I’m sitting on my couch enjoying a lovely glass of Scotch (Balvenie Double Wood 12 Year to be exact) lamenting The Book Sisters’ slow march to the end of the existing Outlander series. Heather and I have just finished up book 7, An Echo in the Bone, for our Outlander fangirl book club, the Starz series is on hiatus until April 4th, and I’m officially in Fraser-family withdrawal.
- the above mentioned scotch drinking
- obsessive trolling of the Outlander series writers’ and actors’ Twitter feeds.
- putting off reading Book 8 in the series as long as possible (to prolong the Outlander experience)
- downloading and listening to the Outlander tv show soundtrack
- general fashing
Despite my Outlander-induced angst, Heather and I are back in full fangirl form to walk you through our thoughts and feelings (and trust me, there are FEELINGS) about Echo. So pour yourself a glass of your favorite Scotch or Rhenish and let’s ease our way into Book 7. As always, spoilers abound from here on out, so proceed with with caution and Outlander love.
Ronnie: Echo is a welcome respite from the horror that was A Breath of Snow and Ashes. Despite it’s painful beginning (poor Mrs. Bug!) and somewhat looming sense of dread (Arch Bug! War!), the tone and feel of Echo was significantly lighter and, dare I say it, humorous at times. The cast of characters expands and we’re graced with so much William, Ian, and Lord John Grey point-of-view that I found myself squealing with glee every time they showed up on a page. (Not to discount Jamie, of course, but they’re my fave boys.) Reading Echo felt like reconnecting with an old friend. I thought it marked a return to the feel of Drums of Autumn and The Fiery Cross, and despite it’s setting within the American Revolutionary War, the focus was undeniably on family.
Heather, how did you feel about the transition from Breath to Echo? Where you pleased with the change of pace and feeling?
Heather: One of the many wonderful things that happens while reading Outlander is that from the first page of each novel, you really have no idea what you’re in for. The synopsis in each book is no help whatsoever. Will it be sad? Will all our characters come out unscathed? Will it blow my mind or will it break my heart? Given the heart wrenching sadness that pervaded much of Breath, I had to believe that Herself would spare us in Echo. Thankfully my faith was not misplaced. Echo, like Voyager before it, reminded me why I love this story. It wasn’t until Voyager that I fell in love with this crazy cast of characters and Echo reminded me why. You can always count on Herself to surprise us, whether for good or ill, and there was so much “guffaw” in this novel, so many jaw-to-the-floor moments, one doesn’t even know where to begin. Yes, I was extremely pleased with the change of pace and feeling, because I feel that this steady pace of shock and surprise, coated with all kinds of tension, is where Herself truly excels.
As we come around the bend to the home stretch of this crazy beautiful story, Echo started us off with a bang. At this point, if you aren’t in love with Lord John Grey as much as we are, then I don’t know what will convince you. Realizing that Echo (and likely the next two novels) will contain the point of view of Lord John and William is exactly the shot of adrenaline the series needed. Juxtaposed against Claire, Jamie and Ian’s constant state of mortal peril (I swear, somehow these three always end up in the middle of a battle and/or on a precarious sea voyage) the comedic relief offered up by Lord John and William keeps the reader engaged and smiling. As I mentioned to you, Ronnie, during our book club discussion, I can’t get over how expertly Herself has created William. There is so much of Jamie, Lord John and maybe a bit of his Uncle Hal, that the resemblance to his known and unknown family is uncanny. It is so well done.
But of course we have to have some amount of dread (or else it would not be Outlander) and thus we shift to 1980 and rejoin Bree, Roger and the children. From the moment we reunite with this beloved family you sense the danger stalking them on the periphery, watching unseen. You know something is terribly wrong, you just can’t put your finger on it. As much as I don’t want anything terrible to happen these characters, I felt that this dramatic tension worked much better than all that drama in Breath. I am thankful to Herself that Bree, Roger, Jem and Mandy are still in one piece by the end of the novel. Having given it much thought, unfortunately I think Jem will be okay come Written In My Heart’s Own Blood (“MOBY”) and that it is in fact Roger we should be worried about.
Which brings me to the re-appearance of William Buccleigh Mackenzie. It is not only William, but Percy Beauchamp and Tom Chrisitie who are resurrected. (Aside: Even though Herself has written that you don’t have to read the Lord John Grey novels to appreciate the main Outlander novels, I think that is true to a point. Reading the Lord John Grey novels and novellas after Breath but before Echo arguably provides you with a much more well-rounded reading experience. End Aside.) The re-emergence of each of these characters served the novel well by adding suspense while simultaneously tying up loose ends.
And then there are the villains. Unlike Black Jack Randall, Geillis Duncan and Stephen Bonnet, I couldn’t see who is going to be final villain of these final novels. It’s not Arch Bug obviously, but is it Rob Cameron? He’s evil for sure. Have we not met the final villain yet?
So much happened in Echo. What were your favorite events Ronnie? How did you feel about our three surprise guests? Is there anything that didn’t work for you?
Ronnie: I think your observation about Echo feeling like Voyager is SPOT ON. There’s the peril at sea (much to my dismay), Ian’s in trouble again, and we get a return (albeit briefly) to Lallybroch. Echo brought a return of The Serious Cray (aka, The Crazy Times), as we so love to call it. So many shockers! In any other book our three surprise guests, as you so aptly named them, would have been amazing plot twists, but when juxtaposed against the Fraser family drama that happens in Echo they are somewhat small potatoes. Yes, I was hella shocked when Tom Christie showed up and made out with Claire, excited to see Hot Hot Percy again (read the LJG novels and you’ll know what I’m talking about), and totally flabbergasted by Buck’s return, but for me the best parts of this novel were all about Familia Fraser.
Clearly I’m just a sucker for romance, so the Ian-Rachel-William love triangle was ridiculous fun for me. I was sort of annoyed by the anticlimax of the Arch Bug storyline and thought it was sort of a cheap way to keep Ian and Rachel apart. But I guess Herself had to use something to keep us guessing. Favorite moment from that storyline: everyone realizing IT’S SERIOUS when Ian asks Rachel to babysit “Friend Rollo.”
William discovering the truth of his parentage is obviously one of the BIG BOMBS of this novel, and I loved that it was delivered with such a hefty dose of humor. It could have been painful and melodramatic but instead it was momentous, and, well, funny. I may be reading too much into things, but I’m convinced that Herself gave William the literary inheritance of the wit and sarcasm with which she always manages to write Lord John. Yes, William and LJG have been through some trials, but they haven’t really been in the shit the way Jamie and Claire have. It gives them a bit more room for amusing narration because there isn’t this dark cloud of horrifying past experiences about them all the time. All this is my long-winded way of saying, thanks for keeping LJG and Willie light, Diana!
Which brings me to jaw-dropper moment #2: Claire and LJG gettin’ it on.
Yes, there’s obviously an explanation–they think Jamie’s gone and are looking for a moment’s comfort–but it is just such a crazy delicious moment! I canna handle it! It’s no secret that my love for LJG is a close second to my love for Jamie, but in these later chapters, LJG is just the perfect combination of savior, broken-hearted lover, and hot hot man that I am now officially an LJG fangirl 4 life (not something I proclaim lightly, folks). I feel as though in a lot of the ways that matter, LJG and Jamie are very similar. They are both supremely loyal–almost to a fault–and can’t help but save others. They’re two very different versions of the heroic male, but they’re heroes all the same. I think that’s why LJG’s confession to Jamie promises to have such interesting repercussions in the next book (I hope).
I do not know what to make of Rob Cameron, but Heather, I totally agree that Roger is the one we should worry about. I’ve always felt as though Roger has first husband written all over him, and I am terrified that he’s going to meet an unfortunate end. I am of course, given to melodramatic assumptions, so take that with a grain of salt.
Things I hated: JENNY.
I gotta ask, Heather, how did you feel about Jenny and the return to Scotland? The LJG and Claire marriage? ALL THE CRAY?!
Heather: It’s all about the cray Ronnie!!! And you touch on the two big bombshells of the book: William learning the truth of his parentage and LJG and Claire getting hitched and finding comfort in one another. I agree with everything you said, so I won’t elaborate further, only to say that we need to find us some LJG t-shirts.
I loved the return to Scotland in that I think it FINALLY closes the Laoghaire chapter of this story. She has always been a bane on Jamie and Claire since Voyager and now we don’t have to worry about Jamie having to fulfill any obligations towards her. Also going back to Scotland allowed us all to say goodbye to Ian. I thought Diana really outdid herself with Ian’s swan song. His dying words to Jamie, “On your right” …talk about my hand flying straight to my chest to clutch my heart. I can never get over how much love there is in this story and I feel that’s why the Outlander saga is as popular as it is, because you feel it all. So many feelings. So much love.
Jenny, shmenny. She’s always been sort of a Debbie Downer, right? I don’t mind her that much because I can empathize with her chronic suspicion of Claire…even if I don’t agree with it. She does always seem to throw a monkey wrench into Jamie and Claire’s relationship somehow so I get your hate girl. I am, however, looking forward to how she’s going to fit into the story now that she’s been moved back as an active supporting character. Will she be annoying per usual or make herself useful?
Which I guess is a good segue into Written In My Own Heart’s Blood (“MOBY”). I have no idea what’s coming but I hope we pick up right where we left off: finding out how Jamie reacts to LJG’s truth-telling, how William is coping, what happened to Roger and William Buccleigh…Is Jemmy going to get out of the cave like Brianna or will he encounter danger and pass through time in the portal that is in the tunnel? Is Rob Cameron the ubervillain or is someone much worse lurking in the shadows? So much to think/worry about! My biggest question is whether or not we will get more insight into this connection Jamie seems to have with the kids and if/how that ties into Ghost Jamie way back when in Book one.
What are you looking forward to in MOBY, Ronnie?
Ronnie: This might be a double spoiler, but after reading the novella, A Leaf in the Wind of All Hallows, I am praying that the Roger-Dad meeting is described in greater detail in MOBY (I highly recommend reading that novella, by the way). Of course, I want MOAR Lord John and William point-of-view, but I really want to find out how the Jamie-LJG-William relationship will grow and change now that the truth is out. On the Brianna front, I am dying to know how the Rob Cameron storyline plays out.
We’ll be back in a few months with our MOBY review and an ode to the return of Outlander on Starz, but until then, Heather and I will leave you with our list of…
Random Thoughts and Observations:
- Ronnie: Is Fergus Claire’s ancestor or what? I did not know what to make of that whole Dickensian plot twist with Fergus as the son of a French nobleman and a Beauchamp.
- Heather: Swiftest of Lizards!!! Wasn’t that the best surprise ever? Bittersweet I know, but still I had so many happy thoughts for Young Ian.
- Ronnie: I love that so much of LJG’s family was in this book. It makes me think he and Willie will get way more page time in MOBY.
- Heather: Who is Mr. Richardson? And why is Lord John Grey so worried about him?
- Heather: The Dottie plan. I’ll admit it, I had no idea what was going on with Dottie and William until it all became clear when Dottie jumped into the arms of Dr. Hunter. Points to William for being an awesome cousin.
- Ronnie: Another novella spoiler: If you’re interested in learning more about Joanie’s adventure in Paris, read The Space Between. Bonus: You get to know young Jamie (Jamie’s nephew).