A Breath of Snow and Ashes

The sixth volume in the Outlander novel series. centered on time-traveling 20th century doctor Claire Randall and her 18th century Scottish Highlander warrior spouse Jamie Fraser

Diana Gabaldon’s sixth novel in the Outlander series is A Breath of Snow and Ashes. The stories revolve around time-traveling 20th-century doctor Claire Fraser and her 18th-century Scottish Highlander warrior spouse, Jamie Fraser.

The tale begins in March 1773 on Fraser’s Ridge in North Carolina, the colony led by the Catholic Scottish Highlander Jamie Fraser. Claire Fraser, or Sassenach, is a time-traveling English doctor who married Jamie and chose to live in the past with him, their daughter Brianna, son-in-law Roger, grandson Jem, and nephew Ian. Using priceless jewels, all of these characters can travel through time. According to a future newspaper report, the Big House on Fraser’s Ridge, Jamie and Claire’s house, would burn down in January 1776, killing everyone who lives there. Following a series of marauders’ burnings and killings in the colonies, Jamie is dispatched as an agent to interact with the local Cherokee and other tribes. He is charged with gathering muskets to arm the natives. No one knows he will eventually betray the Crown and fight for the American Revolution save his own time-traveling family.

Claire is kidnapped and brutalized by the bandits attacking the colonies. When Jamie and his gang find her, the bandits are slaughtered. Claire and Jamie also had flashbacks of their tormentors, particularly Jamie’s archenemy, Jack Randall. Roger aspires to be a Protestant minister but abandons his studies at the last minute to save Brianna, who Stephen Bonnet has kidnaped. Roger, Jamie, Ian, and Claire save Brianna from Bonnet’s island hideaway, as well as Phaedre, a slave of Jamie’s aunt Jocasta.

When Claire’s medical assistant, Malva, is pregnant, she accuses Jamie of being the father. Claire subsequently discovers Malva in the garden with her neck slit; Claire attempts to save the baby, but it dies. A mob arrives to arrest Claire and Jamie on murder charges, and Claire ends up in a jail in New Bern awaiting trial until she is summoned to the governor’s palace to assist both the governor and his pregnant wife. Jamie escapes his captors and brings Malva’s father, Tom Christie, to the governor. Christie claims he murdered Malva because he mistook her for a witch. Malva is Christie’s brother’s daughter, and Christie’s son Allan has been raping Malva for years, resulting in her pregnancy. Even though Allan is the genuine killer of Malva, Claire is liberated, and Jamie is exonerated as a result of Christie’s sacrifice.

Meanwhile, on the eve of the Revolutionary War, tensions increase. Jamie eventually declares his support for the rebellion, leading many of his fellow Scots into battle and defeating the Loyalists. Brianna and Roger’s baby, Mandy, is born with a heart condition that Claire cannot repair, so Brianna and Roger gather more gemstones and journey back in time with Jem. Jamie and Claire contemplate joining them but decide to stay at the last minute. When January 1776 arrives, a tiny phosphorus fire in the Big House kitchen appears to fulfill the newspaper article’s prophecy. However, in December, the house is destroyed by an unintentional ether fire set by a gang of thugs led by another time traveler desperate to return to his time. The newspaper got both the date and the details of the death wrong, and despite Big House’s devastation, no one is hurt except the bandits. Claire and Jamie return to Scotland alone and without community backing searching for Jamie’s printing press. They then return to America to continue waging the good fight.