Three new stories by Diana Gabaldon

Well, June was quite a month for fans of Diana Gabaldon, who has graced us with with not one, not two, but three new stories! Actually, that should probably be 2 1/2, since the 3rd is coauthored. No matter! We fans will take what we can get.

Most excitingly, for Outlander readers, is the publication of Seven Stones to Stand or Fall, a collection of stories set in the Outlander-verse. Five stories have been published previously in anthologies and as stand-alones:

  • The Custom of the Army (a Lord John story)
  • The Space Between (about Fraser relations, Master Raymond, and the infamous Comte St. Germain)
  • A Plague of Zombies (more Lord John)
  • A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows (about Roger’s parents during WWII)
  • Virgins (about Jamie and Ian as young, virginal mercenaries in France, prior to the events of Outlander)

Having read all of these previously*, I’ll just focus on the two new pieces from Seven Stones:

A Fugitive Green: A 100+ page novella about Hal and Minnie — that would be Lord John’s distinguished older brother Harold, Duke of Pardloe, and his beloved wife Minnie. This is their origin story, of sorts. In A Fugitive Green, we get the tale of how Minnie, the daughter of a spymaster and book dealer, met and ended up married to a young, newly widowed British officer on the verge of utter disgrace. Minnie is sent by her father from Paris to London to carry out some book deals as well as some espionage, with the ulterior motive of getting her a rich and well-placed husband along the way. Meanwhile, Hal is dealing with the aftermath of a scandalous duel and his wife’s death, and Hal’s best friend is busy trying to get Hal cleared of any guilt related to the duel. When Minnie and Hal meet, sparks fly. We’ve certainly seen both of these characters as adults and gotten a taste of their fiery marriage, and their unusual meeting and marriage has been spoken of, but here we see it first-hand (and yes, the famous hearth rug too.) It’s all quite delicious, and I enjoyed seeing Hal in his 20s, with a certain amount of romance and vulnerability that his older, more hardened self rarely (if ever) displays. Hal has become a favorite of mine over the course of the main Outlander series as well as in the assortment of Lord John novels and novellas, and I appreciated getting this new view of Hal and Minnie and the start of their relationship.

 

Besieged: In which Lord John, wrapping up his governorship of Jamaica, is informed last minute that not only is his mother Benedicta unexpectedly in Havana, but that the British fleet is about to invade Cuba. What’s a devoted son to do but sail off with his trusted valet Tom Byrd and rush to the rescue? I’ll be honest — despite my love for John and my joy at another adventure with Tom Byrd, this story left me cold. It was mostly people (well, John) rushing from place to place, lots of military talk, and not a whole lot of character depth. The action felt a bit mind-numbing after a while — haciendas and forts and rushing around — and I just didn’t enjoy it. Sure, it’s wonderful to spend time with John, but I would have liked to see him interact more with his mother and Tom rather than being caught up in an action story the whole time. There’s also a very sad development, if you’ve read the Lord John novels and are familiar with John’s extended family, but other than that, I actually found Besieged rather skippable.

 

And finally, a Gabaldon story that’s only kind of a Gabaldon story. In the new anthology MatchUp, bestselling authors are paired up — one male, one female — to create stories together featuring some of their well-known characters. For those who are into these type of stories (crime thrillers), I’m sure there’s lots to enjoy from authors such as Sandra Brown, Charlaine Harris, etc etc etc. For me, I picked up MatchUp at the library strictly for the sake of Herself.

In MatchUp, Diana Gabaldon is paired up with Steve Berry, and together they’ve written a story — Past Prologue — centered around Berry’s lead character, Cotton Malone. In Past Prologue, Malone is in Scotland (to be clear, that’s modern-day, 21st century Scotland) for a private book sale. When he wanders away from Ardsmuir for a walk across the moors, he finds himself at a stone circle… and then, poof! finds himself in the year 1755. And for those who know their Outlander history, that means that Ardsmuir is a prison housing Scottish rebels, among them a tall red-haired man who stands out in a crowd. Malone ends up meeting the one and only Jamie Fraser (pausing here for hearts to melt). The plot of the story isn’t that important, but the Jamie moments are a lovely little treat, with a lot of heartbreak squeezed into one small conversation.

Past Prologue isn’t essential to the Outlander canon, but for fans, it’s a fun way to get a glimpse of familiar characters and settings. Not a bad way to pass the time!

 

*If you’re an Outlander reader but haven’t yet read the five already-published stories, I’ll just say that my two favorites are A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows and Virgins.

**Further note: As always, I’ll mention that the audiobooks are a great option for enjoying the Gabaldon novellas. Jeff Woodman is particularly wonderful narrating anything related to Lord John, and I really enjoyed the Virgins audiobook as well.

***I’ve written about a few of the these stories/novellas in other posts. Check them out:
A Trail of Fire
Virgins

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Dramatic plot vs. happily-ever-after: The perils of emotional investment

Fear. Anxiety. Dread.

And it’s all the fault of fictional characters.

I have a tendency to binge when I get into something new, TV or books, and then — oh my stars — it’s so hard to separate. Because what happens when you fall in love with characters, but then have to witness them going through hell? All I want to do is scoop them up and keep them safe, but that’s not the way good stories work.

Clearly, I have a problem.

Take my newest obsession, The Walking Dead. Yes, I am super late to the party, but thanks to finally getting Netflix (again, super late to the party), I’ve been indulging. I started The Walking Dead, season 1 episode 1, in mid-May, and apart from a couple of weeks while I was out of town, have been watching the series straight through. So here I am, a month and a half later, slightly past the middle of season 6, and while I can’t wait to see what happens next, part of me wants to just walk away.

[SPOILERS AHEAD! FOR EPISODES THAT AIRED OVER A YEAR AGO, BUT STILL — SPOILERS!]

I’m at a place in the story where, as usual, the characters’ lives were hanging by a thread. Their supposedly safe haven, where they can finally build a life for themselves and plan for the future, has been overrun by hordes of the undead. All seems doomed, but finally, there’s this totally awesome battle scene (truly, a thing of beauty), and the good guys win! What follows is one of the most chill episodes ever, taking place a few weeks later, where everyone is safe again, rebuilding, relaxing, and starting to make things better.

Guys, they’re smiling! Rick and Daryl are out on a supply run and it’s actually funny! There’s even a sexy, romantic scene! (No, not Rick and Daryl.)

Man, I’m loving this show. I adore Rick Grimes. I want to cuddle Daryl Dixon (after a good bath, maybe). Carl is the cutest. Michonne is a total bad-ass with a heart of gold. And this is where my over-investment comes into play.

Because part of me wants to turn off the TV, pretend that’s the last episode, and walk away. Because then THEY’D ALL LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER. And I wouldn’t have to watch all these people I love get tortured again and again. No going hungry. No machete-ing walkers through the brain. No fighting off evil human attackers.

Imagine the possibilities, though, if everyone got to stay happy. The Walking Dead could become a sitcom, with charming little conflicts — uh oh! Craziness ensues when Carol’s favorite knife goes missing! Little Judith’s first word is “walker”, and it’s adorable! Abraham runs a fitness class, and Eugene is his best student! And don’t get me started on Rick Grimes and all the possibilities for him as the cool dad whose teenage son has an attitude.

Anyway…

This can’t be, obviously. Dramatic tension is necessary for good storytelling. If everyone on The Walking Dead remained safe in Alexandria behind secure walls, with enough food and medical equipment to lead healthy, safe lives, the story would be over. It’s wonderful for the characters, of course, but there would be nothing further to keep the show going.

Likewise in books. Let’s take my favorite series, Outlander (duh). These characters never get a break. Yes, there are plenty of happy moments, and plenty of swoonworthy scenes of Claire and Jamie basking in each others’ arms after a blissful night of lovemaking… but things just never go well for long. These folks are in the middle of a war, always. There’s always some bad guy or another lurking around the corner, ready to kidnap, shoot at, plot against, or otherwise cause harm to our beloved characters.

[SPOILER AHEAD — MILD — FOR OUTLANDER SERIES]

Book #7 in the series, An Echo in the Bone, ends with not just one, but 4 or 5 major cliffhangers. The agony of waiting years for the next book while pretty much everyone is in jeopardy! Flash forward a few years to Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (book #8), and after 145 chapters, everyone we care about ends up in a pretty good place. Yes, there are some small questions left unanswered but (spoiler) Jamie and Claire and Brianna and Roger and Ian and Rachel and, well, everyone, are safe and happy and together!

Part of me wanted to just say to Diana Gabaldon — okay, great! Stop now! Let these people live out the rest of their days in the peace and comfort and love they all deserve!

But no. I need and want and crave more of the story, and book #9 is in the works… and what would an Outlander book be if everyone was safe and happy all the time? So while I can’t wait for a publication date to finally be announced, I’m also dreading diving back in and finding out what hideous new dangers await my beloved Claire and Jamie and the rest of their family up on Fraser’s Ridge.

So, am I crazy for wanting my favorite characters — TV or books — to just get a chance to be happy?

We all love happily-ever-afters, right? But they just don’t make for great storytelling. There’s a reason most fairy tales don’t continue past the HEA. We can be happy for people who find happiness, but stories are driven by tension, suspense, conflict, and crisis. If there’s no obstacle to overcome and everybody just enjoys mundane daily lives, what more do we need to know?

Sigh.

I know that great drama demands all of the above. As for The Walking Dead — well, hell yes, I’m going to keep going. And I’ve stumbled across enough spoilers before I started watching the show to know that VERY BAD things are coming soon for characters I care about, and I’m going to end up heartbroken once again.

In the choice between walking away at a happy moment or continuing with a story I love despite the unhappiness to come, there’s no question — I’ll always choose to continue.

But isn’t it nice to daydream about a life in which Carl Grimes’s greatest worry is about impressing a girl, and not fighting for survival while covered in zombie guts?

Outlandish updates

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So maybe you’ve noticed that I’m a bit of an Outlander fan.

Oops, wrong fandom.

Oops, wrong fandom.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about Outlander, so I thought — on this rainy Saturday morning — I’d gather up the bits and pieces of Outlander-world news that have come up in the last few months.

First, from the world of books:

sadSadly, it would appear that we’re not getting the 9th book in the main series in 2017. I know. I know. It’s hard. Diana Herself has made it clear that it takes as long as it takes, and it’s going to take a while. At least we have a title: Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone.

What does the title mean? From Diana Gabaldon’s website:

Talking to your bees is a very old Celtic custom (known in other parts of Europe, too) that made it to the Appalachians. You always tell the bees when someone is born, dies, comes or goes—because if you don’t keep them informed, they’ll fly away.

What does this imply for our beloved characters? Discuss amongst yourselves.

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In other book news, there are a couple of new releases to report.

img_4030First, there’s a new hardcover edition of the story Virgins now available! Virgins was originally released as part of an anthology (Dangerous Women, edited by George R. R. Martin, published 2013). Early this year, Virgins was released as a stand-alone e-story. And now, finally, I have my very own, very shiny new copy to place on my shelves!

Chronologically, Virgins takes place prior to the events of Outlander, telling the story of Jamie and Ian as young mercenaries (and virgins) in France. It’s a wonderful piece of storytelling, and I encourage fans of the series to check it out.

Unfortunately, the hardcover isn’t available directly from US sellers, but I got mine from Book Depository — and since they ship worldwide, it really wasn’t a problem. (And shipping is free, so the price was reasonable too.)

i-give-youSecond, especially for those who write, or those who want to write, or simply for fans, Diana released an e-book entitled “I Give You My Body…”: How I Write Sex Scenes, which is pretty much just what the title says. It’s Diana’s explanation of her approach to writing sex scenes, with tips and excerpts. The book is also available as an audiobook, narrated by Herself — always loads of fun.

 

 

 

 

Finally, here’s yet another reason to cheer! While we’re not getting a Big Enormous Book (as DG calls them) in 2017, we will have a new release to gobble up. Coming in June, Diana is releasing a collection of stories from the Outlander world.

seven-stones-lgSeven Stones To Stand or Fall is now available for pre-order from Amazon and other online sources, with a projected release date of June 27, 2017. The collection includes seven stories, some new and some previously published. The stories are…

Previously released:

  • The Custom of the Army
  • The Space Between
  • A Plague of Zombies
  • A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows
  • Virgins (yes, again!)

New (!!!)

  • A Fugitive Green: A story about Hal and Minnie and how they first met.
  • Besieged: About Lord John and his mother Benedicta

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From the world of the Starz TV production of Outlander…

Season 3 filming is underway! No word yet on the air date, other than sometime in 2017. There are endless number of fan sites dedicated to the show, with countless behind-the-scenes tidbits and photos, so I won’t bother tracking them down here.

I do want to share the major casting updates of season 3, for those who haven’t seen them yet. New additions to the cast include:

Cesar Domboy as Fergus (all grown up):

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Lauren Lyle as Marsali:

lauren-lyle

David Berry as Lord John:

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John Bell as Young Ian:

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Wil Johnson as Joe Abernathy:

wil-johnson

Hannah James as Geneva Dunsany:

geneva

Tanya Reynolds as Isobel Dunsany:

tanya-reynolds-isobel

Who else is excited for season 3???

Here’s hoping our long and painful Droughtlander ends soon!

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Thursday Quotables: Leave Me

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Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

NEW! Thursday Quotables is now using a Linky tool! Be sure to add your link if you have a Thursday Quotables post to share.Leave Me

Leave Me by Gayle Forman
(to be released September 6, 2016)

I just read Gayle Forman’s upcoming new release this week — her first book for adults! My review will be along shortly. Meanwhile, here’s a little exchange that made me smile for all the right reasons — an exchange between a pair of roommates who just love to bicker:

“Todd’s all pissy because I went out with Fritz.”

“On a date,” Todd added, as if that sealed the indictment.

“Yes, fine.” Sunita threw up her hands. “On a date.”

“That you didn’t tell me about.”

“That I didn’t tell you about.”

“When it was our night to watch Outlander.”

“We can DVR it. I don’t see see what the big deal is.”

They had me at Outlander.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Click on the linky button (look for the cute froggie face) below to add your link.
  • After you link up, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 2, Episode 13

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The 2nd season of Outlander has reached its end. I’ve been writing an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode right after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 213: “Dragonfly in Amber”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Flashing forward, Claire revisits the past and reveals to her daughter, Brianna, the truth. Back in the 18th century, the Battle of Culloden has arrived, and Jamie must do everything he can to save the ones he loves.

My take:

The Outlander season finale… sob.

Major plot points:

  • In 1968, Claire comes to Inverness with her grown daughter Brianna for the funeral of the Reverend Wakefield, where they meet the adult Roger (who was oh-so-adorable as a small child).
  • Brianna and Roger hit it off and go exploring, including exploring the secrets of Claire and Frank (who is apparently recently deceased).
  • Claire visits Lallybroch and Culloden, reliving memories of the past.
  • Brianna learns the truth about her parentage, but doesn’t believe Claire until she sees Geillis go through the stones.
  • Back in 1746, it’s the day of the battle of Culloden. Desperate, Claire and Jamie scheme to kill Prince Charles in order to stop the rebellion, but they are overheard by Dougal, who attacks Jamie.
  • Jamie kills Dougal. Rupert witnesses the death blow, and agrees to give Jamie two hours to get Claire to safety before he tells others of Dougal’s murder.
  • Jamie takes Claire back to Craigh na Dun. Claire does not want to leave Jamie, but he makes her go in order to protect their unborn child.
  • Jamie and Claire say good-bye, and she returns through the stones to the 20th century.
  • In 1968, Roger and Brianna tell Claire that they’ve discovered proof that Jamie did not die at Culloden, as Claire has believed for the past twenty years.

Insta-reaction:

Wow. What an intense and heart-wrenching season finale — the perfect conclusion to a tumultuous, emotional 2nd season.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Where to start? The 1960s are probably a good place. Well done, show, for the great use of period music, hair styles, and even TV programs. Claire looks amazing in her mod hair-do, silver streaks and all. Claire is one hell of a woman, no matter her age or the era.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Brianna… well, let’s just say that I may need time for her to grow on me. And it’s not the character — book Brianna is fairly bratty and abrasive at first too. No, it’s the actress and her acting. She wasn’t terrible, but she does come across as pretty strident, and I wish we’d had a chance to see positive interactions between Bree and Claire before jumping so quickly into Brianna accusing Claire of adultery, lying, and being a crazy-pants.

Roger is awfully cute, though, and he sang a terrific rat satire for Brianna. Adorable.

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Claire’s journey back through her memories is a heartbreaker. First, she visits Lallybroch, now a boarded-up, desolate shell, where she hears bits and pieces of past voices in her mind, including the romantic poem that is so important in the book.

Claire

Next, she goes to Culloden, where she visits the stone marker for Clan Fraser and spends what appears to be hours telling Jamie all about his daughter and their life over the past 20 years.

culloden

It’s clear that Claire has never gotten over Jamie. She carries such a heavy air of sadness with her. What must it have been like for Brianna to grown up with a mother whose heart was always elsewhere? And how did Claire and Frank manage to stay married all these years, when they both knew she loved someone else? On the plus side for Claire, apparently she focused all her pent-up passion and devotion into her career — she became a surgeon! You go, Claire!

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I got absolute chills in the scene where Brianna is waiting for Roger at the university and approaches a crowd to hear a charismatic speaker talking about Scottish nationalism. Just the sound of that voice — it’s Geillis Duncan, pre-time travel, going by her original name, Gillian Edgars. Wow. I didn’t realize she’d be in this episode (although I suppose I should have anticipated a brief appearance by Geillis, to match book events). Back in season 1 at the witch trial, Geillis told Claire that she’d come from 1968. Toward the end of the episode, Claire, Roger, and Brianna are just in time to see Geillis disappearing through the stones. It’s eerie and lovely all at the same time.

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Okay, back in the bad old days of 1746, the battle seems lost before it’s even begun. Seriously, I wanted to throttle the Bonnie Prince, who refuses to see that his army consists of starving, broken down men who stand absolutely no chance against British soldiers. This is just tragic, and it’s awful to watch, knowing what’s about to happen. No wonder Jamie and Claire feel desperate enough to consider regicide… too bad Dougal showed up in time to interfere.

The fight between Jamie and Dougal was well-done, with every ounce of Dougal’s passions, resentments, and jealousies apparent in every move.

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And oh, that good-bye scene between Jamie and Claire. What is there to even say about it? I thought it was done so beautifully, with Jamie guiding Claire to the stone and holding her hand up to it, knowing she doesn’t have the strength by herself to leave him willingly. Tears… all the tears…

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Insta-reaction wrap-up:

There are big moments — Claire and Jamie’s good-bye tops the list — but small moments of great meaning and power too.

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Jamie sending Fergus back to Lallybroch, after signing the estate over to Jenny’s son so the property won’t be lost to the family. The good-byes between Jamie, Claire, and Fergus. Murtagh agreeing to see the Lallybroch men safely away from battle, but vowing to return to fight and die by Jamie’s side.

A few great little call-backs to earlier themes and episodes… My favorite is Roger saying that Craigh na Dun (where Geillis has just set her husband on fire) is like a “f*cking barbecue”, echoing Geillis’s line from the season 1 witch trial. Having Roger and Brianna tour Ft. William, the scene of Jamie’s flogging, is all kinds of chilling. And let’s not forget that Geillis murdered one husband in season 1, so seeing her get her start by murdering her first husband here in season 2 seems appropriate (and disturbing).

I’m not sure I loved the use of the dragonfly in amber as a token from Claire to Jamie, later seen by Claire in the Culloden museum. It’s kind of a big chunk of rock to tuck inside one’s shirt and carry into battle.

And really, I’m not sold on Brianna, but maybe she’ll grown on me. It didn’t help that Claire has a couple of lines where she talks about Brianna being so like Jamie. It would be fine if there were actually a resemblance, either in looks or gestures or body language, but I’m sorry — apart from red hair, there really isn’t a resemblance, and it felt forced for Claire to act as if there was.

I know some critics and viewers are already complaining that the entire season was a build-up to Culloden — and then the battle didn’t actually happen within the scope of the show. I suppose that’s a fair criticism, but it doesn’t particularly resonate with me as a book reader. In the book (Dragonfly in Amber), we never actually see the battle of Culloden. Jamie forces Claire to leave before the battle, and all we know of it is what Claire knows from history — the British won, the Scots lost, and Jamie and Claire’s scheming and plotting were all for nothing.

I’m okay with the season ending as it did, particularly knowing that the 3rd book fills in so many of the blanks. We can only assume that season 3 will pick up with Jamie and Claire’s story and fill us in on the battle and all of those lost years for both of them.

And furthermore…

It’s been a beautiful, crazy, turbulent season, from Paris aristocrats and royalty, Versailles and brothels, to Scottish lairds and chieftains, Highlands and moors. Visually, it’s been stunning, and oh, the Paris costumes! Kudos and much love and admiration to all of the cast and crew and production team!

The idea of at least two more seasons of Outlander, as confirmed by Starz, is such a thrill. Bring on season 3!

claire2

Yup, so do we all, Claire.

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Thursday Quotables: Written In My Own Heart’s Blood

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Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

NEW! Thursday Quotables is now using a Linky tool! Be sure to add your link if you have a Thursday Quotables post to share.

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Written In My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
(published 2014)

My book group is continuing with our slow and steady re-read of book #8 in the Outlander series, discussing two chapters per week (and with 145 chapters, as you can imagine, it’ll take us a while yet to get through it all!) Here’s a snippet from one of this week’s chapters that made me smile — a little exchange between a Quaker and a Scot/Mohawk who are soon to become brothers-in-law:

A certain tenseness in Denny’s shoulders relaxed. “Scouts are not required to kill the enemy, are they?”

“No, we’ve our choice about it,” Ian assured him, straight-faced. “We can kill them if we like — but just for the fun of it, ken. It doesna really count.”

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Click on the linky button (look for the cute froggie face) below to add your link.
  • After you link up, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 2, Episode 12

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The 2nd season of Outlander is almost over (sob). I’m writing an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode right after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 212: “The Hail Mary”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

As Jamie puts all of his efforts into turning the Jacobite army away from the impending slaughter, Claire attempts to comfort the sick Alex Randall. Alex reveals an outrageous plan to save the mother of his child.

My take:

Last episode before the season finale…

Major plot points:

  • The Jacobite army is miserable and starving.
  • The Prince is as clueless as ever.
  • As of the start of the episode, the Battle of Culloden is only three days away. Jamie is still trying his damnedest to avert catastrophe, but it’s not looking good.
  • When Claire goes into Inverness to restock her medical supplies, she runs into Mary Hawkins. Mary is living with Alex Randall, and tells Claire they plan to marry. However, Alex is clearly dying.
  • Jonathan Randall turns up, out of uniform, to tend to his brother. In exchange for Claire’s medical assistance, he gives Claire information on the whereabouts of Cumberland’s army.
  • Jamie hatches a plan to sneak up on Cumberland and launch a surprise attack, but Prince Charles mucks it up, as expected. Now Culloden seems inevitable.
  • Alex’s dying wish is for BJR to marry Mary, so that she and her (Alex’s) unborn child will have legitimacy and protection.
  • Colum is dying too, and names his son Hamish as the next clan leader, with Jamie to serve as guardian until Hamish comes of age.
  • Two men witness their brothers’ deaths — Jonathan Randall and Dougal MacKenzie — and are left to pick up the pieces.

Insta-reaction:

The season is hurtling toward the end, which means the action is hurtling toward Culloden. No matter what Jamie and Claire try, it can’t be stopped. Jamie fails to convince the Prince that Culloden Moor is the absolutely wrong choice for a place to fight the British. Charles doesn’t listen. Jamie plans a potentially powerful sneak attack on Cumberland, and Charles screws it up. Is the lesson here that fate can’t be tampered with? That Culloden will happen, because it’s a fixed point in history that was always going to happen?

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Ugh. Bonnie Prince Charlie sucks. Hi, Jamie’s knee!

The Jacobites are wet, tired, and hungry. If Charles is looking for a strong fighting force to take a stand for his cause — well, this isn’t it. Sadly, the men seem to know it too. They’re surviving on broth made from what looks like a bunch of weeds. Even at full strength, they’d stand little chance against British cannons, but as is, it’s so clear that the battle will be a slaughter.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Meanwhile, the Mary/Alex/BJR storyline is quite well done. We’re used to seeing Black Jack Randall as pure monster, but here at last we see that he has some shred of humanity that’s manifested in his love for his brother. He initially refuses Alex’s plea for him to marry Mary. He promises to look after Mary and the child, and urges Alex to marry her before he dies. But Alex has no estate or fortune to leave her. Claire reminds BJR of the curse she put on him at Wentworth, telling him the day of his death — April 16, 1746, the day of the battle at Culloden. If BJR marries Mary and then dies, she’ll be left a wealthy and respectable widow with the captain’s pension to support her for the rest of her days.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Could a bride look any more miserable?

Claire and Murtagh witness the marriage of BJR and Mary, with the ceremony conducted at the foot of Alex’s bed as he lays dying. In the book, Claire and Jamie are there, but I think it’s actually a wise choice to leave Jamie out of the scenes with BJR. There just isn’t enough time left in the episode or in the season to delve into Jamie and BJR’s complex relationship and the emotional fall-out Jamie would suffer from being in the same room as him. Alex’s death and Mary’s marriage worked just fine as it was presented.

Colum’s arrival was well played as well. He’s also dying, but first makes sure to announce his plans for the clan succession. Dougal is devastated — why wasn’t he chosen to be the next laird? But Colum points out that the men of the clan won’t follow Dougal; if it were otherwise, Dougal would have men with him at the Jacobite camp (which he doesn’t). Further, Colum knows that Jamie will always put his men before the cause, but Dougal can’t say the same — he’d sacrifice himself and all of the MacKenzies for the rightful king. Colum dies after taking the medicine Claire has left him with, allowing him to die quickly and painlessly… and dying before he can hear Dougal’s pained speech about his love — and resentment — for his brother.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Two deaths, two brothers — interesting contrasts with the dying men’s last wishes and the willingness of those left behind to carry them out.

Meanwhile, Claire and Jamie are out of time. By the end of the episode, all efforts have failed. Culloden is the next day, and nothing will stop it.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

What is there to say? We’ve been building to this moment all season. All of the plotting and scheming that Claire and Jamie have done — and it’s all led back to the same outcome. Claire looks hopeless throughout much of the episode. She’s not one to give up, but she sees that there’s no way out of what’s to come. It’s heartbreaking.

Outlander Season 2 2016

And furthermore…

One sweet and unexpected moment is thanks to Murtagh. Rather than see Mary marry a monster like Jonathan Randall, Murtagh tells Claire he’ll marry Mary himself. It’s a sweet little speech he makes, about never having married or had children, but how he’s been a good godfather to Jamie and how he’ll protect Mary and the child as his own family. You can see that as Murtagh talks, he actually kind of likes the idea. Not that he loves Mary, but I think he’s taken up by the sweet little picture he’s created of himself with a pretty little wife and a child to raise. Claire brings him back down to earth, of course, pointing out that none of them may survive Culloden, and only by marrying BJR will Mary be provided for as a widow.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Still, bless Murtagh and his big, gruff heart!

… which makes me even more apprehensive about watching the season finale. Please, please, please don’t stick to the book when it comes to who lives and who dies! I don’t think my heart can take losing Murtagh. (Sob, sob, sob)

 

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 2, Episode 11

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The 2nd season of Outlander is entering the home stretch. I’m writing an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode right after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 211: “Vengeance Is Mine”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Claire and the Highlanders are sent north after the Jacobite leaders decide to halt their march on London. A band of redcoats makes trouble for the Scots, leading to a most unexpected reunion for Claire.

My take:

3rd to last episode of the season!

Major plot points:

  • The Prince’s army has advanced into northern England, but lacking the support of his generals to march on and attack London, the Prince has no choice but to turn back and return north into Scotland.
  • Jamie and Claire set out to lead the Lallybroch men to Inverness, but they’re attacked by redcoats along the way.
  • After being cornered in a church, Jamie agrees with Claire’s plan to trade her (as a pretend hostage) to the British in exchange for the Scots’ safe passage. Jamie and Claire plan to reconnect near the garrison to which Claire will most likely be taken.
  • After some convoluted back and forth, Claire ends up as a “guest” (prisoner) of the Duke of Sandringham.
  • Claire realizes that the Duke’s servant is the one who attacked her and Mary in Paris. The Duke admits that he arranged the attack and rape as a way to pay off a debt owed to the Comte St. Germain.
  • The Duke has set a trap for Jamie, but he’s able to rescue Claire and Mary (the Duke’s goddaughter, also staying at his home).
  • Murtagh cuts off the Duke’s head, Mary stabs her rapist, and they all make their escape.

Insta-reaction:

This episode was written by Diana Gabaldon herself, and it’s great to see her take on this action-packed segment of the story. People who expected Diana’s screenplay to exactly mirror the book were undoubtedly surprised — proving once and for all that this is an adaptation, and that even Herself changes the source material to fit a new medium.

Okay, descending from soapbox.

11/01-03 Int Tavern. Princes Charles convinced to return to Scotland, Jamie disagrees 11/08 Jamie says a prayer over Claire

Another terrific episode! The initial scene has the Prince demanding that his generals heed his call to march on London. The military men unanimously feel that it would be a foolhardy mission and basically refuse. Only Jamie stands by the Prince and tries to rally the others, but to no avail. Why does Jamie support the Prince? Not because it makes sense militarily, that’s for sure. It’s clear that Jamie is keeping in mind all that he’s learned from Claire, including the fact that the Jacobites never did advance on London. If Jamie can make it happen this time, then perhaps the further outcomes can be changed too… but alas, the plan fails.

Dougal makes a return from his exile to deliver a message to Jamie. The Prince and his cronies have already departed, and Jamie is to take the Lallybroch men to Inverness to await further orders. Jamie and Claire exchange a brief, ironic look, seeing as the last time Claire was in Inverness was 200 years in the future!

The escape on horseback, trying to outrun and evade the pursuing redcoats, is quite well done, with our little band of heroes galloping through the woods and Dougal making an impressive jump from his horse to Rupert’s in order to save Rupert from falling off.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Rupert is shot in the eye, but survives. Claire gets the chance to perform all sorts of nasty medical procedures in this episode, from tooth extractions to pulling the bullet out of Rupert’s eye socket. That woman has got a backbone made of steel!

Outlander Season 2 2016

The Duke is as sly and slimy as ever, playing Claire and setting a trap for Jamie. It’s great to see Mary step up and fight back, rather than remaining the meek little girl, “soiled goods” to be married off to whomever the Duke considers most advantageous for himself. Hugh Munro makes a welcome reappearance as well, acting as go-between to make sure that Jamie knows where Claire is.

hugh

Murtagh sure can swing an axe! The end of the Duke is bloody and splattery. Remember back in Paris, after the attack in the streets, when Murtagh swore he’d lay vengeance at Claire’s feet? Well, now he literally has, placing the Duke’s severed head right in front of Claire’s toes.

Outlander Season 2 2016

It is a totally engrossing episode, and the action pretty much never lets up. Claire was in full-on badass mode, and it looked good on her! I hate knowing that the end is near and that disaster is just ahead, but at least this episode didn’t leave such a foreboding of tragedy as the previous one did.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Rupert is mourning his friend Angus the only way he knows how, by telling stories about Angus’s missing front teeth and other randomly weird facts. So, in comradely support of Rupert, I’m including this picture from last week, because I miss Angus too!

angus

And furthermore…

While packed with action, the episode still allowed room for some more personal moments, such as Jamie saying a prayer over Claire as she sleeps before joining her in bed. It’s a sweet, tender moment that shows the depth of love and commitment between Jamie and Claire. Their love is so strong that even a moment of simply a quiet embrace tells the whole story of their devotion to one another.

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It’s hard to believe we’re already so close to the end of the season! It seems like there’s still a lot of story to cover in the next two episodes — Alex Randall, Culloden, and Claire in the 20th century, as well as Roger and Brianna and Claire’s big reveal to them. I have such faith in the production team, though! I’m sure the next two episodes will be heartbreaking and amazing.

And now that we know that there will be at least two more seasons, we can all breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that this wonderful story will continue onward!

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 2, Episode 10

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The 2nd season of Outlander is entering the home stretch. I’m writing an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode right after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 210: “Prestonpans”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Trusting in Claire’s knowledge of “history”, Jamie leads the Jacobite army into a critical battle with British opposition. Meanwhile, Claire attends to the dead and dying, a reminder of the truest cost of war.

My take:

Outlander goes to war…

Major plot points:

  • It’s the Battle of Prestonpans, in which a surprise attack allows the Jacobites to defeat the British in a brief and bloody battle.
  • Jamie takes command and leads the Highland troups.
  • Dougal is fierce in battle, but takes a bit too much delight in gory bloodshed, and ends up earning the disgust of Bonnie Prince Charlie.
  • Rupert seems gravely wounded, but it’s Angus who ends up dying from his battle injury.
  • Fergus sneaks off to fight, but is shocked beyond measure by the experience.
  • Claire’s knowledge of history is proven correct, as the Jacobites win the battle — but that would seem to prove as well that the disaster at Culloden is inevitable.

Insta-reaction:

What a bloody, violent episode. As in the book, by this point in the story the war takes precedence over everything else. Claire and Jamie are fighting on the same side — he with a sword, she with her clean surgical tools and honey water.

The directing and production values of the episode are stellar. The battle is shown in all its awful gore, and it’s not at all glamorized. The devastation of man-to-man combat is horrific. There’s really not much to say about it. War is hell, and Outlander doesn’t flinch from showing it as such.

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j4

Dougal is startling in this episode. He’s hungry for the Prince’s regard, and earns it early on by scouting out the bogland that lies between the Scottish and British armies, but loses Charles’s favor when he glories a bit too much in the death of the British soldiers — who are, after all, King James’s subjects, just like the Scottish. While Prince Charles is dedicated to providing medical care and honorable treatment to the British prisoners, Dougal thirsts for blood. Only Jamie’s intervention prevents Charles from permanently exiling Dougal.

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Fergus’s eagerness to be a part of the fight brings him to a battle that he’s not prepared for, and Claire’s comforting of him afterward shows how strongly maternal she feels toward Fergus, who has in essence become an adopted son for Claire and Jamie.

Angus’s death is unexpected and shocking. Book readers know that, in the books, Rupert dies after a different battle (and who knows, he still may). As Angus watches over a gravely wounded Rupert, I couldn’t help wondering if this was the moment, and steeled myself to say good-bye to a character I’m quite fond of. And then Angus keels over, dying suddenly from the injury caused by a cannon blast — severe internal bleeding that went unnoticed. There’s nothing to be done; Claire is powerless to save Angus.

RIP, Angus. We'll miss you.

RIP, Angus. We’ll miss you.

It’s a solemn end to the episode, as even in victory, the men toast and sing to their fallen comrades. For Jamie and Claire, there’s the thrill of surviving the day’s battle, but the anguish of seeing history unfold just as Claire knows it to be. If Prestonpans unfolded exactly as it did in history, then nothing has changed, and perhaps this demonstrates once and for all that nothing can change. And in that case, the slaughter at Culloden will happen, must happen, and Claire and Jamie both know it.

Heartbreaking.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

This was a well-done, masterfully produced episode that was violent and disturbing, yet left me a bit cold. Even though I admire the way it was done, an episode devoted almost solely to battle left me disheartened and wishing for more personal interactions. And yet, knowing the book, I know that there’s little time left for Jamie and Claire. At this point in the story, there’s no more room for exploring their love and commitment. The clock is ticking; Culloden is drawing near.

Even though Prestonpans was a win for the Jacobites, it’s plain to see that it’s all just a bloody waste. They’re hopelessly outmatched when it comes to the full might of the British army, and their ultimate defeat is inevitable. Given that, it’s like watching a tragedy unfold in slow motion.

We know from episode 1 of this season that it won’t end well, and that Jamie and Claire will be separated. Knowing what’s coming, each episode that brings the end closer is just another twist of the knife, another reason for heart-ache.

And furthermore…

The battle was bloody and terrible, but perhaps the most disturbing piece of all was watching Dougal move from one wounded British soldier to another after the battle, finishing off any who’d survived. Disgusting… and his murder of Lieutenant Foster was extremely shocking and brutal. Dougal’s always been a hard character to feel any kindness toward, but there’s been a noble edge to his overall bastardness that makes him somehow grand, even though he’s a sexist, manipulative schemer. At this point, though, it’s pretty much impossible to feel anything but disgust for him.

I hate to end this insta-reaction on such a down note, so here’s a cute Fergus picture to sustain us:

8/ 06  Ext Lallybroch Jamie & Claire prepare to leave:  Fergus can't travel with them. Claire takes a look back as she leaves

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