And So It Ends (For Now): The Book Sisters Tackle Written in My Own Heart’s Blood

MOBY SadnessIt’s that time, folks: Heather and I have come to the end of our Outlander journey, and as you can see, our reactions are all over the place. Opening Written in My Own Heart’s Blood for the first time, I was giddy, heart-broken, breathless with anticipation, and oh so sad that this was the last Outlander novel currently in print. In short, I was a mess.

This series is real for me, y’all. It tugs at my heart in a way that few other written sagas have ever done, and I feel so lucky for having read it over the past year with the best book sister a gal could ever have.

As always, SPOILERS ABOUND after the jump, so proceed at your own risk!

A note on this post: We’re structuring this review a little differently than past posts. There is just so much story that we thought we’d take a few quotes that illustrate some of the major plot-points and themes in MOBY. We hope you enjoy these little bits of Outlander goodness!

We thought you were dead, you bloody arsehole!…Both of us! Dead! And we–we–took too much to drink one night–very much too much…We spoke of you…and…Damn you, neither one of us was making love to the other–we were both fucking you!

–Lord John Grey to Jamie, pg. 12-13

Ronnie: Let’s get right to it: One of the many cliffhangers from An Echo in the Bone was the revelation of the “intimate knowledge” exchange between Claire and Lord John Grey (LJG) upon hearing of Jamie’s supposed death. In MOBY we get the fallout.

The relationship between Jamie and LJG has always been an uneasy one. LJG’s deep love for Jamie (and it really is love, folks, not just lust) is, at best, repulsive to Jamie, and, at this point, almost a sore spot for LJG. He can’t help but love Jamie, even though he’d so rather not. Yet these men have a friendship and bond that now spans decades and includes the love of their beloved son William.

In MOBY the Jamie-LJG bond is further strained by Claire and LJG’s drunken attempt at solace, adding another layer of bizarre jealously to a love-triangle that’s seen its fair share of Claire-LJG tension. LJG and Jamie’s relationship blossomed when Jamie and Claire’s relationship was assumed to be at its end, and now Claire and LJG forge a bond in shared grief and misery. What’s amazing is the tenderness and genuine affection that I think develops between Claire and LJG. Yes, they made their peace after Claire doctored him back to health a few books back, but now it’s almost something deeper. They saw each other at their lowest–at the pit of their despair. That changes people, I think.

Throughout the novel are delicious moments of Jamie-LJG tension. Jamie’s insane jealousy is both dangerous (LJG gets HIT y’all) and laughable. LJG is a gay man deeply in love with Jamie, and yet Jamie can’t help but be angered by this betrayal. I’m at my happiest when Jamie and LJG are at peace and friendly with one another, so this tension, although highly amusing, was rough for me. I do, however, adore how central LJG and his family were to the story in MOBY (also, high-fives to Herself for the awesomeness that is Hal Grey).

Heather, I know you share my LJG love. How did you feel about his relationship with Jamie in MOBY? Did you enjoy the integration of the Greys into the Frasers’ story?

Heather:  Oh Lord John Grey, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Yes. I heart LJG times infinity Ronnie.  As for his and Jamie’s relationship in MOBY…Guffaw!

Recently during our book club you and I talked about how the Fraser anger finally made its debut on the Starz show.  I have to say Jamie’s reaction to LJG’s revelation, not just of his sleeping with Claire but that LJG was simultaneously wishing it was Jamie while doing it, was Fraser anger times 100.  Jamie allowing the militia/Sons of Liberty to cart off LJG was an undeniably emotional and irrational response. And it pissed me off.  Granted, I see the necessity of it, getting LJG to somehow experience the life of the rebels.   His scenes with Germaine were fantastic in their honesty and stomach-holding hilarity.  But back to Jamie, I was shocked at Jamie’s behavior but I also think it showcases (even though we don’t really need to see it first hand anymore, Herself) how much Jamie LOVES Claire.  To send the man who has essentially raised his son off for possible jail or execution….C’mon man!

I thoroughly enjoyed the merging of Greys and the Frasers in MOBY and feel that the novel is ever more enriched because of this narrative choice. Claire and Jenny saving Hal’s life was also a great way to introduce Hal for those who have not read the LJG novels.  I will never be sad about seeing any of the Greys on the page. Never.  But lets back up for a second to talk a little more about William…

For any venture ye deem worthy.” Not a word about Jane’s being a whore or about her being a confessed murderess. Perhaps it was that Fraser himself was a criminal and felt some sympathy on that account.  Or maybe it’s just that he’s willing to take my word that I have to do it. And willing to take the devil of a risk to help me. But such thoughts could do no good now, and he put them out of his mind.  They hurried on, soft-footed and faceless, through the empty squares of Savannah, toward the house by the hanging tree.”

–William Ransom, pg. 755

 When I first realized that Herself decided to add William’s perspective to the final three books of the Outlander saga, I squealed in joyful exultation!  Because  while William is his own person, he’s also a combination of LJG, Jamie and even his mother Geneva.   Another big cliffhanger from Echo is William finally learning the truth about his paternity, the Fraser anger takes hold, and he storms out of his house leaving a path of destruction in his wake.  When we meet William again in MOBY it is a changed William, changed in a way only the truth can change a person.   It was fascinating to read him trying to work out how he should feel and whether or not he should be angry at LJG.   A revelation like this upends one’s entire world.  Suddenly William doesn’t know who he is or where he belongs.  Such is William’s world in MOBY.

As he makes his way in the story and is confronted by Claire, LJG, Ian and Rachel Hunter who all confirm they knew the secret all along, such truths only serve to further aflame his anger.  “Fuck the resemblance” he says.  Almost like he’s telling himself, there was no way you could have known and it doesn’t matter how much I look like Jamie Fraser…I am not him.   So he plods along, getting himself entangled with the former prostitute Jane, an alleged murderess and her sister, Fanny, taking them under his protection until he figures out what to do with them.    And in this we discover that William, whether he wants to believe it or not, is his father’s son.  A protector of the helpless, courageous in the face of insurmountable and dangerous obstacles.  One who stands in front of mortal peril and says “do your worst.” It’s a universal truth is it not? Whether we like it or now we are our parents.  It’s really quite clever on Herself’s part.  My only wish is that by the next book William will have reconciled his feelings and we’ll see him forge a relationship with the Frasers.

What about you Ronnie? Anything you want to add about William and all that befell him in MOBY? 

Ronnie: I’ve read so many reviews where readers were overwhelmingly annoyed by what they viewed as William’s petulance, which I did NOT feel AT ALL. Like, you, Heather, I thought that William’s discovery of his true parentage was a LIFE-CHANGING EVENT, and one that warranted the sort of anger, confusion, and conflict William displayed throughout MOBY. I don’t have high hopes for William forging a strong bond with La Familia Fraser, but I hope that he finds his place in the next novel. In some ways I feel like William is a stand-in for the Jamie we never met: The young, confused, pre-Claire Jamie who went to University in Paris and joined up with some French mercenaries. I think it’s going to take some time for William to grow into the man we know he will become.

Here’s a perfect indicator:

“If you die,” William said loudly, “I’ll marry her.”

–William to Ian regarding Rachel, pg. 517

Ronnie: I loved William’s oh-so-transparent attempt at masculine bravado, because it highlights just how much room he has to grow. I bring up this scenario not just because I love the triangle-that’s-not-really-a-love-triangle between William, Ian and Rachel, but because I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about the way Herself is infusing the Outlander-verse with some new romance. The additions of Denny, Dottie, Rachel and Ian were not only (alternately) lovely, romantic, and funny, but were also the perfect foil to Claire and Jamie’s relationship. You have all of this young love blooming in times of war that mirrors their romance on the eve of the Scottish rebellion of 1745. These Quaker courtships, weddings, and marriages are such a welcome respite from some of the novel’s darker events that I found myself wishing I could just stay in the colonies for the duration of the novel, but alas, that was not to be.

After all, Brianna, Roger and kiddos await!

Horrifying Realization Number 1: Jem hadn’t gone into the past, after all. While by itself this was undeniably a good thing, it made Horrifying Realization Number 2 that much worse: Roger and William Buccleigh had undoubtedly gone through the stones…

–Brianna, pg. 169

Ronnie: Man, this is a gonna be a long post, Heather. As if the drama of the 18th century wasn’t enough to keep us on the edge of our seats, the craziness of the MacKenzie’s in BOTH THE TWENTIETH AND EARLY 18TH CENTURY was enough to make my head spin. That’s right folks, we’re talking 3 timelines!

Heather, I’m gonna let you share your thoughts on what went down “Back at the Ranch” as Gabaldon so hilariously put it. 

Heather:  Oh MacKenzies.   The third cliffhanger from Echo that arguably left many a reader back in the day screaming at the book once it ended dealt with Jemmy being left alone in a dark tunnel, Brianna in a stare down death match with Rob Cameron, and Roger and William Buccleigh traveling through the stones on a hopeless quest to find Jemmy back in the 18th century.

Jeez, my brain hurts just from writing that run-on sentence.

When it became apparent that Roger and William had not only gone through the stones, but gone further back than they ever intended, my heart braced itself for tragedy.  Thankfully, not only was tragedy averted, Herself navigated Roger and William through this time period in a way that just made sense.   Through these two we learned more about time travelers, the mysterious blue healing light, what really happened to Roger’s father and even got to spend some time with Brian Fraser.  The most compelling part of the Ranch section, for me, was Roger meeting and saving his father.  It served to continue the recurring Outlander theme of familial love and speaks to the underlying question of whether or not our characters can affect the past with their time travel or is it all preordained in some way?

For a long time I wasn’t convinced Herself would be able to pull off shifting the plotline in such a bold manner, but somehow she made it work and our hearts were spared.   She definitely took a great risk with this narrative decision because it threatens to cause the story to “jump the shark” by forcing our characters into questionable decision-making, since Roger could never plausibly leave Jemmy behind. (ASIDE:  HOW WEIRD WAS THAT SCENE WITH BUCCLEIGH AND GEILLIS….REALLY?!!?! END ASIDE). But as we come to learn, everything righted itself  when Bree and the children traveled back through the stones to find Roger.

As for Brianna, apart from learning that kids have some sort of telepathic sensory superpower and that a mysterious cult is trying to get their hands on all of them, Brianna’s storyline lacked the gravitas that elevated the rest of the novel.  While definitely dramatic, her story felt the most like a chess piece plot…in other words getting Bree and the children to where they need to be in order to move the story forward.  Also I have to say, Lallybroch seems a bit cursed no? Every time our characters end up back there something horrible inevitably follows.

Honestly I didn’t believe Herself would be able to write the MacKenzies out of their predicament, but I guess allowing them to survive the journeys through the stones was an easy enough fix.   But Herself just couldn’t leave everything hearts and flowers for us dedicated Outlander readers.  Of course I’m talking about the deaths of Rollo and Henri Christian.  While Rollo died naturally and quietly as the result of old age, the death of beloved Henri Christian came somewhat out of nowhere.  Ronnie, I know you have been trying to piece together why Herself would lead him down such a tragic path.  I don’t believe that Herself is so callous as to remove Henri Christian for simplicity’s sake, but his death does beg the question, if she ultimately knew this is how she wanted his story to play out, why write him in at all? Why make us go through yet another horrific tragedy? What purpose does his death serve?  I haven’t figured out the answer to these questions because in a way it’s also a smaller attempt at trying to tackle that universal question about life, why are we here?  Yeah, deep.  So this was obviously my least favorite part of the novel; it brought back too many Breath memories (yeah I’m still angry about that book).  But from my least favorite part we shift to what is probably the best ending of all the Outlander books thus far… take it away Ronnie.

Then I was flying down the hill, with Jamie just before me, arms flung wide, the two of us flying together on that same wind.

–Claire, pg. 813

Ronnie:  I’m not gonna lie, y’all. I had some straight-up tears at the end of MOBY. I’m talking full-on reader sobs mixed with laughter supplemented by even more crying and maybe a terribly runny nose.

It was beautiful.

One minute, Claire and Jamie were sitting together, pondering life the way that couples do, then all of a sudden, Roger, Brianna, Jem and Mandy are walking up the hill. It was a moment that anyone who’s lost someone they’ve loved hopes will one day happen: You’ll wake up, go about your day, and then suddenly, you’ll see something in the distance or hear something behind you, and there they are–the person you most want to see in the world but never thought you’d ever see again. So yeah, clearly, this ending hit home for me in a lot of ways. It highlighted loss the way only Herself can, but then offered this beautiful picture of a happy ending that’s about nothing more than just embracing the people you love.

Heather:  I echo all of Ronnie’s sentiments.  An Outlander book with a crazy happy ending? Yes folks it really did happen.  And I too was left in a watershed of tears when it ended.  However, I am left completely contented with our story and not at all anxious about awaiting the final novel in our beloved saga.

So this is the end, folks. Thank you so much for joining us on our Outlander journey and be sure that when Book 9 comes out, we’ll be back!


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