I have long been a massive fan of Diana Gabaldon and her writing, something that surprises many. There is something about this series that pulls me in and keeps my attention through the various twists and turns. While I choose to sit through the romantic interludes, I gladly devour the dialogue and the wonderful history that builds on both sides of the ocean. In this, the ninth book in the Outlander series, Gabaldon dazzles once more in a story that pulls on the heartstrings as the Revolutionary War is brewing and the American colonies are taking shape. Full of powerful story arcs and entertaining vignettes, Gabaldon impresses readers, filling the novel with a great deal of development that paves the way for even more action.
Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall have been through a great deal since they met in 1743, a war brewing in the background. While that was a hurdle on their connection, they have significantly more standing before them in 1779 as they sit in the American colony of North Carolina. Their daughter, Brianna, is finally back with them, accompanied by her own children and husband, Roger MacKenzie. Settling on Fraser’s Ridge, everyone prepares for what history has in store for them, as both sides make their push towards battle. After perusing a history book that Brianna brought back from the 20th century, Jamie has some idea what is to come, but he cannot declare it to those in the colonies, for he would surely be seen as a crazed fool. Still, he cannot sit idly by to watch the British put more people under the boot.
As tensions in the colonies mount, Jamie and Claire must prepare themselves and those who abide on the Ridge for what is to come. Clashes between British Loyalists and the American revolutionaries are coming to a head, even amongst his own tenants. Jamie knows that his anti-British sentiments are well-founded but not accepted by all, though he cannot fathom that anyone would knowingly allow the British to gain a stronghold in the colonies by leaking information. Herein lies the struggle, alongside the daily tensions of running Fraser’s Ridge and attending to local business.
As Jamie works to keep the peace on the Ridge, Claire continues to dazzle the locals with her medicine work. Using her skills as a nurse and the medicaments at her disposal in the latter portion of the 18th century, she has been known far and wide as a healer and one whose knowledge is sought out for miles. Much can be learned from her ways, her exploration of local plants, herbs, and sundry processes undertaken at the time, keeping her busy from dawn to dusk. This includes tending to her husband, when Jamie can no longer dodge the foreboding battle!
All the while, Brianna and Roger MacKenzie have demons of their own to handle. Their return through the stones from the 20th century could have implications they could not have forecasted. While they are happy being with family in the 18th century, there is a nagging sense of unease. Surrounded by disease, war, and countless technological impediments, the MacKenzies cannot ignore that 20th century living could permit a safe and happy life, especially as their family grows. However, the bonds of family are strong and Roger has decided to set up some strong roots in the community. Having not yet been ordained due to a violent situation in the past, Roger sees this as his chance to help guide the locals to a happier and more satisfying ever-after by taking the step.
With a handful of other characters ready to build on their own revelations, the colonies are rife with change. There is little time to relax, though the connection that Jamie and Claire share is deepened, as is their love for those around them. The drums of the Revolutionary War are beating and everyone is looking to see what awaits them. Blood is sure to be shed and many will die, but the American colonies are at stake. Fraser’s Ridge will be transformed, controlled by an outside force, as Jamie watches over his brood. Who that force might be is anyone’s guess, but series fans know these folk never remain too far from the action. Diana Gabaldon weaves another stunning tale that will have readers buzzing as they revisit some of their favourite characters in this epic story.
Diana Gabaldon is surely one of the greatest storytellers I have discovered in all my years of reading. She spins a tale, adding depth and powerful characters with each passing page, but does not leave the reader feeling as though there was no purpose to it all. While some characters emerge for a time, others span years or even decades, returning to flavour the narrative repeatedly throughout this stunning series. There is so much to digest in this piece, both with the historical backdrop and through the ongoing character development. Each chapter is a vignette all its own, but connects to create a powerful story arc, all of which makes up the history that is the Fraser clan. Told with such detail that the reader can feel as though they are amongst the characters, Gabaldon treats the reader to something stunning and does not appear to be losing any momentum. I am in awe with what I have read to date and cannot wait for more, however many more books there will be. This is a monumental undertaking and while the size of the books does appear daunting, there is no way I would suggest plunging into the middle of things. Block off a year, read the books (and the Lord John Grey branch offs), and become a part of the action. Stunning is so underwhelming a word for this piece and I hope series fans will find their own storylines that prove sweet as honey for them.
Kudos, Madam Gabaldon, for another epic tale!