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

Five stars (of five)

Gabaldon continues the epic historical series as the narrative inches closer to the American War of Independence. An early crime sets the Frasers and MacKenzies on edge, leaving Claire shaken to the core. This does not deter her prophetic commentary ahead of the key battles in the War and allows Jamie to forge his own path in the coming clash, pitting honour to the Crown against a known final outcome. Amidst the preparations for War, Gabaldon peppers the text with numerous vignettes that flesh out more characters, with the key players continuing their familial growth. Claire uses her time to explore her role as traveller through the Stones, having encountered others who have undergone the same fate at various points in her ‘new life’. These others will educate her in the ways of the Stones, as well as the varied portals that exist to move people from the 20th to 18th centuries with relative ease, while taking a major toll on their lives. Roger, who seeks to find his own niche in the 18th century, takes up the cloth and becomes a Presbyterian minister for the Ridge, drawing on some of his adoptive father’s life lessons before he crossed into the past. Facing numerous quandaries and legal battles of their own, akin to a soap opera at times, those on Fraser’s Ridge forge ahead while the colonies around them seek to carve out their own history and future apart from Britain. However, what story would be complete without another visit by Irish pirate Stephen Bonnet, who tries to take what he feels is his, Brianna. While she awaits assistance, she turns the tables on this lout and attempts to end his marauding activities once and for all. As the story winds down and the Clan expands, a medical issue may force the Frasers and MacKenzies to separate, a decision no one takes lightly. Gabaldon continues her story with such pizzazz that avid readers are left begging for more.

Gabaldon has used the War of Independence as a key event towards which the series marches. As the months draw closer and the prophetic article in the Wilmington Gazette offers a date for their death, Jamie and Claire must wrestle with their history, future, and love for one another, as well as bringing the entire cast of Fraser’s Ridge forward in this sensational sixth novel in the series. Gabaldon finds new historical spins on which to focus and keeps the chapter-based tales fresh and highly interesting. The continued exploration of science and medicine in a comparative fashion between both centuries proves highly informative to the reader, as well as using history as a forward-looking guidebook rather than a collective of past lessons. Gabladon also forces Claire to face truths about her original fate as a Stone traveller and what that might mean about her as a person and how many others might have made similar journeys, scattered all over the world. Claire and Jamie continue to connect on many levels, but have stepped aside to next subsequent generations take centre stage and deliver a story all their own. Masterfully told and sensationally intricate, Gabaldon amazes fans with her long and drawn-out narrative, holding the interest of true fans from beginning to end.

Kudos, Madam Gabaldon, as you continue to dazzle readers with your ideas, plots, and smaller storylines. I am in awe at how much you can tell, and yet how much remains a mystery for future novels.