Thursday, July 31, 2014

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon

I closed the end of the book having reread the last passage several times, and with a deep sadness that the story has ended again for now.  Can I really wait for five more years until the next part of the saga?  At least I have the new Outlander series on Starz to keep me busy while I wait.

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood is the eighth novel in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.  If you haven’t yet read the series, you could read this novel and have a great historical fiction read set during the American Revolutionary War.  However if you want to truly enjoy and absorb the richness of the tale, you should really start with first novel, Outlander, and make your way through the entire series before picking up this novel.

Echo in the Bone, the novel immediately preceding Written in My Own Heart’s Blood ended with MANY cliffhangers.  These cliffhangers left me literally hanging for five years wondering how they would all be resolved.  I particularly wanted to know if young Jem was going to make it out of the tunnel okay.   I found out about 162 pages into this novel.  Aggh!

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood begins in 1778 right where Echo in the Bone ended.  Young Ian Murray is mourning the death of his mother and his Uncle Jamie.  Meanwhile William Ransom, Ninth Earl of Ellesmere, and Jamie Fraser’s illegitimate son, is reeling from the discovery that he is Jamie Fraser’s bastard son and not legitimately the Ninth Earl of Ellesmere.  He soon finds comfort with a lady of the night, who later plays prominently in his story.

Claire and housekeeper, Mrs. Figg, are wondering what to do after the thunderous disappearance of Lord John Grey and Jamie Fraser.  Soon enough they find themselves in another quandary as Lord John’s brother Hal appears searching for Lord John and having a medical breakdown of his own.    Lord John and Jamie find themselves battling out their differences and perhaps sharing too much information outside of Philadelphia.  They each soon are caught up in the Revolutionary War in ways that they never imagined.

In Scotland in 1980, Jem is still trapped in a dark tunnel, and Brianna discovers the horrifying truth that Roger and Buck have traveled back in time to search for Jem . . . but that Jem is still in the present and in danger.  Brianna has to fight the mysterious forces that are out to get her family and find her missing son.  In the past, Roger and Buck fruitlessly search for Jem and also discover that they did not end up in the correct year.  Will Roger, Brianna, and their family ever be reunited?

These are the primary characters, but there are many, many more characters throughout the novel that have their stories continued in fascinating ways.  I especially liked a glimpse into the “past” where Roger and Buck meet various characters that are familiar to readers of the series.  I also enjoyed that I had read Gabaldon’s short stories that tied up some of the loose ends from Echo in the Bone and set up ideas for this novel.

The past part of the novel primarily focused on the Battle of Monmouth, which I’ll admit, I didn’t remember much of from history class.  I found the battle and historical figures to be fascinating.  I also love how the Frasers were inserted into the fray.  I loved Gabaldon’s “Author’s Note” in the end that included much more information.  I also had to look for more information myself!  Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and Gabaldon is a master of bringing history to life. She is able to subtly show the horrors with war when Jamie takes shelter with a Quaker family, but also the promise of life when two of the minor love stories lead to marriage. I also love the natural history she includes as well with botany, biology included in Claire’s medical treatments.

Overall, I loved the novel.  I could just keep reading Gabaldon’s novels forever and am always sad when they end.  They contain so much detail on the people, places, historical figures and events of the story.  There is adventure, romance, and life.  I love them.  I listened to an interview with Gabaldon on CBS earlier today.  The way she described the novels struck me.  She stated that they were not a romance novel as they don’t end when Jamie and Claire marry.  They are a story of life and the fifty years that Jamie and Claire spend together.  Truer words cannot be said.

I also thought this novel had a perfect ending.  The story moved a bit slower than Echo in the Bone and did not have the many, many cliff hangers that were included in that novel.  Instead there is one perfect ending that did leave me with many questions about how it came about.  Would I be sad if the series did not continue?  Definitely yes.  But I could also live with this being the penultimate ending as well.

What were your thoughts of Written in My Own Heart’s Blood?  I love hearing other’s reviews and opinions – please post them!

I certainly cannot wait for the new STARZ Outlander TV Series.  Is anyone else sneak peeking with me this weekend?

Book Source:  I preordered this book from Amazon about a year before I received it!  I finished reading it a while ago, but have gotten behind on my reviews.

** Additional thoughts.  I keep pondering this book and thought I'd add a couple of thoughts to my review.  My first thought is I really want to know the mystery of the forces that are chasing after Brianna and her family.  Who are they and how do they know the secret of not only Jamie Fraser's gold, but of the twisted Fraser family.  I loved the 2nd novel in the series, Dragonfly in Amber as it was an action packed mystery.  Did Jamie die at Culloden?  I would love to see book 9 follow a format like that in which the mystery of the forces against the Fraser family is solved.

Also - I would LOVE to get an Ellen Mackenzie and Brian Fraser back story.  I loved how Brian was in this book and it only left me wanting more!


  1. I read the first three in the series and was so totally absorbed with the story. Gabaldon made me fall in love with time travel stories. But I was always uncomfortable with the explicit sex and so I stopped reading the series.

  2. Susan Kearsley first drew me in with time travel. Gabaldon took me further on the journey!

  3. I'm glad you enjoyed this one, Laura. I agree that the ending was perfect and I loved the chapters with Roger and Buck too - there were lots of surprises there. I'm hoping the TV series is going to be shown here in the UK eventually!

  4. Wonderful review, Laura! I'm glad you enjoyed the 8th book in this series, although you're a bit sad that you're done reading it. I've only read Outlander, but I did love it. I look forward to "catching" the STARZ Outlander TV series.

  5. I only read Outlander and while I enjoyed the story, the explicitness of it was difficult for me to read, so I stopped. It's certainly a popular series!

  6. Helen - I still can't believe that the series isn't being shown in the UK. It's worth the wait as it is quite fantastic so far.

    I am absorbed (or obsessed?) by the story as many of you are. I will admit though that I do skim the explicit scenes. Truthfully the worst one by far was in the first novel. I've never read that entire scene through. I must admit that I do enjoy that although Jamie and Claire are older now, they are still taking pleasure in each other.

  7. I love your review, Laura. I admit, I re-read the final few paragraphs several times: I could not believe it ended as it did - beautifully happy and hopeful, but how I wanted more! But at the same time, it was a satisfying place to end (of that is what it is). I do find, as the books have progressed, that I have enjoyed the stories about Bree and Roger to the point where in this book, I felt that they were neglected. More of Bree and less of the American civil war would have been preferable... I do hope, that if DB writes a final instalment, Bree and Roger's story is given the time and space it deserves.