Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
First of all, if you haven’t read these books, stop reading this review: go now and find a copy of Outlander. Seriously. Do it now.
After you’ve read Outlander, fallen in love with this author and these characters and this absolutely lovely series of books, go ahead and read all of the rest of the series, and then come back when you reach the 8th book, which this is. (And while you’re at it, be grateful you’re coming into the series now, rather than doing what my wife did, and discovering Gabaldon when Outlander was first published — 25 years ago. It’s been a long time, waiting for this series to get this close to the end. A very long time. But she still loves it: every book, every chapter. Worth the wait.)
So for those who are caught up, this is a great book. A great one. This one gets back on track, in some ways; there are more moments of joy than heartbreak, which has not felt true of the last few books, but is one of the reasons why I love the series so: because they are lovely, and loving. It’s a true romance, rather than a heartbreaker for the sake of poignancy. And because love is good and great and sublime, there is more joy than sorrow — and though I don’t want to spoil, I will say that there is much more love in this book than just Jamie and Claire.
Of course there are heartbreaking moments. There is more than one death that just tore me up inside. There are frustrating times — particularly with William. Those damned stubborn Frasers. You understand. There is more than one terrifying moment, particularly those associated with more than one life-threatening injury. But this book does the right things, and goes the right places, and I loved it. I would say I can’t wait for the next one — but I have to wait, don’t I?
If I had one complaint, it was this: I always enjoy the historical elements, and the accuracy and detail are remarkable; it’s why I’m willing to wait patiently (Well, somewhat patiently) for the next installment, unlike George R.R. Martin, on whom I gave up years ago. But I don’t think all of the historicity actually serves the story. Gabaldon went to great lengths to make a few real Revolutionary personages true to their historical selves, even quoting their personal papers for their dialogue. Why? To please the seven people in the world who would recognize a genuine Nathanael Greene quote from a false one? I appreciate the realism of the British retreat from Philadelphia, and the influence that has on the lives of our heroes; but do we need every single aspect of the Battle of Monmouth to be on the record? I’m really not reading a history book, here. I do understand that every instance when Gabaldon varies from the truth earns her a dozen irate letters from fanatics; but I personally vote she lets that go, and does more things like name Fergus’s paper The Onion. Which I just got, by the way. These books are not historically accurate: you can tell by the 20th century doctor in the middle of the Revolution. Verisimilitude is wonderful, and I appreciate all the work that goes into making the books feel and sound real; but they don’t actually need to BE real. I’ll love them anyway.
If you like the Outlander series, I would also recommend:
The Bloody Jack series by the wondrous L.A. Meyer
The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning
The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik (Who is not afraid of changing history to include dragons)
Everything by Jeffery Farnol, my favorite historical romance novelist. Check out the pirate books, especially.