Friday, March 10, 2006

A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon

The sixth book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon continues the story of the Fraser's and MacKenzies with all the action taking place in pre-revolution America.

The eagerly awaited new epic from the International Bestselling Author of The Fiery Cross Their love has survived time, but can they survive fate? 1772 - the eve of the American revolution. In Boston, men lie dead in the street and in the backwoods of America, isolated cabins burn in the darkness of the forest. The Colony is in ferment. Jamie Fraser, a passionate leader of men, receives an envoy from the Governor Josiah Martin, asking for help. The Governor needs someone to unite the backcountry, pacify the seething resentments of the settlers, and keep the mountains safe for King and Crown. Jamie Fraser, everyone agrees, is the man for the job. But Jamie knows what is to come. His wife, Claire, has travelled back in time from the twentieth century, and she knows that it's only a matter of a few years before the start of the War of Independence, ending with the exile or death of the men loyal to the King of England. Neither prospect appeals to Jamie. 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. Jamie hopes Claire is wrong, for once, about the future - but only time will tell.

When you read one of these books there are certain elements that appear to be necessary:



Accusations of treason

Description of medical problems



Suggestions of witchcraft

I hope that doesn't sound too cynical, but I am afraid I was a little disheartened whilst reading this book. I went out and bought it the first day I saw it, and paid full price for it, not caring that if I had of waited two days I could have had it at a much reduced price. I settled down thinking that this would be the same as the others in the series in that I would be able to devour it in three days, having let an entire weekend pass me by while I spent time in 18th century Scotland and/or America. Six months later I have just finished listening to it in the car.

The good bits in this book, and there were plenty, were as always exceptional. The passages where Ian tells what happened to him when he spent time with the Cherokee were excellent and had me crying my eyes out as I travelled down the road at peak hour, as did several other sections of the book, including the parts that occurred after July 4, 1776. There were also numerous moments throughout the book when I gasped in shock, or laughed out loud, or was left wondering where on earth the journey was going to take me next.

As I was reading though, I couldn't help but feel that there were a lot of story arcs that didn't really need to be in the book to take the story forward. However, having now finished reading the book I can see how some of those parts actually did fit in with the ending, but it took me a long time to see it! There were also numerous occasions where I was far enough outside of the story to notice that phrases were repeated in quite rapid succession, and to be wondering what on earth this part had to do with anything!! I guess what I am saying is that the book could have done with harsher editing.

We still get to see plenty of the very lovely Jamie Fraser (....huge SIGH!!), but his son-in-law Roger Mackenzie comes into his own in this book, seemingly having found his place in the order of life on Fraser's Ridge. Jamie's young nephew Ian Murray is one of my other favourite characters and I really hope that in the next book we get to see him happy and settled (and yes, I am looking forward to the next book already!). Claire was Claire, and Brianna was much more likeable in this book, with wee Jemmy and Germaine in particular scene stealing merrily throughout the book.

I feel I must spare a word for Davina Porter, the actress who narrates the unabridged version of the Outlander books. She is amazing, with clear distinctions of voice between so many characters, and so easy to listen to. It is not always the case with narrators on audiobooks.

I do LOVE the earlier books in this series, and I will continue to buy them, but maybe I will wait a couple of days rather than buying the first copy I see of the next book. Many of the lingering questions of the series have been answered in this book, but I still look forward to reading more about how Claire and Jamie fair during the American Revolution, and hopefully beyond.

In summary, there were still many parts of trademark excellence from the author, but there were too parts of this book that either needed to be edited out or treated differently to keep my attention as the earlier books in the series had.

Rating 4/5


  1. I have never seen this cover for the book. It looks very Gone With the Windish, doesn't it? I like it much better than the cover it was released with in Canada and the US.

    I have been waiting to buy this book as well. I've noticed that most of her other books (in tradepaper) have been selling for $9.99 (CDN!) now that this book is out.

    I do like the series, but for some reason I'm not in a rush to read it. I know it's going to take some serious time and focus. And my book blog won't get updated for a long long LONG time.

    However, reading your review, just seeing the names of the characters again triggered a lot of the memories. I may pick it up sooner now.

  2. These covers are the British covers, and they have all been rereleased with gorgeous landscape style covers. I have been seriously tempted to buy all of them just for the new covers, but so far I have resisted the urge.