The beginning of forever…A Reflection on Outlander 3.13 “Eye of the Storm”

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I’ve been waiting for that moment. I’ve been waiting for that moment when I would know that they know. When our hero introduces himself and his wife to the young Georgian family, he understands that for the first time in decades he is free to be himself without fear or subterfuge.  He is James Fraser and the woman safe in his arms is his heart, his love, his wife, Claire… who has promised never to leave him.  I’ve been waiting for forever to begin and this week it did. They are truly together, two halves of one whole.

Kudos to Matt B Roberts on his directorial debut and congrats to the writers’ room who somehow managed to wrestle this monster of a story into 13 episodes.  There were so many wonderful nods to the source material and its fans and yet enough surprises to keep me wondering what would happen next!  I love the show’s ability to call us back to previous scenes and seasons.  The Faith music caused me to get chills and they gave us a story that has come full circle.  The season began with Jamie near death and ends with Claire near death.  The dancing, so different and yet so reminiscent of Craig Na Dun, was a wonderful connection that explained the presence of the maroons.  And, constantly, woven throughout the story is the thread of fate.  We are reminded that all of this was meant to be and that there are forces beyond our understanding at work to both separate our two and keep them together.  There was a supernatural battle being fought for the shape of the future.  I had to wonder whether Zeus and Hera were at it again.

Saving Bree

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I was so proud of the observations I garnered from the last episode.  I talked about the differences between the two time travelers Gellis and Claire.  The scenes in Rose Hall bore out what I thought.  Gellis has completely identified herself with her ability to travel. Claire accepts it as just part of who she is, but it isn’t her identity.  I loved the interplay between the two.  The cat and mouse game was fascinating.  Our Claire is such a bad liar and Caitriona played it off so well, “My driver dropped me off at the bottom of the lane and I got lost trying to find the house…”.  yeah…riiiighttttt. On some level, we got the feeling that Gellis really wants to believe that Claire is her friend.  I believed her when she said it has been hard.  She is tearful when she asks Claire why she has pursued her all these years especially after she sacrificed everything for her at Cranesmuir. She is the outsider of all outsiders.  Gellis has never met another traveler besides Claire and she feels a connection to her and yet, she cannot trust her, “Why are you here?”  They come together “ominously” according to Gellis.  Claire is smart, but she cannot keep up with the deceptive Gellis.  She cannot think like Gellis because she hasn’t her motivation and mindset, her sacrifices for the “greater good” aren’t motivated by power. So, she reveals the very thing she shouldn’t in an effort to gain Gellis’ trust, Bree.  When we see Claire at the end of the scene looking around the hall, I could practically hear her saying to herself, “what the hell just happened?”

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Lord John!  What a great scene, played to perfection.  I loved that Jamie seemed a bit surprised at John’s ability to navigate this situation and his power play.  John large and in charge was a beautiful and sexy sight to behold! I loved Lt/Capt Leonard’s comeuppance, he deserved it the ungrateful little upstart. John is all a man should be, generous, loyal, loving, kind, and strong. I’m still hopeful Diana will write him a partner worthy of the wonderful man he is.

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The show keeps giving us great couples to love. We see the reflection of Jamie and Claire’s relationship in Fergus and Marsali and what wasn’t there to love about Margret and Mr. Willoughby? The show gave us another couple who loves beyond all understanding.  I admit to feeling that they and Jamie and Claire were very out-of-place in their surroundings.  They didn’t fit and I was a bit jarred by all that was going on around them. The frenetic dancing and voodoo like ceremony seemed so incongruous with Margret’s smiles and her holding “psychic” court.  Tein Cho’s assertion that they had been invited by these “kind people” was in direct contrast with the stereotypes around them.  It helped me see it all in a different light.  I got the feeling that this ceremony was ancient and wanted to know what the other ceremonies for standing stones and fire days looked like around the world.

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I love that Jamie and Claire are completely working together as a team.  The call back to Faith and their commitment to their daughter Bree was powerful.  They were in complete understanding, sealed with a kiss and a familiar nod.  Let’s do this.  What followed was primal. Claire was fulfilling her destiny.  I found myself wondering at the powers that were controlling or attempting to control them.  I’m not sure if Zeus or Hera won, but Bree is safe from the zealot Gellis. We were given a moment to fear that Claire was being drawn back through the stones and the only thing powerful enough to combat its lure was Jamie’s touch.  It is a lovely extended visual metaphor, the power of their reaching hands, we have seen them reach out to each other so often.  And, Jamie’s last look at Bree’s photo was everything. I loved that Jamie took the time to reassure Ian and Claire and drew them into an embrace and held them close.  At that point, I felt we all needed a hug!

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With time to serve her suitably

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True to form, Jamie and Claire have drawn close through facing difficulty together.  If there were any barriers left between the two they have been broken down by the time they are back on board the Artemis.  I loved that the show slowed things down and gave us this wonderful scene.  I was so happy to see them flirting and teasing.  The humor between these two is a joy that I have missed.  They are comfortable with each other once again.  You can feel the trust and confidence in their love and their future together.  It feels solid and true.  I recognized this couple.  They are altered by experience, but I recognized them nonetheless.  This was Jamie and his Claire, Claire and her Jamie, reveling in each other.

The Eye of the Storm

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I have given the next series of events a lot of thought.  It was fantastical to be sure.  At first, I was struck by how over the top it all was.  How in the world did Jamie know where to find her in that roiling sea and how could he have swam to her? Jamie is great, but that great?  So, I asked myself, why.  Why, did Matt and Toni and the others choose to play this in such an over the top way?  They certainly had the power to do it differently. What were they trying to tell us?  I thought and I thought and I came to the conclusion that it didn’t matter.  It was a full-out, over the top, love letter to this couple and the thing between them that they cannot name, but is always there.  Why wouldn’t Jamie jump into the sea after Claire?  She would jump into the sea after him, or storm a prison, or travel through stones. Why would the thing between them not draw him to her? Why wouldn’t Zeus or Hera intervene to save them? One of them put them in a hurricane, why wouldn’t the other place them in the eye of the storm?

Forever Begins

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The story has shifted gears, it is no longer about falling in love or finding a way back to each other, but about how people stay in love.  The show has a chance to break new ground once more.  They can show us the intricacies of a long and loving marriage.  They can show us two people who are building a life together and stay together.  No matter what they face, and the Gods know they are always facing something, the love they share is a calm center in the storm.  Jamie and Claire are the core of this story, they are the anchor we hold on to that keeps us all enthralled and believing in the possibility of a love that is all that it should be.  I fell in love with the Jamie and Claire in Diana’s books and I’ve fallen in love with the Jamie and Claire in Ron’s show.  Both couples have a lot to tell us about living and love and I for one, am ready for the new world.

 

 

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“The show lives forever…” a mid season reflection on Outlander Season 3

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Sarah Y. @Meowzilla Replying to @RonDMoore
Was surprised by (-) reaction this season. Most fans ❤ it. Do u do pep talk w cast & crew since u’ve experienced this w trek?
Ronald D. Moore @RonDMoore
I tell everyone not to get too caught up in the reactions of the moment. The show lives forever, that’s the important thing.

 

I’m sure Sarah Y’s question was sparked by some of the stuff that has gone down in the fandom in the last three weeks. I believe that Sarah is right, most fans are thrilled with the show and believe it is one of the best things on TV , but…there is a vocal contingent that feels less so. Their dissatisfaction is one of the things that has been bumping around my brain this week.  The discontent seems to be centered around the adaptation of the book and perceived changes to the characters.

 A commenter on DG’s page that is representative of concerns, but not abusive:

@knoxnervig  Replying to @Writer_DG   I think the need to “normalize” tv Jaimie has taken away from the integrity of the book Jaime.
A commenter on my blog page:

fclarecat: We have had the joy of an outstanding season; given by a team of incredibly talented people. Yet for some reason there have been some very disturbing comments on fan sites.
Reading is a very intimate form of art appreciation. No one can reproduce that imagined by one, in a visual medium.
No one works on Outlander because they hate it. Personally, I am grateful that something I hold dear, is now given to us on film.
One may make a comment, or state an opinion respectfully. Personal attack has no place in this wonderful Outlander family

I’ve written before that is difficult for book fans to objectively watch the show and I have often found myself jealous of those who watch the show first and then read the books.  They get to enjoy both in a way I’ll never get to experience.  Love this comment from an AVclub article discussing adapting books to screen.

Going from a derivative work to its source, people tend to expect fidelity less than when they start with the original, then move to the adaptation…When I read the book first, I go to the movie expecting to see a strict translation of what I saw onto the screen, even if that’s not truly what I want, or what best serves the story. Whereas when I see the movie first, I go to the book looking not for the same story, but for a greater insight into the characters…  Robinson

You cannot undo what you know or completely separate yourself from your expectations, even if you want to.

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Another idea bumping around my head this week was the benefits of bingeing a series and the pitfalls of episodic TV.  A friend said that she went back during the last drought and watched the show in binge format.  She said she was amazed at the flow of the story and how differently she felt watching episodes back to back. Her experience was much more positive. We both speculated on the impact of weekly episodes on the perception of the shows success by fans.  The show’s creative team works hard to adapt the source material into 13 separate, yet connected story arcs, an episode. Some folks enjoy having to wait a week to see what happens next or get their questions answered, they enjoy the speculation around the water cooler on Monday morning. However, I’ve come to believe, along with my friend, that the show’s episodic format contributes to a lot of the angst in the fandom.  I saw Ron’s advice to cast and writers, to not get caught up in immediate reactions, play out this week. I saw some fans’ rage and turmoil turn on a dime or episode 308, as the case may be.  The writers and producers have a long-range plan for the story arc and I have come to understand that we really need to withhold judgement of the success of the series until the end of the season, if not longer and not get caught up in our own immediate reactions.  Book/series fans reactions are volatile and we are not necessarily reliable narrators of the series weekly success.  We have too much of a personal stake in how we think this story should be told. I struggled with this very thing while watching “A. Malcolm”.

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The second half of Ron’s tweet also peaked my interest, ” The show lives forever, that’s the important thing”.  I wondered what makes one TV show better than another and gives it the chance to be remembered as a great show.  Ron tweeted that they try to please both book and non reading fans, but ultimately, they are trying to tell the best story they can tell.  I, for one, am thankful they are not influenced by the whims or immediate reactions of fans.  I know that some fans have running issues with how the characters are being portrayed and I know the writers and producers do read and respond to fan feedback, but that feedback cannot be the driving force behind creative choices.  From the AVclub article:

…Both book and film should be addressed as independent entities. …This means not going into an adaptation with a mental checklist of things that must be in the movie to make it good, and evaluating a film based on what’s on the screen, not what got left off. In that sense, a “good adaptation” may have to involve a good-faith effort from the viewers, who participate in the process by giving that story a chance on its own terms… But it takes two to tango. If viewers have a responsibility not to see a book as an unalterable outline for the film, then filmmakers have a responsibility to respect the book, to acknowledge that there’s a reason they’re telling this story, rather than another story altogether… Filmmakers should ask “What in this book do I want to emphasize?” The key words are “in this book.” Meaning, part of a good adaptation is knowing what to cut or revise, even if it makes the fans cry, but part of it is maintaining a meaningful relationship to the source material. Robinson

I went in search of criteria for what makes a “quality” TV series that will “last forever” and whether Outlander fits that criteria.  Please understand that my “lite” research is in no way exhaustive or particularly academic. I just read what I can find and use it to make meaning for myself.  Having qualified my bonafides, I did find some interesting stuff.  The study of what makes “quality” TV is a fairly new one and has picked up steam since the cable and streaming programming have increased their presence in the landscape of what is available for us to view.  I found some of the same scholars being quoted and cited in most of the articles and information I read.

One of those people most often quoted or cited was Robert Thompson.  He is considered an expert in TV.  He teaches on the subject, is founder of Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture and has authored, co-authored, or edited six books on the subject.  Here is his take on what constitutes quality TV.

Robert Thompson: …quality television has the following characteristics: It must break the established rules of television and be like nothing that has come before. It is produced by people of quality aesthetic ancestry, who have honed their skills in other areas, particularly film. It attracts a quality audience. It succeeds against the odds, after initial struggles. It has large ensemble cast which allows for multiple plot lines. It has memory, referring back to previous episodes and seasons in the development of plot. It defies genre classification. It tends to be literary. It contains sharp social and cultural criticisms with cultural references and allusions to popular culture. It tends toward the controversial. It aspires toward realism. Finally, it is recognized and appreciated by critics, with awards and critical acclaim…

I found myself mentally ticking off the boxes in regards to Outlander.  

Break the established rules of television

From the very beginning this show has shown itself to be willing to take risks and create itself outside of the box.  The biggest risk being bucking the idea that a show marketed to women was destined to fail.

Like nothing that has come before

Like the books they are based on.  Have you ever try to tell someone what this show is about?

Produced by people with quality aesthetic ancestry

Ron Moore and company have a track record that impresses and his work continues to held up as an example of what can be done in television. This show is no small undertaking.

Attracts a quality audience

The ready-made base for this show were intelligent, educated women from all walks of life from around the world.  These were women who were in love with “big books” that bent genre were richly full of details and that spoke to the truths and ironies of life with characters who struggled with hard choices and for the most part chose to do the right thing despite the cost to themselves.  Not everyone in the fandom is there for the deeper story, but many are. I love it when I see folks who thought the story was “housewife porn” catch on and become wowed by this story.

Outlander is already considered a phenomenon to those who have fallen under the spell of the books and this exceptional adaptation. In its third year on TV, it feels primed to break through even wider, not just as a filler of the Game of Thrones void, but as an emotionally rich, powerful piece of storytelling in its own right.

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Succeeds against the odds after initial struggles

Those of us around since the beginning remember the initial reviews for the series.  We were disappointed that critics were just buying into and repeating “pop culture” cliches surrounding the buzz about the story and not giving it a chance.  The ready made fan base, “the book fans”, knew this story and its depth and adventure.  Our battle cry was “just wait and you’ll see” and they did.

…But tucked inside Outlander‘s salacious exterior is an intelligent, well-acted drama about the nature of love and intimacy, with an often radical position on sex…. NPR

Large ensemble cast allowing for multiple plot lines

As the story progresses and we see new characters added, we will see more plot lines with Jamie and Claire the matriarch and patriarch of a large extended family and story. We will become invested in the stories of Roger and Bree, Fergus and Marsali, Wee Ian, Auntie Jocasta, Lord John, and all of the folks on Fraser’s Ridge.

It has memory

This is one of the things I am most enamored of in this series. They are always calling us back to events in the story with beautiful parallels, dialogue, and visual metaphors.

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Defies genre classification

A historical, sci-fi, adventure, romance…did I miss anything?

Tends to be literary

A book adaptation.

Social and cultural criticisms

They are subtle and the more effective for it, in my humble opinion. The treatment of and value of women is one of the key criticisms and a timely one.

Tends toward the controversial

Think about the subjects this show hasn’t been afraid to tackle, from male rape to miscarriage.

Aspires toward realism

The detail and care given to suspending our disbelief is staggering.  Everything is telling us a story and everything is thought out.  Terry Dresbach, the show’s costume designer, Jon Gary Steele, production designer, the writers and producers, the actors have all taken the time to share the inner workings of the their jobs and how much they think about the story and how to present it to us. They have given us realistic standing stones and mystical ceremonies, Scottish and French castles, witch trials and apothecaries, battles and prisons, print shops, brothels, and ocean voyages.  It is a show wrapped in a fantasy, but I challenge anyone who suggests this show doesn’t strive to show us the truth in relationships, war, loss, and love wrapped in a richly detailed and realistically beautiful package.

Recognized and appreciated by critics, with awards and critical acclaim

Well! Yes, more and more. #Goldenglobes

…Often the Starz drama is lauded for its incredible set and costume design and ambitious cinematic scope, but the series’ pensive, poetic exploration of the human heart’s mysteries, and the quixotic nobility of commitment, is singularly brilliant and underappreciated in the realm of top shelf TV dramas. Salon

 

As you can see, Outlander easily meets the criteria Robert Thompson sets forth for Quality TV.

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Another expert:

Dorothy Swanson  (Viewers for Quality Television) argued that “A ‘quality show’ is something we anticipate before and savor after. It focuses more on relationships than situations; it explores character, it enlightens, challenges, involves and confronts the viewer; it provokes thought and is remembered tomorrow. A quality show colors life in shades of grey.”

This show does focus on relationships, provokes thought, and despite the frustration of some fans lets us see life and our characters as complicated imperfect people and their life choices in “shades of grey”.  We anticipate each episode and savor after (how many times have you watched the print shop, lol).  I anticipate re watching these shows for years to come just like I re read the books.

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Amateur critics

One of the interesting phenomena I read about when researching this topic was the rise of amateur critics due to the easy accessibility afforded by the internet.  I guess I should consider myself one of these at this point!  I watch and continue to watch Outlander because it continues to hold my interest and I am fascinated by the creative choices that are bringing my favorite characters and stories to life.  The characters and story are recognizably Outlander and yet, uniquely it’s own entity and I am enjoying the hell out of ride this team of hardworking creatives is taking me on.  Will this story last forever? Yeah, I think it will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPOILERS: Ian Fraser Murray…trouble magnet, mother’s curse and wolf’s brother…

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John Bell is playing Ian Fraser Murray in Outlander

 

 

I have a friend who has to practice patience because her nature is in short supply.  She tries very hard not to frown or express her frustration, disapproval or downright anger because she is aware that she has a tendency to overreact and walking through life expecting to be pissed off at any moment doesn’t bring her much peace.  You would think the universe would repay her efforts by subjecting her to less motivation for pissed-offness.  But, no…if there is an inexperienced sales-person or cashier or bank-teller or person who could be called for all intensive and expedient purposes an idiot, they are completely attracted to her.  Watching her trying to practice patience amidst all the provocation is almost painful and yet, somewhat comical. After she has calmed down from the latest provocation, we often have a good laugh about her being a trouble magnet.

I was thinking about my friend today while thinking about Outlander on Starz introducing us to one of my favorite characters, Ian Fraser Murray. Like my friend, Young Ian is a magnet for trouble and has been since the day he was born. I think it is only fitting that Jamie Fraser was there the day his nephew Ian arrived and that they would both get into trouble together almost immediately. 

If you remember, Jamie has come down from the cave to Lallybroch because he is concerned about Jenny giving birth while her husband is gone.  Superstitious Jamie sees three black corbies outside the house and shoots at the bad omens.  Reassuring everyone in the house that it was just an accident, Jamie goes upstairs to check on his sister who has just given birth to her new son, young Ian. Jenny always concerned for her brother’s lonely state, talks to him of the future and remarriage.  Jamie is holding his new-born nephew and becomes visibly agitated with his sister’s meddling and it is perhaps why he didn’t hear the redcoats until it was almost too late.  Upon hearing the soldiers, he jumps into the big wardrobe to hide, but he still has baby Ian in his arms.  Quick thinking by Jenny and Jamie’s tucking his thumb into the about to wail infant’s mouth saves them from certain discovery.

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It won’t be the last time Ian and Jamie have a close call because if there is an unusual situation fraught with peril it is completely attracted to Young Ian and this causes no shortage of trouble for those who love him. Jamie explains to Claire that Ian is indeed one of those people whom things happen to through no real fault of their own…ie: trouble magnet.  And, like my friend who attracts the inept or idiotic, although not funny at the time, there is often a lot to chuckle about after the fact.  Some of the most heart warming and funny scenes in the books revolve around Ian and unusual situations he gets into.  In fact, most of Voyager’s action revolves around trying to rescue the adorably awkward young Ian from one scrape or another, from the fire at the print shop to his kidnapping and rescue.  Diana’s description of Young Ian as a baby stork, nearly burnt and definitely singed, pink skinned, missing eyebrows and some hair, is definitely comical.   In Drums of Autumn, his sincere, but rushed proposal to Brianna, hair slicked back with bear grease in an attempt to look presentable…comical. His good bye to his uncle while wearing a newly plucked hairline and tattooed face? His revealing to Bree his reasons for returning home from the Mowhawk? Not amusing even upon restrospect, but instead some of the most deeply moving scenes I have ever read.  Kudos to Diana Gabaladon for creating such well developed and human characters and situations.

One of my favorite scenes between the two is when the prodigal sons return to Lallybroch to face rightfully angry parents, Ian and Jenny, who give Jamie a taste of what it must have been like for his own father.

“Well,” said Ian slowly, “as I’ve told the lad he’s going to be thrashed, and he kens verra well he’s earned it, I canna just go back on my word. But as for me doing it–no, I dinna think I will.” A faint gleam of humor showed in the soft brown eyes. He reached into a drawer of the sideboard, drew out a thick leather strap, and thrust it into Jamie’s hand. “You do it.”
“Me?” Jamie was horror-struck. He made a futile attempt to shove the strap back into Ian’s hand, but his brother-in-law ignored it. “I canna thrash the lad!”
“Oh, I think ye can,” Ian said calmly, folding his arms. “Ye’ve said often enough ye care for him as though he were your son.” He tilted his head to one side, and while his expression stayed mild, the brown eyes were implacable. “Well, I’ll tell ye, Jamie–it’s no that easy to be his Da; best ye go and find that out now, aye?”

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I’ve always mourned Jamie’s not being able to raise his own children. But, thank goodness Diana did not spare him or us the joy of watching him navigate the waters of parenthood, albeit through children not of his loins.  There are so many wonderful scenes between Jamie and Young Ian of the completely frustrating and irritating joys of parenthood. You all know the mother’s curse right? “Someday I hope you’ll have a child just like you”?  I love how Diana Gabaldon is constantly playing with expectations in her stories.  Young Jamie is more like the older Ian in temperament and young Ian is more like Jamie, a Fraser through and through.  I think Young Ian is Jamie’s mother’s curse, a child much like himself.  Ian isn’t as biddable as his other siblings and gives his parents a lot more trouble.  Ian doesn’t appear to be satisfied to stay home and farm, he possesses a lust for adventure and life beyond what can be offered at Lalleybroch.  Like Jamie, he is funny without meaning to be and a curious combination of wordly wise and wided eyed innocence. Like Jamie, Young Ian appears to understand the truth about the world and the people in it. Like his uncle, Young Ian seems to move effortlessly from one world to the other from Highland lad to Mowhawk and back again.  He is self-assured, but not arrogant. He is truthful and willing to admit his mistakes.  Like his uncle, Ian is fiercely loyal and protective of those whom he sees as his responsibility.  And, like his father, Young Ian is always there to protect Jamie’s weak side.

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Diana’s choice to have Young Ian’s identity so closely linked to the wolf is a brilliant and apt one.  Wolves have a high degree of adaptability.  They learn easily and retain their knowledge for a long period of time.  They form strong emotional attachments.  Ian, Wolf’s Brother, is indeed himself a tame wolf and all that entails.  He is gentle and affable, but can be become every bit the feral “wolf” when the need to protect his clan is called.  He loves unconditionally and ferociously.   I just got done re reading Written in My Hearts Own Blood and was struck by the man young Ian had become and his capacity to love unconditionally.  I especially love the relationship between Young Ian and William Ransom.  Ian is loyal to the prickly William and puts his life on the line for him just because William is part of his clan. He doesn’t expect anything in return.  Despite her rejection of him, he loves Works with Her Hands and even on the day of his marriage to another woman does her honor, but lays that love aside for Racheal, his peace loving Quaker, who is also pretty good at loving unconditionally.

“That dog is a wolf, is he not?’

‘Aye, well, mostly.’

A small flash of hazel told him not to quibble.

‘And yet he is thy boon companion, a creature of rare courage and affection, and altogether a worthy being?;

‘Oh, aye,’ he said with more confidence. ‘He is.”

She gave him an even look.

‘Thee is a wolf, too, and I know it. But thee is my wolf, and best thee know that.”

Diana Gabaldon  Echo in the Bone

 

Trouble Magnet, Mother’s Curse, Wolf”s Brother, I can’t wait to meet all three.

 

 

 

 

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