions made, and the sense that great knowledge looms for our favorite time travelers in the future. The alternating of perspectives and centuries in the narration of Written in My Own Heart’s Blood gives the reader not only a good sense of all the characters, but a glimpse into each moving piece of the machine that is time; we see what’s happening in each year that our characters are present, can keep up with their relationships and pressing circumstances, but we also have an overall view of how it all fits together so that we begin to see not only what is happening to each of them, but how, and why, as far as “why?” is ever an answerable question.

” ‘I am not a state at war, and you are not my army!’ I said. He began to speak, then stopped short, searching my face, his eyes intent. ‘Am I not?’ he said quietly. I opened my mouth to reply but found I couldn’t…’You are,’ I said reluctantly, and, standing up, wrapped my arms around him. He was warm from his work, and the scars on his back were fine as threads under my fingers. ‘I wish you didn’t have to be.’…’Ye lost your parents young, mo nighean donn, and wandered about the world, rootless. Ye loved Frank,’–his mouth compressed for an instant, but I thought he was unconscious of it–‘and of course ye love Brianna and Roger Mac and the weans…but, Sassenach–I am the true home of your heart, and I know that.’ “

My reaction: 5 out of 5 stars. (Can I give this one 6?) When I started this series, I knew I was hooked but I thought that Outlander wouldn’t be a long-lasting favorite for me. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, though, is going to stay with me for a long time. I know that I’ve been nitpicking little details about the writing of this series through my reviews of each book; Gabaldon’s writing, with it’s multi-perspective narration, wide range of characters, manipulation of time, and inclusion of secondary mediums like letters and journal entries is so much like what I want to do with my own writing that I’ve been paying so much attention to her writing tactics and what I would or wouldn’t want to do differently in my own works; but I love this series as a whole, and I think there is no one better suited to writing it. Here, in book 8, the plot and writing style have finally melded perfectly so that I have absolutely no complaints and have found a new all-time favorite to swap into my exclusive top-25 list. Almost every book in the Outlander series has seemed even better than the last, but it’s difficult to imagine it can possibly get better from here–obviously, I’m beyond excited to see what book 9 will bring.

Further recommendations:

  1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchel. A different war, but American historical fiction all the same. It’s a long book with a wide array of characters–one thing I particularly like about both Gone with the Wind and the Outlander series is that the characters are imperfect and believable. There’s a lot of gray area between good and bad, and as far as characterization goes, both of these stories do a great job of creating characters that feel real, and incorporating them into a time fraught with war.
  2. Ann Brashares’ My Name is Memory is a great YA romance that deals with moving through time–not time travel, exactly, but awareness of reincarnation, which I find just as interesting and maybe more plausible in the realm of sci-fi/fantasty themes. Either way, it’s another great love story that moves through history with a plot that keeps the reader turning pages.
  3. Can’t get enough Oultander? If you’re not averse to spoilers, you can read excerpts of the next book in progress on Diana Gabaldon’s website, here, and stay connected to the world of the Frasers by exploring more fun elements of her page.
  4. You can also watch the Outlander TV show, which is concluding its second season via Starz and has officially signed on for another two seasons. So far it’s following the books closely enough that major events remain intact, but there are some interesting detail changes that keep the episodes interesting and a little unpredictable even if you’ve read the books. Definitely worth the watch.
  5. While we’re waiting for more episodes, let me reiterate my recommendation to read the Lord John Grey series, a spin-off of the Outlander series also written by Diana Gabaldon. Stay tuned for more info on the series in an upcoming post!
  6. For more good books to read, see what I’ve recommended in connection with each book of the series, in my earlier reviews (links above).

What’s next: I’m waiting for the last novella of the Lord John series to arrive, and as soon as it does I’ll be wrapping up and posting my thoughts on that entire series. I have a brief description of each story, and my recommendations for which pieces to read, which I’ll share with you as soon as I get my hands on the final story. In the meantime, I’ll start writing about another book I read recently, Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You. Whichever of these I finish first will be posted next, and the other shortly after.

Until next time,

The Literary Elephant

Review: An Echo in the Bone

Obsessed with Outlander? Just looking for a great read? Either way, you’ve come to the right place. This is a review of Diana Gabaldon’s penultimate (for now) book in my favorite Scottish time travel series, An Echo in the Bone. If you’ve stumbled across this post without prior knowledge of the first six books in the series, read about my thoughts on Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, The Fiery Crossand A Breath of Snow and Ashes with these links. To learn more about the seventh book, read on!

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After the phenomenal sixth book, I couldn’t take my customary break between Outlander books to pick up another novel, but launched straight into An Echo in the Bone. I don’t think this one will ever be in the running for my personal favorite in this series, but this is not a book to be skipped–the seventh and eighth books read like part 1/part 2 segments in Claire and Jamie’s wild ride through life in the eighteenth century. Unlike previous novels in this series, book 8 picks up immediately after 7 leaves off, and you don’t want to be missing anything for that. Although An Echo in the Bone as a whole was a little less exciting for me, there are definitely some great things happening between the covers. Let’s take a look:

” ‘We are alive,’ Brianna MacKenzie repeated, her voice tremulous. She looked up at Roger, the paper pressed to her chest with both hands. Her face streamed with tears, but  glorious light glowed in her blue eyes. ‘Alive!’

‘Let me see.’ His heart was hammering so hard in his chest that he could barely hear his own words. He reached out a hand, and reluctantly she surrendered the paper to him, coming at once to press herself against him, clinging to his arm as he read, unable to take his eyes off the bit of ancient paper. It was pleasantly rough under his fingers, handmade paper with the ghosts of leaves and flowers pressed into its fibers. Yellowed with age, but still tough and surprisingly flexible. Bree had made it herself–more than two hundred years before.”

About this book: Roger and Brianna have returned to the 20th century with their children, and so this book is divided between their (mis)adventures in the future and Claire’s and Jamie’s endeavors in the past. At the end of book 6, Jamie declared his intent to return to Scotland to retrieve his printing press, and much of their story in An Echo in the Bone concerns their attempt to complete that trip successfully. In the meantime, someone they love hovers at death’s door, the health of one of their grandchildren is severely threatened, and Jamie and Claire are separated by circumstance, which has particularly heart-rending and troublesome effects in this case. One of the Frasers receives the worst news they ever could’ve imagined and acts in desperation and self-preservation. The end of this book is a definite game-changer for fans of Jamie and Claire’s relationship.

Young Ian finds himself at a few significant crossroads in this book, as well. He finally sees a way toward a happy ending he thought he’d lost. Arch Bug, however, is determined to leave Ian miserable, and he’s not the only obstacle to Ian pursuing his heart’s desire. In order to win even the chance of happiness, he must leave someone very dear to him behind, forever.

But, much to my surprise after hundreds of pages of relative indifference to Roger’s and Bree’s presence in this series, much of the excitement of An Echo in the Bone lies with the MacKenzies. As Roger and Brianna settle into Lallybroch with their children, they make some new acquaintances and revive some old ones, but they’re not all friendly. The letters they’ve been reading from Brianna’s parents leave Jem in unexpected danger when they fall into the wrong hands. A fellow time traveler appears and offers his help to the MacKenzies, but they’re uncertain about his trustworthiness. Roger and Brianna are forced to take extreme measures to keep their family whole against the odds.

An interesting tactic: An Echo in the Bone features letters from the past that Roger and Brianna peruse. These present an intriguing link between the Frasers’ and MacKenzies’ stories despite the centuries dividing them. It’s a neat aspect of the book, to have Claire and Jamie’s story told partially through the inclusion of these letters in a unique sort of retrospect. It is, however, also a little confusing. The reader has been led to believe that one of the rules of time travel in this series is that the traveler emerges–however many years different–at the same time of year. If someone goes through the stones in May, they’ll arrive in May of a different year. At least, that’s how I’ve understood the timeline. These letters, however, are being read out of that timeline, and it gets a bit difficult to keep track of how much time is passing in each of the main plotlines of this book when we’re skipping around not only between centuries, but months as well, so that we seem to cover a much larger span of time with Jamie’s/Claire’s story than Roger’s/Bree’s. It was also a little disappointing to me that when the MacKenzies’ leisurely reading of the letters is interrupted, we never see another one of the missives, though we’re told that they’d been read in search of pertinent information. Personally, I loved the potential of these letters, but I wished their use had been explored a little more in this book to provide additional perspective on the Frasers’ lives instead of being used only as long as they worked as a convenient bridge between plot points. Still, though, it’s exciting that a line of (at least one way) communication has been opened between the centuries.

On another note, one writing tactic that I think worked really well in this particular volume is the back-and-forth story arcs between the centuries. We’ve seen this before, in Dragonfly in Amber when Claire narrates her experience with the Rising, and in the next two books as well after Claire has left her daughter behind in the 20th century. We’ve also seen, almost constantly since about the fourth book, the switching of character perspectives in the same time, but the dynamic here is different. Two separate stories are being told simultaneously and thus merged into one, with only their histories and sometimes physical objects connecting the two. Gabaldon’s use of timing has frustrated me before–especially in the second book,  when we were given the outcome before the story–but it’s great in An Echo in the Bone. The use of alternating stories was handled very well, and kept the momentum of the book moving in a pleasant and nonconfusing way instead of jarringly, like the switches have seemed to me at other points in this series. Gabaldon has done a remarkable job here of keeping the reader informed of all the important goings-on with our main characters even though they’re divided by time and space. The writing itself, behind the plot of this series, has been a constant point of interest to me, and I feel that it has become particularly strong in these last two books (6 and 7), and that it all comes perfectly together in book 8–so keep reading!

My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. It’s difficult to give this one less than a perfect score, but even though I consider this book an important part of the Outlander series, I just didn’t enjoy it as much as book 6, which was phenomenal. In that regard, I think the lower rating here is partially due to the fact that A Breath of Snow and Ashes was an incredibly hard act to follow; that said, An Echo in the Bone follows it well and sets the stage for my other all-time favorite in this series, book 8.

Further recommendations:

  1. Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief would be a great read if you like An Echo in the Bone. Jamie is a lover of books and culture, and a determined fighter for just causes. The Book Thief focuses on a different war–World War II–but I think Jamie would get along well with Liesel. Also, sometimes it’s inspiring to read about people who love reading, and Zusak handles that aspect superbly.

What’s next: I have two more Outlander reviews for you, and then I’ll finally be moving on to some other exciting literary discoveries I’ve been making. I do tend to forget plot fairly quickly, though, so I want to wrap up with this particularly plotty series while it’s fresh in my mind. My next post will feature the final (for now) Outlander book, entitled Written in my Own Heart’s Blood, which I think is the highlight of the entire set. I’ll also be giving a brief outline of the related Lord John Grey series and describing each of the stories that comprise it.

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

Review: A Breath of Snow and Ashes

Let’s talk about the 6th book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, A Breath of Snow and Ashes. For info on the rest of this series, check out my reviews of Gabaldon’s Outlander, Dragonfly in Ashes, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, and The Fiery Cross.

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This one is currently battling #8 for the top spot as my all-time favorite of this series. The first book was fantastic too, and I always love going back to re-experience the beginning after everything else, but my immense hatred for Jack Randall turned me against claiming Outlander as my fave. There are some truly despicable people throughout this series, but no one’s topped Randall for me yet–which is good, because I don’t think I could take it getting any worse than him. And so, here’s A Breath of Snow and Ashes tied for first place.

About this book: The Revolutionary War is still brewing in the background, but most of the dramatics in this book are of a more personal nature for the Frasers; between one thing and the next, they barely have time to draw breath as their world begins to tumble down around them. With the date of the deadly house fire fast approaching, there are two choices of belief: certainty that the past can’t be changed, and thus the Frasers certainly can’t die before that date and likely won’t live past it, or conviction that the past can be changed, that the newspaper notice isn’t necessarily a death sentence, but they could die at any other time. Where the reader stands on this matter determines in part how the book will be read–far more intense if you take the second option. There is, of course, also the promise of further books in the series (which at least don’t make the fates of the Frasers quite as obvious as J. K. Rowling’s famous series where the next book is entitled Harry Potter and the…), but Gabaldon does allow a beloved character to die every now and then, to keep readers guessing. Don’t get too comfortable assuming everyone will live. Especially since we know at this point that sometimes life is won at horrible costs (Jamie still has nightmares about Randall, for example, and Roger is dealing with the loss of one of his most prized possessions–his voice). These are the factors that keep the reading interesting, even when you think you know key details for certain, like when a character will die. There are certainly brushes with death in this book, but arguably the worst aspect for Jamie and Claire is that their home and tenants are being poisoned against them. An accusation regarding the parentage of a baby, followed shortly by an accusation of murder, leave Claire and Jamie in ill-favor with many of their tenants and short of help when help is most needed. Claire is victimized over and over again, by heartless, greedy bandits, sickness cast by more than an act of God, and an arrest by someone who wants to end her life more than to exact legal justice. Jamie fights to save her, of course, but some battles are too great for one man, and she’s not the only one who needs to be pulled back from the brink of death. A surprising suicide attempt changes the fate of one family on the Ridge. Stephen Bonnet makes an abrupt return, as well, as he is conveniently hired to ruin Brianna’s life. And through it all, political unrest magnifies every small disagreement and threatens the end of well-being for everyone.

One aspect that made this book stand out for me in the series is how seamlessly Roger and Brianna fit into the narrative. Since their introduction in book two, they’ve felt a bit superfluous to me–like pawns in the larger game that is Claire’s and Jamie’s relationship, rather than interesting for themselves. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments here and there when the reader is fully drawn into their stories, but in A Breath of Snow and Ashes they really come together as part of the Ridge community, but separate from Claire and Jamie. Brianna becomes significant as a young woman making her own choices, rather than only the daughter whose presence makes the Frasers’ lives more interesting, and Roger starts to find his niche in the past, rather than only the convenient historian who’s needed to aid other major characters. The MacKenzies really distinguish themselves in this book as they endeavor to flourish in the time in which they’ve chosen to make their home and raise their son.

Another thing I really enjoyed about this book was that Claire is the one in peril again. This is not at all to condone any of the awful things that happen to her in this book, but to say that she spends so much of her time mending everyone else’s ailments that there’s an instant change in dynamic and tension when she’s the one who needs fixing. If it’s a rescue by brute force that’s required, we know Jamie will be there to take care of it, but what happens when Claire needs doctoring? We’ve seen so much of this series from Claire’s perspective, and it really is helpful to have a central point of focus, but at this point in the series the narration has expanded considerably to give us more advantageous views of significant events that Claire doesn’t always have a front row seat for. Having Claire in danger strengthens the voices of our other narrators, and seeing their reactions to her gives us a better view both of the other characters, and of Claire herself. Claire’s life is so unconventional that the way she’s perceived by those around her becomes especially important not only to her emotions, but to her survival. Seeing others’ concern for her shows how completely she’s been incorporated into this place and time, and raises the stakes. We see constantly from Claire’s perspective how she loves Jamie, but when Claire’s life is on the line, we get a chance to see how beloved she is, as well. And, let’s face it, love is what this story thrives on.

“His arms came round me, slowly and gently. I didn’t startle or jerk away, and he pressed my head against him, smoothing my damp, tangled hair, his fingers catching in the mass of it. “Christ, ye are a brave wee thing,” he murmured.

Also, with this book, I think we finally get started on a good foot. Although we do receive some important information at the beginning of each of Gabaldon’s novels that ties together all the plot threads of each book, they always seem to me to start slowly. This was the first book of the series that felt instantly intriguing, and didn’t spend hundreds of pages easing into the important details that are necessary but not immediately gratifying–in A Breath of Snow and Ashes, the tension starts quickly, and once it’s there, it’s never really gone. Throughout the series, I have admired Gabaldon’s use of multitudinous and unusual writing tactics, like alternating perspectives and time periods, the use of flashbacks, and the incorporation of text like letters, journal entries, etc. but there were definitely times–especially in the second book–that it didn’t all feel like it quite fit together right. I love the story line, and I think Gabaldon has made some great writing choices, but it took 6 books for me to feel that it was finally all flowing together in a way that made perfect sense. The writing of this book is great, the plot is fantastic– especially after the slower pace of book 5–and there is absolutely nothing I would change here.

“I had lived long enough to have a fairly cynical view of human nature–and lived long enough in this time to know how directly public opinion expressed itself. And yet I was still shocked, when the first stone hit me in the thigh…One struck my mare on the shoulder and she shied violently. I kept my seat narrowly, but was off-balance; another hit me in the thigh, and another high in the chest, knocking the breath from me, and when one more bounced painfully off my head, I lost my grip on the reins, and as the horse, panicked, curvetted and spun, I flew off, landing on the ground with a bone-shaking thud…A big rock struck my shoulder with a numbing blow and I was knocked sideways by the impact…I whirled on my knees, and looked straight into the eyes of a young man, his face intent and blazing with excitement, rock at the ready. It hit me in the cheekbone and I swayed, my vision gone blurry. Then something very large hit me from behind, and I found myself flat on my face, pressed into the ground,the weight of a body on top of mine. It was Jamie; I could tell by the breathless “Holy Mother.” His body jerked as the stones hit him; I could hear the horrifying thud of them into his flesh.”

My reaction: 5 of 5 stars. The whole Outlander series is a fantastic journey through time, but even in the midst of a great set of books, this one stands out. It is, however, not for the faint of heart. Expect it to hit every single emotion you have, and then come back for more.

Further recommendations:

  1. Jodi Picoult’s Second Glance may be a good choice for Outlander fans around this time in the series. It has the supernatural element, the romance, the twist of time, and the historical ties, as its cast of characters works to preserve what may be an Abenaki Indian burial ground.
  2. I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned it before now, but the first time I was this crazy about a series, I was 12 and it was Hawksong, by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. I honestly can’t even say it’s particularly similar to Outlander in any way, but I felt the same about it, and I’m trusting my instincts with this recommendation. Hawksong is a short fantasy book about shape-shifters in an ancient time. There is a war, and a marriage proposed for safety and politics above love, and plenty of fantasy elements. It is a YA book, but I reread it occasionally and it stands age. If you like a little fantasy, constant danger, and unexpected love, give Hawksong a try.

Up next: Since I’ve just finished reading the final books of this series, I’ll review the last two before I move on to other books. Next is the 7th book, An Echo in the Bone. I’m also currently finishing up the Lord John Grey spin-off series, and working on a big review for all of the stories therein, which I’ll post as soon as I reach the end.

Wishing you incredible fictional travels,

The Literary Elephant

Update: you can now view my post on the 7th book, An Echo in the Bone!