Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4), by Diana Gabaldon

Five stars (of five)

Back to Gabaldon’s powerful and complex OUTLANDER series, after the Lord John Grey reprieve. When last Gabaldon spoke of the Fraser clan, they had made their way across the Atlantic and spent some time in Jamaica before landing in the colony of Georgia. As this novel begins, they find themselves living in South Carolina, amongst other colonial settlers. Life resembles that in the Highlands, allowing Jamie to find his niche and Claire to become the local medicine woman. A trip to meet Jamie’s aunt Jocasta opens new possibilities and a chance to create a region all their own. The Frasers settle in North Carolina, their brood ever growing, as content as they can be in the 1770s. Meanwhile, in modern times, Brianna and Roger struggle tracking down Claire and Jamie through the historical papers at their disposal. Brianna is back in Boston and Roger in Oxford, but both are drawn back to the Highlands, and one another. After coming across some definitive proof of dire consequences, Brianna plans a voyage through the Stones in order to advise her mother and finally meet her birth father. Once Roger determines what she’s done (and knowing his family history), he treks through himself, trying to find Brianna. Both must set sail across the Atlantic and meet individuals on their respective journeys who shape their lives, none more than a ship captain named Stephen Bonnet. Upon their arrival and eventual path crossing, Brianna must make her way to Claire and Jamie, while Roger remains in the background, at least for the time being. Jamie must become a father and learn the perils of an independent daughter not yet versed in the ways of 18th century living, while he struggles with a dark cloud she brings to the colony. Jamie addresses things in his stubborn Scottish manner, which has consequences for all, some more troublesome than others. All this and two significant story lines including Lord John Grey round out a book full of little stories to entertain as well as lay further groundwork for future novels. Gabaldon thickens the plot tremendously, yet still the mysteries abound in this must-read continuation of the well-known series.

As I have said before, Gabaldon’s mastery of writing and the series knows no limits. She is able to take her characters in so many directions and keep the reader curious with each tale. There is no stop to the adventures that occur, nor does she ever fully reveal the Stones and their powers. The reader must (and surely desires to) forge on and read even more to have a better understanding. Plus, with new characters and twists popping up all over the place, there is no end to what can, and does, happen. I find myself hard-press to keep it all straight (yes, audiobook versions make it harder to sketch things out while on the go), but listen as attentively as I can. Even though this is my second read of these novels, I am taking so much more away, yet much is still eluding me… but it’s addictive and highly entertaining at the same time.

Kudos, Madam Gabaldon, for you have not lost any momentum, even as I took the Lord John Grey side tour. With all the characters you offer up, I cannot imagine what else you could present… though you will think of something else, assuredly.