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Diana Gabaldon – Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade

December 9, 2011

150. Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon (2007)
Lord John, Book 2

Read my review of book:
1. Lord John and the Private Matter

Length: 494 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Started: 18 November 2011
Finished: 19 November 2011

Where did it come from? Bookmooch.
Why do I have it? My post-Outlander Gabaldon acquisition binge.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 30 December 2008.

His father’s death is
just one of the secrets in
Lord John’s family tree.

Summary: Lord John Grey’s mother is getting remarried, but that’s not the only thing that’s stirring up the memory of his father’s death. Seventeen years ago, right before his apparent suicide, Lord John’s father was accused of being a Jacobite traitor, an accusation which still weighs heavily on Lord John’s mind, and which he and his brother have spent their lives denying. Now, pages from their father’s journal – the same journal that might either exculpate or damn their father – are resurfacing, which means that someone involved in his death is still alive. But before Lord John can uncover the person behind the pages and finally put his father’s ghosts to rest, life intervenes, in the form of a budding new relationship with his stepbrother that he must keep secret at all costs, and the perils that come with being an officer in the British Army.

Review: If it weren’t for the fact that I already had Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade sitting on my shelf when I read Lord John and the Private Matter, I’d think that Gabaldon wrote it specifically to address my main issues with the first book. Specifically, I’d complained that the Lord John books pale in comparison to the Outlander series, because Lord John is just not as lively and compelling of a character as Jamie and Clare. But, after finishing Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade: I take it back! I take it all back!

In this installment, Lord John is just about the opposite of weak tea. Brotherhood of the Blade is very much a character-driven novel, and we get to see some of his inner fire that he usually keeps locked up pretty tightly. Over the course of the book, he has to wrestle with a lot of issues about family and honor and love and responsibility, and Gabaldon is not shy about putting him through the emotional wringer – and about giving the readers a close-up view of the process, instead of keeping her characters at a more staid and proper 18th century distance. My heart broke for Lord John more than once over the course of this book, and while he might never quite match Jamie’s magnetism, he’s certainly become a fascinating character in his own right.

Speaking of Jaime, he does show up several times in this book (which takes place in the gap between Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager in the Outlander series chronology). I was particularly struck by how different Lord John’s Jamie is than Claire’s Jaime, very hard-edged and tightly-wound and almost harsh. If this had been the first time I’d met him as a character, I doubt I’d have liked him much; and I’m impressed that Gabaldon was able to so effectively present such a different view of such a well-loved character.

The one downside to having such a character-focused novel is that the mystery plot – who is sending the pages and what do they know about Lord John’s father – is put on the backburner for a lot of the novel. I found the mystery/politics/conspiracy subplot a little hard to follow, because most of the people involved appear on-screen very briefly (if at all), so it was hard to keep them all and their motivations (and their motivations of 20 years ago) straight in my head. But because the emotional heart of the story is in the repercussions of Lord John’s father’s death, rather than its causes, I don’t think I missed much, and the bulk of the book was totally engrossing. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: This book could stand alone fairly well, but of course it will appeal most to Outlander fans who have read at least through Voyager.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Confessions of a Bibliophile, Dear Author, Mandy’s Escape
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: To the best of Lord John’s knowledge, stepmothers as depicted in fiction tended to be venal, evil, cunning, homicidal, and occasionally cannibalistic.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 9, 2011 9:37 am

    I finished Gabaldon’s latest Lord John Grey book, Lord John and Scottish Prisoner, last night. It’s my first of the Lord John Grey books; I stayed away mostly because I wasn’t a huge fan of his character and couldn’t see it working without Jamie and Claire. More an Outlander purist I guess. I did enjoy it though, probably because Jamie played a major role. I’m still not convinced I will ever be a John Grey fan but I’m coming around.

    • December 9, 2011 9:46 am

      Amy – Hmm, for some reason I thought that the new Lord John book wasn’t coming out until next spring, but that’s clearly wrong… wonder where my brain came up with that? Anyways, off to the library with me! :)

      I can totally empathize with the Outlander purist side of things, and I’d probably recommend you skip Lord John and the Private Matter, but I thought Lord John held his own as a leading character in Brotherhood of the Blade. (Plus it does have a fair bit of Jamie – not as a major character, but not exactly a minor one, either.)

  2. December 10, 2011 12:37 pm

    One day I really should get back to Gabaldon…

  3. Carol permalink
    July 24, 2013 2:02 pm

    I agree about Lord John coming into his own here, and about the empathy and heartbreak I felt for him. I liked Lord John in Voyager, thought he was just OK in “Private Matter,” but loved this book. Much as I enjoyed the first three Outlander books (later ones not so much), I think “Brotherhood of the Blade” is Gabaldon’s overall best book. (so far, at least).

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