A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Outlander Series #6) [NOOK Book]

Overview

BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Diana Gabaldon's An Echo in the Bone.

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 ...
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A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Outlander Series #6)

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Overview

BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Diana Gabaldon's An Echo in the Bone.

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.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Anyone who has gotten this far in Gabaldon's popular "Outlander" saga knows to expect loads of steamy sex, kidnappings, medical miracles, and gritty period details. Breath's 900-plus pages don't disappoint. With the threat of the American Revolution looming, 20th-century time traveler Claire Fraser and her 18th-century Scottish husband, Jamie, must finally choose sides and prepare for war. On the domestic front, Claire's and Jamie's daughter, Brianna, experiments with piping running water to their cabin while her husband, Roger, contemplates ordainment as a minister. But what about that newspaper clipping that says Claire and Jamie die in a house fire? Knowledge of the future clearly goes only so far. Enemies both old and new add to the continuing drama of the Fraser family's survival in the hinterlands of North Carolina. Gabaldon's enjoyable formula works, even if it's taken five previous novels and a few thousand pages to get to the year 1776. Essential for every fiction collection. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/05.]-Laurel Bliss, Princeton Univ. Lib., NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
“The sixth instalment of the adventures of Claire and Jamie Fraser, already number one on the bestseller list, is a whopping 980 pages of action-packed escapism. It also has surprisingly melancholy and insightful views on the experience of growing old and dealing with the losses that entails…. One of the things that sets Gabaldon apart from other romance writers is exhaustive research of the times in which her characters live, so evident in her attention to period detail…. plot lines and stand-alone yarns are expertly woven together with the overall theme of impending doom and the question of predetermination.” — The Toronto Star

“Fans of Diana Gabaldon’s popular Outlander series have another rousing historical-science-fiction-romance novel to savour in A Breath of Snow and Ashes…. For fans, this book is another slam-dunk hit. It’s a massive, long-lasting source of entertainment.” — The Gazette (Montreal)

Praise for Diana Gabaldon:
“Riveting. Gabaldon has a true storyteller’s voice.”—The Globe and Mail

“Triumphant. . . . Her use of historical detail and truly adult love story confirm Gabaldon as a superior writer.”—Publishers Weekly

“Diana Gabaldon is a born storyteller. . . . The pages practically turn themselves.”—Arizona Republic

"Readers will find every expectation fulfilled.... The large scope of the novel allows Gabaldon to do what she does best, paint in exquisite detail the lives of her characters."—Booklist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440335658
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/27/2005
  • Series: Outlander Series , #6
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 479
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Diana  Gabaldon
Diana Gabaldon is the author of five previous Outlander novels — Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, and The Fiery Cross — as well as Lord John and the Private Matter and one work of nonfiction, The Outlandish Companion. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.


From the Hardcover edition.

Biography

To millions of fans, Diana Gabaldon is the creator of a complex, original, and utterly compelling amalgam of 18th-century romantic adventure and 20th-century science fiction. To the publishing industry, she's a grassroots-marketing phenomenon. And to would-be writers everywhere who worry that they don't have the time or expertise to do what they love, Gabaldon is nothing short of an inspiration.

Gabaldon wrote her first novel while juggling the demands of motherhood and career: in between her job as an ecology professor, she also had a part-time gig writing freelance software reviews. Gabaldon had never written fiction before, and didn't intend to publish this first novel, which she decided to call Outlander. This, she decided, would be her "practice novel". Worried that she might not be able to pull a plot and characters out of thin air, she settled on a historical novel because "it's easier to look things up than to make them up entirely."

The impulse to set her novel in 18th-century Scotland didn't stem -- as some fans have assumed—from a desire to explore her own familial roots (in fact, Gabaldon isn't even Scottish). Rather, it came from watching an episode of the British sci-fi series Dr. Who and becoming smitten with a handsome time traveler in a kilt. A time-travel element crept into Gabaldon's own book only after she realized her wisecracking female lead couldn't have come from anywhere but the 20th century. The resulting love affair between an intelligent, mature, sexually experienced woman and a charismatic, brave, virginal young man turned the conventions of historical romance upside-down.

Gabaldon has said her books were hard to market at first because they were impossible to categorize neatly. Were they historical romances? Sci-fi adventure stories? Literary fiction? Whatever their genre (Gabaldon eventually proffered the term "historical fantasias"), they eventually found their audience, and it turned out to be a staggeringly huge one.

Even before the publication of Outlander, Gabaldon had an online community of friends who'd read excerpts and were waiting eagerly for more. (In fact, her cohorts at the CompuServe Literary Forum helped hook her up with an agent.) Once the book was released, word kept spreading, both on the Internet and off, and Gabaldon kept writing sequels. (When her fourth book, "Drums of Autumn," was released, it debuted at No. 1 on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list, and her publisher, Delacorte, raced to add more copies to their initial print run of 155,000.)

With her books consistently topping the bestseller lists, it's apparent that Gabaldon's appeal lies partly in her ability to bulldoze the formulaic conventions of popular fiction. Salon writer Gavin McNett noted approvingly, "She simply doesn't pay attention to genre or precedent, and doesn't seem to care that identifying with Claire puts women in the role of the mysterious stranger, with Jamie -- no wimp in any regard -- as the romantic 'heroine."'

In between Outlander novels, Gabaldon also writes historical mysteries featuring Lord John Grey, a popular, if minor, character from the series, and is working on a contemporary mystery series. Meanwhile, the author's formidable fan base keeps growing, as evidenced by the expanding list of Gabaldon chat rooms, mailing lists, fan clubs and web sites -- some of them complete with fetching photos of red-haired lads in kilts.

Good To Know

Outlander may have been Gabaldon's first novel, but she was already a published writer. Her credits included scholarly articles, political speeches, radio ads, computer manuals and Walt Disney comic books.

Gabaldon gets 30 to 40 e-mails a day from her fans, who often meet online to discuss her work. "I got one letter from a woman who had been studying my book jacket photos (with a magnifying glass, evidently), who demanded to know why there was a hole in my pants," wrote Gabaldon on her web site. "This strikes me as a highly metaphysical question, which I am not equipped to answer, but which will doubtless entertain some chat-groups for quite a long time."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Diana Jean Gabaldon (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      Flagstaff, Arizona
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 11, 1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      Flagstaff, Arizona
    1. Education:
      B.S., Northern Arizona University, 1973; M.S., Scripps Oceanographic Institute; Ph.D., Northern Arizona University, 1979
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

DUTCH CABIN
March 1773

No one had known the cabin was there, until Kenny Lindsay had seen the flames, on his way up the creek.

“I wouldna ha’ seen at all,” he said, for perhaps the sixth time. “Save for the dark comin’ on. Had it been daylight, I’d never ha’ kent it, never.” He wiped a trembling hand over his face, unable to take his eyes off the line of bodies that lay at the edge of the forest. “Was it savages, Mac Dubh? They’re no scalped, but maybe—”

“No.” Jamie laid the soot-smeared handkerchief gently back over the staring blue face of a small girl. “None of them is wounded. Surely ye saw as much when ye brought them out?”

Lindsay shook his head, eyes closed, and shivered convulsively. It was late afternoon, and a chilly spring day, but the men were all sweating. “I didna look,” he said simply. My own hands were like ice; as numb and unfeeling as the rubbery flesh of the dead woman I was examining. They had been dead for more than a day; the rigor of death had passed off, leaving them limp and chilled, but the cold weather of the mountain spring had preserved them so far from the grosser indignities of putrefaction. Still, I breathed shallowly; the air was bitter with the scent of burning. Wisps of steam rose now and then from the charred ruin of the tiny cabin. From the corner of my eye, I saw Roger kick at a nearby log, then bend and pick up something from the ground beneath. Kenny had pounded on our door long before daylight, summoning us from warm beds. We had come in haste, even knowing that we were far too late to offer aid. Some of the tenants from the homesteads on Fraser’s Ridge had come, too; Kenny’s brother Evan stood with Fergus and Ronnie Sinclair in a small knot under the trees, talking together in low-voiced Gaelic.

“D’ye ken what did for them, Sassenach?” Jamie squatted beside me, face troubled. “The ones under the trees, that is.”

He nodded at the corpse in front of me. “I ken what killed this puir woman.”

The woman’s long skirt stirred in the wind, lifting to show long, slender feet shod in leather clogs. A pair of long hands to match lay still at her sides. She had been tall—though  not so tall as Brianna, I thought, and looked automatically for my daughter’s bright hair, bobbing among the branches on the far side of the clearing. I had turned the woman’s apron up to cover her head and upper body. Her hands were red, rough-knuckled with work, and with callused palms, but from the firmness of her thighs and the slenderness of her body, I thought she was no more than thirty—likely much younger. No one could say whether she had been pretty.

I shook my head at his remark.

“I don’t think she died of the burning,” I said. “See, her legs and feet aren’t touched. She must have fallen into the hearth. Her hair caught fire, and it spread to the shoulders of her gown. She must have lain near enough to the wall or the chimney hood for the flames to touch; that caught, and then the whole bloody place went up.”

Jamie nodded slowly, eyes on the dead woman.

“Aye, that makes sense. But what was it killed them, Sassenach? The others are singed a bit, though none are burned like this. But they must have been dead before the cabin caught alight, for none o’ them ran out. Was it a deadly illness, perhaps?”

“I don’t think so. Let me look at the others again.”

I walked slowly down the row of still bodies with their cloth-covered faces, stooping over each one to peer again beneath the makeshift shrouds. There were any number of illnesses that could be quickly fatal in these days—with no antibiotics to hand, and no way of administering fluids save by mouth or rectum, a simple case of diarrhea could kill within twenty-four hours.

I saw such things often enough to recognize them easily; any doctor does, and I had been a doctor for more than twenty years. I saw things now and then in this century that I had never encountered in my own—particularly horrible parasitical diseases, brought with the slave trade from the tropics— but it was no parasite that had done for these poor souls, and no illness that I knew, to leave such traces on its victims. All the bodies—the burned woman, a much older woman, and three children—had been found inside the walls of the flaming house. Kenny had pulled them out, just before the roof fell in, then ridden for help. All dead before the fire started; all dead virtually at the same time, then, for surely the fire had begun to smolder soon after the woman fell dead on her hearth?

The victims had been laid out neatly under the branches of a giant red spruce, while the men began to dig a grave nearby. Brianna stood by the smallest girl, her head bent. I came to kneel by the little body, and she knelt down across from me.

“What was it?” she asked quietly. “Poison?”

I glanced up at her in surprise.

“I think so. What gave you that idea?”

She nodded at the blue-tinged face below us. She had tried to close the eyes, but they bulged beneath the lids, giving the little girl a look of startled horror. The small, blunt features were twisted in a rictus of agony, and there were traces of vomit in the corners of the mouth.

“Girl Scout handbook,” Brianna said. She glanced at the men, but no one was near enough to hear. Her mouth twitched, and she looked away from the body, holding out her open hand. “Never eat any strange mushroom,” she quoted.

“There are many poisonous varieties, and distinguishing one from another is a job for an expert. Roger found these, growing in a ring by that log over there.”

Moist, fleshy caps, a pale brown with white warty spots, the open gills and slender stems so pale as to look almost phosphorescent in the spruce shadows. They had a pleasant, earthy look to them that belied their deadliness.

“Panther toadstools,” I said, half to myself, and picked one gingerly from her palm. “Agaricus pantherinus—or that’s what they will be called, once somebody gets round to naming them properly. Pantherinus, because they kill so swiftly— like a striking cat.”

I could see the gooseflesh ripple on Brianna’s forearm, raising the soft, red-gold hairs. She tilted her hand and spilled the rest of the deadly fungus on the ground.

“Who in their right mind would eat toadstools?” she asked, wiping her hand on her skirt with a slight shudder.

“People who didn’t know better. People who were hungry, perhaps,” I answered softly. I picked up the little girl’s hand,
and traced the delicate bones of the forearm. The small belly showed signs of bloat, whether from malnutrition or postmortem changes I couldn’t tell—but the collarbones were sharp as scythe blades. All of the bodies were thin, though not to the point of emaciation.

I looked up, into the deep blue shadows of the mountainside above the cabin. It was early in the year for foraging, but there was food in abundance in the forest—for those who could recognize it.

Jamie came and knelt down beside me, a big hand lightly on my back. Cold as it was, a trickle of sweat streaked his neck, and his thick auburn hair was dark at the temples.

“The grave is ready,” he said, speaking low, as though he might alarm the child. “Is that what’s killed the bairn?” He nodded at the scattered fungi. “I think so—and the rest of them, too. Have you had a look around? Does anyone know who they were?”

He shook his head.

“Not English; the clothes are wrong. Germans would have gone to Salem, surely; they’re clannish souls, and no inclined to settle on their own. These were maybe Dutchmen.” He nodded toward the carved wooden clogs on the old woman’s feet, cracked and stained with long use. “No books nor writing left, if there was any to begin with. Nothing that might tell their name. But—”

“They hadn’t been here long.” A low, cracked voice made me look up. Roger had come; he squatted next to Brianna, nodding toward the smoldering remains of the cabin. A small garden plot had been scratched into the earth nearby, but the few plants showing were no more than sprouts, the tender leaves limp and blackened with late frost. There were no sheds, no sign of livestock, no mule or pig.

“New emigrants,” Roger said softly. “Not bond servants; this was a family. They weren’t used to outdoor labor, either;
the women’s hands have blisters and fresh scars.” His own broad hand rubbed unconsciously over a homespun knee; his palms were as smoothly callused as Jamie’s now, but he had once been a tender-skinned scholar; he remembered the pain of his seasoning.

“I wonder if they left people behind—in Europe,” Brianna murmured. She smoothed blond hair off the little girl’s forehead, and laid the kerchief back over her face. I saw her throat move as she swallowed. “They’ll never know what happened to them.”

“No.” Jamie stood abruptly. “They do say that God protects fools—but I think even the Almighty will lose patience now and then.” He turned away, motioning to Lindsay and Sinclair.

“Look for the man,” he said to Lindsay. Every head jerked up to look at him.

“Man?” Roger said, and then glanced sharply at the burned remnants of the cabin, realization dawning. “Aye—
who built the cabin for them?”

“The women could have done it,” Bree said, lifting her chin.

“You could, aye,” he said, mouth twitching slightly as he cast a sidelong look at his wife. Brianna resembled Jamie in more than coloring; she stood six feet in her stockings and had her father’s clean-limbed strength.

“Perhaps they could, but they didn’t,” Jamie said shortly. He nodded toward the shell of the cabin, where a few bits of furniture still held their fragile shapes. As I watched, the evening wind came down, scouring the ruin, and the shadow of a stool collapsed noiselessly into ash, flurries of soot and char moving ghostlike over the ground.

“What do you mean?” I stood and moved beside him, looking into the house. There was virtually nothing left inside, though the chimney stack still stood, and jagged bits of the walls remained, their logs fallen like jackstraws.

“There’s no metal,” he said, nodding at the blackened hearth, where the remnants of a cauldron lay, cracked in two from the heat, its contents vaporized. “No pots, save that— and that’s too heavy to carry away. Nay tools. Not a knife, not an ax—and ye see whoever built it had that.”

I did; the logs were unpeeled, but the notches and ends bore the clear marks of an ax. Frowning, Roger picked up a long pine branch and began to poke through the piles of ash and rubble, looking to be sure. Kenny Lindsay and Sinclair didn’t bother; Jamie had told them to look for a man, and they promptly went to do so, disappearing into the forest. Fergus went with them; Evan Lindsay, his brother Murdo, and the McGillivrays began the chore of collecting stones for a cairn.

“If there was a man—did he leave them?” Brianna murmured to me, glancing from her father to the row of bodies. "Did this woman maybe think they wouldn’t survive on their own?”

And thus take her own life, and those of her children, to avoid a long-drawn-out death from cold and starvation?

“Leave them and take all their tools? God, I hope not.”

I crossed myself at the thought, though even as I did so, I doubted it. “Wouldn’t they have walked out, looking for help? Even with children . . . the snow’s mostly gone.” Only the highest mountain passes were still packed with snow, and while the trails and slopes were wet and muddy with runoff, they’d been passable for a month, at least.

“I’ve found the man,” Roger said, interrupting my thoughts. He spoke very calmly, but paused to clear his throat. “Just— just here.”

The daylight was beginning to fade, but I could see that he had gone pale. No wonder; the curled form he had unearthed beneath the charred timbers of a fallen wall was sufficiently gruesome as to give anyone pause. Charred to blackness, hands upraised in the boxer’s pose so common to those dead by fire, it was difficult even to be sure that it was a man— though I thought it was, from what I could see.

Speculation about this new body was interrupted by a shout from the forest’s edge.

“We’ve found them, milord!”

Everyone looked up from contemplation of this new corpse, to see Fergus waving from the edge of the wood.

“Them,” indeed. Two men, this time. Sprawled on the ground within the shadow of the trees, found not together, but not far apart, only a short distance from the house. And both, so far as I could tell, probably dead of mushroom poisoning.

“That’s no Dutchman,” Sinclair said, for probably the fourth time, shaking his head over one body.

“He might be,” said Fergus dubiously. He scratched his nose with the tip of the hook he wore in replacement of his left hand. “From the Indies, non?” One of the unknown bodies was in fact that of a black man. The other was white, and both wore nondescript clothes of worn homespun—shirts and breeches; no jackets, despite the cold weather. And both were barefoot.

“No.” Jamie shook his head, rubbing one hand unconsciously on his own breeches, as though to rid himself of the touch of the dead. “The Dutch keep slaves on Barbuda, aye—but these are better fed than the folk from the cabin.” He lifted his chin toward the silent row of women and children. “They didna live here. Besides . . .” I saw his eyes fix on the dead men’s feet. The feet were grubby about the ankles and heavily callused, but basically clean. The soles of the black man’s feet showed yellowish pink, with no smears of mud or random leaves stuck between the toes. These men hadn’t been walking through the muddy forest barefoot, that much was sure.

“So there were perhaps more men? And when these died, their companions took their shoes—and anything else of value”—Fergus added practically, gesturing from the burned cabin to the stripped bodies—“and fled.”

“Aye, maybe.” Jamie pursed his lips, his gaze traveling slowly over the earth of the yard—but the ground was churned with footsteps, clumps of grass uprooted and the whole of the yard dusted with ash and bits of charred wood. It looked as though the place had been ravaged by rampaging hippopotami.

“I could wish that Young Ian was here. He’s the best of the trackers; he could maybe tell what happened there, at least.”

He nodded into the wood, where the men had been found.

“How many there were, maybe, and which way they’ve gone.”

Jamie himself was no mean tracker. But the light was going fast now; even in the clearing where the burned cabin stood, the dark was rising, pooling under the trees, creeping like oil across the shattered earth.

His eyes went to the horizon, where streamers of cloud were beginning to blaze with gold and pink as the sun set behind them, and he shook his head.

“Bury them. Then we’ll go.”

One more grim discovery remained. Alone among the dead, the burned man had not died of fire or poison. When they lifted the charred corpse from the ashes to bear him to his grave, something fell free of the body, landing with a small, heavy thunk on the ground. Brianna picked it up, and rubbed at it with the corner of her apron.

“I guess they overlooked this,” she said a little bleakly, holding it out. It was a knife, or the blade of one. The wooden hilt had burned entirely away, and the blade itself was warped with heat.

Steeling myself against the thick, acrid stench of burned fat and flesh, I bent over the corpse, poking gingerly at the midsection. Fire destroys a great deal, but preserves the strangest things. The triangular wound was quite clear, seared in the hollow beneath his ribs.

“They stabbed him,” I said, and wiped my sweating hands on my own apron.

“They killed him,” Bree said, watching my face. “And then his wife—” She glanced at the young woman on the ground,
the concealing apron over her head. “She made a stew with the mushrooms, and they all ate it. The children, too.”

The clearing was silent, save for the distant calls of birds on the mountain. I could hear my own heart, beating painfully in my chest. Vengeance? Or simple despair?

“Aye, maybe,” Jamie said quietly. He stooped to pick up an end of the sheet of canvas they had placed the dead man on. “We’ll call it accident.”

The Dutchman and his family were laid in one grave, the two strangers in another. A cold wind had sprung up as the sun went down; the apron fluttered away from the woman’s face as they lifted her. Sinclair gave a strangled cry of shock, and nearly dropped her.

She had neither face nor hair anymore; the slender waist narrowed abruptly into charred ruin. The flesh of her head had burned away completely, leaving an oddly tiny, blackened skull, from which her teeth grinned in disconcerting levity. They lowered her hastily into the shallow grave, her children and mother beside her, and left Brianna and me to build a small cairn over them, in the ancient Scottish way, to mark the place and provide protection from wild beasts,
while a more rudimentary resting place was dug for the two barefoot men.

The work finally done, everyone gathered, white-faced and silent, around the new-made mounds. I saw Roger stand close beside Brianna, his arm protectively about her waist. A small shudder went through her, which I thought had nothing to do with the cold. Their child, Jemmy, was a year or so younger than the smallest girl.

“Will ye speak a word, Mac Dubh?” Kenny Lindsay glanced inquiringly at Jamie, pulling his knitted bonnet down over his ears against the growing chill. It was nearly nightfall, and no one wanted to linger. We would have to make camp, somewhere well away from the stink of burning, and that would be hard enough, in the dark. But Kenny was right; we couldn’t leave without at least some token of ceremony, some farewell for the strangers. Jamie shook his head.

“Nay, let Roger Mac speak. If these were Dutchmen, belike they were Protestant.”

Dim as the light was, I saw the sharp glance Brianna shot at her father. It was true that Roger was a Presbyterian; so was Tom Christie, a much older man whose dour face reflected his opinion of the proceedings. The question of religion was no more than a pretext, though, and everyone knew it, including Roger. Roger cleared his throat with a noise like tearing calico. It was always a painful sound; there was anger in it now as well. He didn’t protest, though, and he met Jamie’s eyes straight on, as he took his place at the head of the grave. I had thought he would simply say the Lord’s Prayer, or perhaps one of the gentler psalms. Other words came to him, though.

“Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard: I cry aloud, but there is no judgment. He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and He hath set darkness in my paths.”

His voice had once been powerful, and beautiful. It was choked now, no more than a rasping shadow of its former beauty—but there was sufficient power in the passion with which he spoke to make all those who heard him bow their heads, faces lost in shadow. “He hath stripped me of my glory, and taken the crown from my head. He hath destroyed me on every side, and I am gone: and my hope hath He removed like a tree.” His face was set, but his eyes rested for a bleak moment on the charred stump that had served the Dutch family for a chopping block. “He hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me. My kinsfolk have failed,
and my familiar friends have forgotten me.” I saw the three Lindsay brothers exchange glances, and everyone drew a little closer together, against the rising wind.

“Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends,” he said, and his voice softened, so that it was difficult to hear him, above the sighing of the trees. “For the hand of God has touched me.”

Brianna made a slight movement beside him, and he cleared his throat once more, explosively, stretching his neck so that I caught a glimpse of the rope scar that marred it. “Oh, that my words were now written! Oh, that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever!”

He looked slowly round from face to face, his own expressionless, then took a deep breath to continue, voice cracking on the words.

“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body”—Brianna shuddered convulsively, and looked away from the raw mound of dirt—“yet in my flesh shall I see God. Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold.”

He stopped, and there was a brief collective sigh, as everyone let out the breath they had been holding. He wasn’t quite finished, though. He had reached out, half-unconsciously, for Bree’s hand, and held it tightly. He spoke the last words almost to himself, I thought, with little thought for his listeners.

“Be ye afraid of the sword: for wrath bringeth the punishments of the sword, that ye may know there is a judgment.”
I shivered, and Jamie’s hand curled round my own, cold but strong. He looked down at me, and I met his eyes. I knew what he was thinking.

He was thinking, as I was, not of the present, but the future. Of a small item that would appear three years hence, in the pages of the Wilmington Gazette, dated February 13, 1776. It is with grief that the news is received of the deaths by fire of James MacKenzie Fraser and his wife, Claire Fraser, in a conflagration that destroyed their house in the settlement of Fraser’s Ridge, on the night of January 21 last. Mr. Fraser, a nephew of the late Hector Cameron of River Run Plantation, was born at Broch Tuarach in Scotland. He was widely known in the Colony and deeply respected; he leaves no surviving children. It had been easy, so far, not to think too much of it. So far in the future, and surely not an unchangeable future—after all, forewarned was forearmed . . . wasn’t it? I glanced at the shallow cairn, and a deeper chill passed through me. I stepped closer to Jamie, and put my other hand on his arm. He covered my hand with his, and squeezed tight in reassurance. No, he said to me silently. No, I will not let it happen.

As we left the desolate clearing, though, I could not free my mind of one vivid image. Not the burned cabin, the pitiful bodies, the pathetic dead garden. The image that haunted me was one I had seen some years before—a gravestone in the ruins of Beauly Priory, high in the Scottish Highlands.

It was the tomb of a noble lady, her name surmounted by the carving of a grinning skull—very like the one beneath the Dutchwoman’s apron. Beneath the skull was her motto: Hodie mihi cras tibi—sic transit gloria mundi. My turn today—yours tomorrow. Thus passes the glory of the world.

From the Hardcover edition.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 967 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 12, 2010

    Drama

    You would think that by the sixth book in the series, Gabaldon would become tiresome and the plot points would begin to repeat or continue to hit dead ends...but this is far from the truth. This book sucks you in and entrances you with answers to previous questions, conclusions to old problems and reemergence of old friends, as well as new questions, new problems, and new people, both good and bad who help and threaten the family that you have grown to love and root for.
    This series helped me learn what love truly is. It isn't some unattainable perfect union. It's hard work. It's dirty, fascinating, intoxicating, comfortable, volcanic, and most of all it's true. Jamie and Claire fight, argue, and really get under each others skin, but at the end of the day they are there for each other and they would die for each other. They make unhesitating sacrifices for their family and are put into some odd situations. Everyone should read this series, both men and women. Claire is someone that every woman can relate to on some level. Jamie a man that most men aspire to be, and could learn from to some extent.
    This book is funny, like all the others, and then will turn around and have you jumping out of your seat in the middle of the battles, then drop you like a hot potato into tears. This book has something for everyone.

    15 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Well done!

    A Breath of Snow and Ashes continues the adventurous story of Jamie and Claire Fraser and their family and friends.

    A Breath of Snow and Ashes takes us on a roller coaster ride of emotion this time. Have a tissue box ready because you'll need it at the end. For the first time Diana has left her readers an actual cliff hanger. Of course this just makes you want more.

    As always I feel as if I have transported through time and am right their with everyone. A part of the action, feeling their sorrows, joys and laughter.

    Definately not a disappointment, however before reading this book if you haven't read the first 5: Outland, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, and The Fiery Cross you must do so to understand their journey.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    FANTASTIC SERIES!

    Gabaldon paints her books with thick color. Her characters are so well-developed that I feel I know them all very well. A Breath of Snow and Ashes closes some questions left from earlier volumes, and rounds out some character detail. I don't want to give anything away here, but it was a thoroughly satisfying read. Happily, it also leaves an opening for further Jamie/Clair volumes.
    After reading this 6th book in the series, I started with Outlander and am re-reading them all. They're giving me as much pleasure the second time around.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2006

    Repetative and dull

    Does no one at the publishing house dare to edit the work of Diana Gabaldon? It is far to lengthy and repetative. I flipped through so many pages that contained no useful purpose. The concept of travelling through time is all but forgotten and therfore the suspence is simply not there. We have all become use to being subjected to gritty, sexual violance in many of todays novels. I think it's time to get back to some quality writing. I could barely bring myself to finish this book

    5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2005

    A nice visit with old friends, but disappointing overall

    Once again, Gabaldon spends far too much time in the minutia of the lives of Jamie, Claire, Brianna, Roger, and their friends and family and far too little on telling the actual story. I loved this series up until 'Fiery Cross', but in that book and this one it's become apparent that she's fallen in love with the characters too much to let the story play itself out to an inevitable conclusion, so we're left with 700 pages of filler to 250 of plot. 'A Breath of Snow and Ashes' is worth reading if you're a committed Gabaldon fan, but not if you're expecting a book along the lines of 'Outlander', 'Dragonfly in Amber', or 'Voyager'.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2009

    I Love this author!

    Ms Gabaldon is an outstanding writer. Her books are long but she writes so well and develops her characters so well, that I am never ready for the story to end.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2012

    Addicting, amazing,must read series

    Something I unknowingly stumbled into, this series has blown me away. The author has the ability to make you feel like you are experiencing first hand what the characters are, like you ARE the character. Addicting, I found myself reading for 4 hours at a time and wanting more. I don't want it to end. A true romance/adventure story that makes you want to immediately buy tickets and go to Scotland.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    wonderful

    Do not get discouraged reading this book. Yes it is VERY long but its worth it. Gabaldon intertwines suspense and touching stories till the very last page (until epilogue II.) This book is probably the most heartbreaking (in a sort of good way) of the whole series. A lot of the loose ends and mysteries she created in the previous books of the series were answered in this edition. Some of her older themes of kidnapping are repeated I suppose but nonetheless she achieves originality when you are least suspecting it. There are just so many twists and turns it'll leave you yelling "WHAT?" out loud.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Well worth the time invested to read OR listen

    Audiobook is a great way to enjoy the sixth and most recent volume in Diana Gabaldon's popular Outlander series. A Breath of Snow and Ashes has an episodic structure rather than one overarching story line. The spoken word format makes the listener slow down and enjoy the rich details in the story. Gabaldon rounds out her descriptions with authentic sights, smells, sounds and textures.<BR/>Davina Porter is a skilled dramatic reader who adapts nuanced accents for each character. Her Jamie Fraser is surprisingly convincing. Her Claire Fraser is spot on, and since Claire is the narrator for much of the books, the listener feels like he or she is really in Claire's head. Claire's daughter Brianna and the troublemaker Donner are the only off-notes, because they are Americans and apparently Porter's accents don't extend that far.<BR/>If you've read A Breath of Snow and Ashes, the audio version is a great way to "reread" and pick up subtleties you missed on the first go round while waiting for Book 7. If you've finished up to The Fiery Cross (Outlander), try the audio version. Be warned, this is an unabridged version of a hefty book that runs to 48 CDs and a serious time commitment. But, worth every second.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2006

    Disappointing once again

    I am a big fan of the first three books in the Outlander series. I seem to remember reading somewhere that Mrs. Gabaldon originally intended for the series to be just a trilogy. To be honest I feel that maybe that wouldn¿t be such a bad idea. I kept on reading all the new installments and waiting to see the same passion and adventure that attracted me to the Outlander from the beginning, but I¿m afraid that after book 3 it just isn¿t there. I picked up ¿The Breath of snow and ashes¿ in hopes of finding than something special and was once again disappointed. Don¿t get me wrong, it¿s nice to know what the characters have been up to and I did finish the book out of loyalty, but the very same things I got out of it could have been compressed in to a book half the size and the rest was just pointless filler. I would be surprised to find a person who hadn¿t read the previous books enjoying this one. Would not recommend it to anyone other than the diehard fans who want to catch up on the lives of the characters.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2005

    A struggle to finish......

    I am having trouble maintaining my interest in this book. I feel obliged to finish it having read all the previous books, but this particular installment seems rife with disjointed, mundane events. I promised myself I would no longer finish books that don't hold my interest. Life is too short to waste on mediocrity. However, I'll finish this one out of obligation to the series.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 24, 2013

    highly recommend

    I was a late-comer to the Highlander series. I started them a few months ago and can't put them down! Wonderful series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2012

    Love

    Love

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    More Outlander fun

    This one took some time to get into but once it got closer to the end I couldn't put it down. I'm glad Jamie and Claire's story is going on but it will be interesting to see what Gabaldon does next because she tied up a lot of loose ends from the earlier books.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 12, 2009

    Love this series

    Love all of the books in this series, can't wait for the next one I miss having Jamie and Claire in my evenings.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 11, 2009

    My favorite of the series so far...

    This book is awesome. Full of humor and intricate relationships!! Loved it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Gabaldon rocks!

    If you haven't read Outlander, what are you waiting for? This series is the best thing in print right now. This is addictive, all incompassing, suck you in action with strong charectors who have a history you want to know. There's something here for everyone, be it mystery, suspense, history, charector development, or romance. Every Outlander book, Snow and Ashes included, is a reader's page-turning dream. I highly recommend them all.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    excellent time travel historical tale

    Though officially war has not been declared, blood has fallen in Massachusetts Bay. On Fraser¿s Ridge, North Carolina Jamie Fraser already knows the outcome of the Revolutionary War because his spouse Claire told him having journeyed from the future to his past knowing the details about the Revolutionary War because she read about it in the American history books. --- Tension is high so Colonial Governor Tryon asks Jamie, leader of those residing along Fraser Ridge, to help keep the peace there. He is not sure how to respond because Jamie knows that those who support the monarchy will either die or flee in exile yet Jamie still hopes he can avoid bloodshed. There is also the matter of knowing that three plus years from now The Wilmington Gazette December 1776 reports that Jamie and his family died in a fire. Jamie knows that the devil is in the details, but how can a mortal change history even if the events have not yet occurred. Now in 1773 he must take sides knowing that soon people he cares about will die. --- The latest Gabaldon time travel historical tale is a superb entry because of the dilemmas facing the hero who knows the outcome of the upcoming war and is aware of the deaths of himself and his beloved family yet must make difficult choices. For instance, perhaps he should relocate elsewhere so that the Frasers and others are nowhere near the mid December 1776 inferno, but that also means neglecting his responsibilities. Jamie, Claire, and the others are at their best when knowing what is coming, but sometimes an ethical person must choose a losing perhaps deadly position. Ms. Gabaldon is at her epic best with this powerful saga. The paragraphs above fail to even hint at the vast deep look at North Carolina on the verge of war because it is impossible to describe the scope of this work in a few paragraphs. ---Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2005

    Oh how good it was.

    I received and advanced copy of this book and loved it! Historical detail is superb and the love story proves that Gabaldon is a multi-dimensional writer. The last book I loved this much was 'A Year Since Yesterday' by a new author George Zintel. Books like these make shutting the television off a great decision. Get them both!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2014

    Jetfrost

    She hisses. "Jetfrost?" She starts disappearing into a dark cloud as the oblivion melts away. "Never heard of her..."

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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