A Breath of Snow and Ashes is the sixth book out of a planned ten-book series by Diana Gabaldon. The Outlander series incorporates historical fiction, fantasy, time travelling, and an eighteenth-century romance in a perfect balance that many aspiring writers can only dream of. Spanning between 1773 to 1776, the next three years prove an incredibly dark period for the Frasers. The fifth series of the hit Outlander TV series follows this novel, so here’s all you need to know.
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A Breath of Snow and Ashes
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.
“All I want, is for you to love me. Not because of what I can do or what I look like, or because I love you – just because I am.”Diana Gabaldon, A Breath of Snow and Ashes
Our Overview (Spoilers!)
Still in North Carolina, Jamie gets assigned the position of ‘Indian Agent’, a person hired by the British Crown to negotiate with Native American tribes. This assignment takes Jamie away from their home for substantial chunks of time, travelling far and wide to communicate with the Cherokee tribes. While Jamie is gone, Claire busies herself in continuing to treat the ill and poorly members of the community.
During one of Jamie’s trips, a group of men kidnap Claire from Fraser’s Ridge. Notably, one of the kidnappers by the name Wendigo Donner happens to be a time-traveller. Coming from 1968, the man is from the same group as Robert Springer. During the three-day capture, Claire is brutalized by the group of assailants. Jamie eventually finds Claire and rescues her. Jamie and the men of the Ridge kill almost all of her kidnappers.
Unable to catch a break, Claire falls severely ill with dysentery. Mrs. Bug and Malva Christie tend to her and manage to eventually nurse her back to health, but not before taking extreme measures to try and lower her fever. Claire wakes up shocked when she realises that her nurses had shaved her hair in the attempt to nurse her.
Lizzie Wemyss reveals that she is pregnant. They are unsure if the father of the baby is Josiah or Keziah Beardsley, so naturally Lizzie marries both twins and the throuple raise the child as their own.
Malva Christie moved to Fraser’s Ridge with her brother, Allan, and father, Tom in the previous novel. She grows close to the Frasers. After falling pregnant, she accuses Jamie as being the father, much to everyone’s shock. Poor Malva is then found dead in Claire’s backyard and despite her best efforts, both mother and child die. Claire is accused of the murder for reasons of jealousy. Despite Malva’s father admitting to the murder, it is found that he too is innocent. Nonetheless, Tom takes the fall. It is revealed that Malva and her half-brother, Allan, had been sexually intimate for years and after falling pregnant, Malva was planning on telling the truth about their relationship. Allan silences her by killing her. Young Ian then shoots Tom in the back with an arrow.
Roger finds a new lease of life in religion and becomes ordained in the Presbyterian Church. Masali, Jamie’s step-daughter, gives birth to a boy named Henri. Henri is born with dwarfism which prompts a lot of rumours about Fraser’s Ridge, which Roger rejects. Roger then baptizes the boy.
Bonnet kidnaps Brianna and takes her aboard his pirate ship, the Anemone. He intends to sell her to slavery. In the second act of heroism, Jamie and his men manage to save Brianna and capture Bonnet. They grant Brianna with the choice to choose Bonnet’s fate – to which she chooses to shoot him.
Brianna and Roger welcome their second child, Amanda Claire Hope MacKenzie. The girl is born with a heart murmer, which is not treatable given the medicine available in the 1700s. The MacKenzies make the difficult decision to travel forward in time to make sure that their daughter can have proper treatment for her illness.
The Fraser’s house is then destroyed in a rad led by Wendigo Donner, who is looking for gemstones to aid his return to the future. With Fraser’s Ridge completely destroyed, Claire and Jamie have no choice but to return to Scotland.
A Breath of Snow and Ashes is another excellent addition to The Outlander series.
Gabaldon’s writing never fails to leave us hooked on every word. Her attention to detail is unparalleled and in every scene, we are able to fully immerse ourselves in the characters and the setting.
This novel certainly is jam-packed with peril and angst, so readers should prepare themselves before picking up A Breath of Snow and Ashes. The action and rescuing sequence remind us a lot of the first few books. This book certainly has a nostalgic feel to it, especially with what Brianna went through seems to be setting her up for a similar timeline as her mother! Not to mention with the American revolution looming, we’re on edge to see how the British army are going to utilise Jamie.
The highlight of this book, for us, was the other characters of Fraser’s Ridge. The throuple storyline had us rolling – oh, how we wish Gabaldon would release a side-story following those characters! Despite the pain and the endless strife the characters are put through, this book still has a lot of heartwarming moments and even a decent dose of humour!
Author Diana Gabaldon is incapable of not writing an amazing novel, isn’t she?
Our rating: ★★★★☆
Frequently Asked Questions
What is after A Breath of Snow and Ashes?
Here are all the books in the Outlander series in order:
- Outlander (Cross Stitch in UK, NZ, and AUS)
- Dragonfly in Amber
- Drums of Autumn
- The Fiery Cross
- A Breath of Snow and Ashes
- An Echo in the Bone
- Written in My Own Heart’s Blood
- Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone
As you can see, the last book is still underway with no working title.
How long is A Breath of Snow and Ashes?
True to Outlander fashion, this novel is a long one, at 1157 pages. It’s no surprise that this series has taken over twenty, no – thirty – years to write!
What season is A Breath of Snow and Ashes?
The series took a bit of liberty with its on-screen adaption – which is great! A show which follows the novels exactly wouldn’t be as exciting to watch. Season 5 of the Outlander series is mostly based on the 5th book, with some storylines from A Breath of Snow and Ashes making their appearance for some major storylines. Season 6 continues to follow the story of A Breath of Snow and Ashes. If you’re missing Lord John Grey in this novel, we hopefully will still see him across season 5 and 6 because of how the showrunners have split up the plots!