Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Breath of Snow and Ashes - Diana Gabaldon (Delacorte - Oct 2005)

Series: Outlander (Book 6)

It is 1772, the eve of the American Revolution, and the long fuse of rebellion has already been lit. Governor Josiah Martin calls upon Jamie Fraser to unite the backcountry and safeguard the colony for King and Crown. But there is one problem: Jamie Fraser's wife, Claire, is a time-traveler, as are his daughter and son-in-law. And Jamie knows that three years hence, the shot heard round the world will be fired, and the end of it all will be independence--with those loyal to the King either dead or in exile. Beyond everything else, though, looms the threat of a tiny clipping from the Wilmington Gazette dated 1776, which reports the destruction of the house on Fraser's Ridge and the death by fire of James Fraser and all his family. For once, Jamie Fraser hopes the time-travelers in his family are wrong about the future--but only time will tell.

The saga continues, with war on the horizon, Jamie and Claire trying to find a way to weather the storm safely. The book is full of the details of day to day life, broken up by events that are traumatic, life changing, funny, heartbreaking, and overall satisfying.

As is usual in these books, various characters are really put through the wringer. In this one, it seems to be Claire's turn for the worst of it. The Browns make a reappearance, this time determined to enact vengeance. Claire is kidnapped and raped. I thought she did a great job of keeping it together, and loved her certainty that Jamie would find her. It was fun to see her playing with the minds of her kidnappers. Absolutely loved the rescue scene, with the use of the drum and ye olde Highland yell. They definitely got what was coming to them. There was an interesting twist with the appearance of another traveler and the sharing of his experiences.

The Loyalist Scots are pulling out all the stops in their attempts to bolster support of the Crown, including what is basically a fundraising tour by Flora MacDonald, the woman who saved Prince Charlie after Culloden. Jamie knows the truth of what will happen, but tries to remain neutral for as long as possible.

Claire continues her work as a healer, while trying to find a way to bring in some modern medicine. Her experiments with ether have some pretty amusing moments, and also some lasting consequences. Jamie's conflict is real as he tries to reconcile his knowledge of the future with his honor and the oaths he has made. Throughout it all, the love that he and Claire share give them each the strength they need to weather the storms.

Roger and Brianna continue with their adjustments to this time period, some being more successful than others. Brianna brings her engineering expertise to the Ridge with her attempts at indoor plumbing, a better kiln, and the "invention" of matches. Roger has finally found his place, calling upon his background with the Reverend Wakefield, and becomes a preacher. There are some pretty funny moments as he settles into the job, including the presence of a snake at his first sermon.

Various secondary characters play parts that add some interesting complications. Lizzie's engagement to Manfred ends for an unexpected reason. As a single young woman she draws the interest of multiple young men, but who she ends up with and why is quite a surprise. 

Young Malva Christie has become a devoted apprentice of Claire's, but I have to say that there has always been something about her that didn't set right. This proves true later in the book, as she takes an action that divides residents of the Ridge. It only gets worse when Claire and Jamie are accused of murder, bringing them into further peril. The final resolution of that storyline was sad and creepy.

Stephen Bonnet is still making his presence known. The Frasers and MacKenzies continue their attempts to find  him and bring him to justice, but he proves as slippery as ever. With assistance from someone with a grudge against Jamie, Bonnet once again gets his hands on Brianna. I quite enjoyed Brianna's strength of will as she does her best to protect herself. Bonnet continues in his amoral actions, but also reveals an unexpected vulnerability. This proves to be important at the end of the book.

Lord John's presence is there throughout the book, as he and Jamie continue their friendship through their letters. This allows Jamie some chance of keeping up with William's life. With Jamie's choice of sides in the coming conflict, he wishes to protect John from association with a known traitor and breaks off communication. But the fates aren't done with them, and bring John and brand new lieutenant Lord Ellesmere to North Carolina, along with troops meant to quell rebellion. Brianna gets quite a shock when she goes to see John to ask for help and encounters William.

A health problem with Brianna and Roger's new daughter Amanda creates the need for an important decision on their part. What are the risks versus the benefits, and is it even possible? I loved Jamie's comment to Jem about a mouse named Michael. The epilogue with Roger and Brianna gives a hint of their plans and reveals a surprising gift.

At the end, the story of the newspaper clipping is revealed, with an interesting reason why. What really happens to the big house is the result of the reappearance of that other traveler. It is intense and nervewracking, and in the end satisfying. There's an amusing bit with the white sow, which seems to drive Jamie's decision on what to do next.

Now on to An Echo in the Bone!

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