Review: A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Outlander #6) by Diana Gabaldon

Lots of things have happened over the last few weeks since I finished The Fiery Cross but I have now I finally finished Book VI in the Outlander Series, A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon!

I have to say, I am completely agog at how much happens in one single book!

I swear I have been reading the Outlander Series for about six or seven weeks now and everything seems to be running together.

I feel like all of the characters have come so far and changed so much since the first book, which I suppose is the concept of this really really really long story. I read somewhere Gabaldon plans at least two more novels….all I can say is WOW, she’s ambitious!

I am glad I bought The Outlandish Companion….I think I’m going to need it to keep everyone and all the sub-plots/characters straight!

ABOSAA picks up where the others left off (obviously) Brianna has finally adjusted to life in the 1700’s (more of less….) and life with Roger. Roger has found his calling–ministry which I found awfully ironic but rather fitting. Ian has returned form the Indians but he struggles to readjust to his ‘old life’ as he is rather changed by his various life experiences.

The Revolutionary War has begun with Jamie joining in the fight for freedom with Claire at his side. Claire is (as per usual) trying to save everyone with her medical knowledge. Stephen Bonnet, gets his ‘come-uppins’–along with his ‘man parts’–ultimately meeting their demise! Claire experiences every married woman’s worst nightmare–a young ‘jezebel’ who claims Jamie has fathered her baby. After said woman is murdered in Claire’s garden, Claire is promptly arrested, along with Jamie.

Between the murder accusations and arrest, tension in the colonies heats up to white hot temperatures forcing friends and families to declare their loyalty. While the political lines are being drawn for the Fraser family and friends of Fraser Ridge, Brianna and Roger are busy exercising their marital freedoms and soon there is another Fraser/MacKenzie baby in the making! However when the new edition arrives, she is born with a heart defect. Since Claire cannot fix it, even with her ether, Brianna and Roger are met with an unpresidented decision—stay and let her die or go back through the stones–I so didn’t see that one coming! Here is the ‘official’ summary from Shelfari:

Eagerly anticipated by her legions of fans, this sixth novel in Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling Outlander saga is a masterpiece of historical fiction from one of the most popular authors of our time. Since the initial publication of Outlander fifteen years ago, Diana Gabaldon’s New York Times bestselling saga has won the hearts of readers the world over — and sold more than twelve million books. Now, A Breath of Snow and Ashes continues the extraordinary story of 18th-century Scotsman Jamie Fraser and his 20th-century wife, Claire. The year is 1772, and on the eve of the American Revolution, the long fuse of rebellion has already been lit. Men lie dead in the streets of Boston, and in the backwoods of North Carolina, isolated cabins burn in the forest. With chaos brewing, the governor calls upon Jamie Fraser to unite the backcountry and safeguard the colony for King and Crown. But from his wife Jamie knows that three years hence the shot heard round the world will be fired, and the result will be independence — with those loyal to the King either dead or in exile. And there is also the matter of a tiny clipping from The Wilmington Gazette , dated 1776, which reports Jamie’s death, along with his kin. For once, he hopes, his time-traveling family may be wrong about the future.

I felt like this book was much different then the others, though each is unique in their own way this book seemed to answer a lot of lingering questions from previous books. For example, the newspaper clipping announcing the death of both Jamie and Claire with the date and fire etc. I about died laughing at the irony toward the end there. I kind of expected the whole wrong date, misprint thing but to see how it all unfolded was pretty ironic. I loved how on the day, Jamie and Claire packed up everything of importance and left seeking refuge at Brianna and Roger’s house only to have Brianna suggest the fire not be in the Big House but actually their house! Then with the cat and the wig…it was great!

The whole love conundrum with Lizzie, Malva, Ian, Allan, Bobby, and the twins was like something out of a daytime soap/Jerry Springer but believable! I was thankful some things were sorted out and also that some of the questions about time travel and the stones were addressed. I would still like to know more about Donner and of course Geilie and how the time travel all works.

I loved how Gabaldon tied one of the early early scenes in Book I where Frank thought he saw a Scotsman watching Claire during the thunderstorm looking sad and had Jamie mention this same scene in this book. I was also glad Gabaldon explained Tom Christie’s history and why/how he ended up on Fraser Ridge.

There were some things though that this book lacked that others had an abundance of such as all the introspection and philosophical reflection as well as the romantic language and scenery. I’m sorry I have to be honest here….I am NOT terribly in love with American scenery so when I think of ‘backcountry’ is moonshine and missing teeth…the sticks! When I picture Jamie in the Carolina back-country distilling his whiskey, all I see is good ole’ Jethro and the Beverly Hillbillies!

Maybe it’s just me but it was a little hard for me to work through, I much preferred him as a dashing Highlander roaming the misty moors on horseback, plaid flapping in the wind. For me one of the things I loved about Jamie and Book I was the it eerie feeling of  superstition, romance, and mystery which fills the Highlands—traditions long since forgotten but yet still practiced simply because there was no reason not to like speaking ‘the Gaelic’, pagan rituals, or worrying about spirits that wander the moors trapped in limbo. So for me, setting was a big deal and a big part of the romance which I felt like was lost in this book. I am glad they are going back to Scotland to get Jamie’s printing press :). I am hoping for more romance and romantic setting in the next book.

While this book lacked some of the typical romanticism that the other books had, I found the prologue very thought provoking. When the book began I expected it would be thick with self reflection and personal, soul searching musings but as I noted earlier, it did not. But this one section in the prologue I thought summed up the entire series thus far and is perhaps one of my favorite quotes/passages in the series:

Time is a lot of the things people say that God is. There’s the always preexisting, and having no end…and time is of course, all healing. give anything enough time, and everything is taken care of: all pain encompasses, all hardship erased, all loss subsumed…and if time is anything akin to God, I suppose that memory must be the devil.

I often think about this very notion….not everyone needs to fight in a war, be raped, murder, or suffer greatly to regret or hurt from the choices they made. It is torture to live with memories of choices made and decisions accepted or executed….we all play the ‘what if’ game all the time and I think this statement applies to us all which is why I loved it. While religion is a heavy theme in the series, it doesn’t overpower the series and doesn’t get preachy when one expects it to–thank God! I loved the sermon that Roger performed for the burial in the beginning, it was so beautiful and echos the time reflection. And I loved that in the end Brianna pondered if all time travelers must be theologians.

I could have done without the battle toward the end of the book though. It was a little much for me and it drug in my opinion. I also felt that the murder of Stephen Bonnet by Brianna was out of character for her and a little to rushed. There was this whole build up through the last couple of books and then all of a sudden….bam he’s dead! I loved how she shot one of his testicles off  though…..I thought that was more fitting so when she killed him I was a little like….HUH?

The whole Brianna and Bonnet thing when Forbes sold her to him was a little bit of a stretch especially with them sleeping in the same bed together and developing a kind of intimate understanding. I see why she killed him because she knew he was sentenced to death by drowning (his biggest fear) likely because she promised him she would not let his dreams ‘hurt him’. I thought this was may be fitting for her character but the end result was not fitting to the build up–it drug on to long in my opinion she should have killed him on the island when she had the chance or just let him die and go crazy from the pox instead.

Claire’s rape to me was a lot a little off…..one woman lead character raped ok but Claire?!!? Poor Jamie is going to go completely crazy one day. First the thought his sister was raped by Randall, then he himself was rapped by Randall, then Brianna and Bonnet and then Claire?!?!

I didn’t think it was necessary to the story but then again there is still another book so maybe it is…..we shall see I suppose! I know the time period was precarious at best for women and the threat of rape was imminent but then again I just thought this was a little overboard but I suppose it helped build the story for Brown etc.

Finally, Fergus’s attempted suicide and the birth of the dwarf was a little…???…..for me. The dwarf…OK, but the attempted suicide didn’t jive with how I see Fergus. I see Fergus as one who is fairly content with his life and just accepts things and is greatful for whatever he can get–love and affection-wise anyway. So I was shocked when we found out he tried to commit suicide.

Overall though this book was great, as usual, I loved it :). I closed my last posting with an inner struggle….to begin the next book or to move on to something else??? Clearly I chose to keep reading…in for a penny in for a pound.

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: Book: A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Outlander #6) by Diana Gabaldon

  • Kindle Edition
  • Published (first published 2005)
  • ASIN B000FCKEF4

This book counts toward: 2011 Outlander Series Reading Challenge

Recommendation: 5 out of 5

Genre: Historic Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Historic-Romance

Memorable lines/quotes: 

Time is a lot of the things people say that God is. There’s the always preexisting, and having no end…and time is of course, all healing. give anything enough time, and everything is taken care of: all pain encompasses, all hardship erased, all loss subsumed…and if time is anything akin to God, I suppose that memory must be the devil.

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13 Comments

  1. Sorry to hear about your broken hand! I hope it’s better soon.

    In the meantime, what better distraction than a Big Fat Historical Novel, particularly one of Diana Gabaldon’s, right? 🙂

    A couple of quick comments about your review of ABOSAA (which is how most people online abbreviate A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES)….first of all, you’re exactly right that each of these books is unique in its own way, and different from the others. Diana says she does that on purpose, because she doesn’t like to repeat things she’s done before.

    The scene Jamie describes to Claire, where he sees her in the future in a room with what he takes to be electric light, is NOT necessarily the same as the scene at the beginning of OUTLANDER with Jamie’s ghost looking up at her window. It might be, but then again it might not. (And FWIW, my theory is that he might have seen Claire writing her farewell letter to Bree, just before she went back in VOYAGER. Look at the way Jamie describes the scene, and the details all fit.) We’ll just have to wait and see if it’s explained further in a future book.

    Oh, and speaking of things that will be explained later….let’s just say, you haven’t seen the last of that newspaper clipping. 🙂

    The battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge at the end of ABOSAA is a real historical event, by the way, which is one of the reasons Diana included it.

    Thanks for your interesting comments on ABOSAA, and I hope you enjoy ECHO! I’ll repeat my invitation to you to come join our discussions on Compuserve (http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?nav=start&webtag=ws-books) when you finish ECHO. We’d love to hear from you.

    Karen

    Reply
  2. Kellie

     /  March 13, 2011

    I hate to tell you but the last book, “An Echo in the Bone” has the biggest cliffhanger of the entire series. It is very good and fast paced but it makes for a very long wait until the next release!

    Reply
  3. missy

     /  February 12, 2013

    I think she puts too many rapes in her books..I mean..its just too much. Love your reviews btw

    Reply
  4. Stephanie

     /  February 17, 2015

    I love your reviews of the outlander series. I started book one last October and have read your reviews before starting each new book in the series. Your reviews are great, well written and thoughtful and I appreciate you taking the time to write them!

    I love outlander and will probably see the books through to the end, but one main regret I have with the book is I feel like I signed up for a Scottish highlander book series and now majority of the books are set in America. As you aptly stated, I miss the mysticism and romanticism of the setttIng in the first book. But oh well, I’m still intrigued enough to keep reading.

    Thanks again!

    Reply
    • I completely agree! I felt like I too signed up for Scottish Highlands and got American Revolution instead. I mean I love the characters enough to keep reading but since like the 5th book I am like ok when are we going back to Scotland….or are we ever?

      I too miss the mysticism and romanticism…..those were some of the things I loved most about the early books :(.

      BTW, thanks for the lovely compliments I am glad you enjoy my reviews 🙂

      Reply
  5. Leslie McCullough

     /  May 1, 2015

    Plot holes, aye? Some that really jumped out for me:
    1. The description of Brianna’s childhood room containing the stuffed Scottie dog, Angus. Didn’t she find him in the manse?
    2. The description of when Lord John first met Jamie. He said it was the night before Culloden, but wasn’t it before some other battle?
    3. Brianna describing the color of the dress she wore to the Apollo landing party. If I recall, she fixed Dr. Abernathy’s TV with the Swiss Army knife pulled from her jeans pocket.
    I need to get a life. 😐

    Reply
  6. B-J Jones

     /  September 3, 2015

    Can you please tell me where the gold that only Jamie and Jemmy know where its buried? I’m reading An Echo in the Bone — I don’t remember anything about this gold…

    Reply
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