A Breath Of Snow And Ashes by Diana GabaldonA Breath Of Snow And Ashes by Diana Gabaldon

A Breath Of Snow And Ashes

byDiana Gabaldon

Mass Market Paperback | November 27, 2007

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Eagerly anticipated by her legions of fans, this sixth novel in Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling Outlander saga is a masterpiece of historical fiction from one of the most popular authors of our time.

Since the initial publication of Outlander fifteen years ago, Diana Gabaldon’s New York Times bestselling saga has won the hearts of readers the world over — and sold more than twelve million books. Now, A Breath of Snow and Ashes continues the extraordinary story of 18th-century Scotsman Jamie Fraser and his 20th-century wife, Claire.

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.
Diana Gabaldon is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the wildly popular Outlander novels, as well as the related Lord John Grey books, one work of nonfiction, and the Outlander graphic novel The Exile. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Title:A Breath Of Snow And AshesFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:1456 pages, 6.88 × 4.18 × 2.04 inPublished:November 27, 2007Publisher:Doubleday CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0770427995

ISBN - 13:9780770427993

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Favourite Series I read this series, and then - despite my TBR list being 12 feet high - re-read the entire series. Considering there are 8 1000+ page books, I think that recommendation speaks for itself.
Date published: 2017-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love! These books are so well written and really immerse you in the world of the characters.
Date published: 2017-10-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good read, interesting series Well written and a good story line. Do have to admit I read the whole series once, but not a series I will read a second time as I do no feel it worth a second read but well worth a first read. Much better than the show so recommend reading before viewing.
Date published: 2017-10-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A lovely story A wonderful and enjoyable series full of emotion and heartache.
Date published: 2017-09-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from love the cover I enjoyed this edition story in this series.
Date published: 2017-08-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from :) This series is amazing... my mom reads it over and over
Date published: 2017-04-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I'm afriad to get to the end! I am totally addicted to this series--the only fear I have is that I will one day finish the series!
Date published: 2017-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful And Intense This book had me reaching for the Kleenex on several occasions. Diana Gabaldon has an amazing and rare gift for storytelling; the words are vibrant and the story practically leaps from the pages. Reading Gabaldon's work is an absolute pleasure. I can't turn the pages fast enough!
Date published: 2017-03-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Love the series! As a person who is an avid reader, it took me awhile to get through the outlander series. The books do drag on a bit but makes up for the fact that they do contain a lot of history!
Date published: 2017-02-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from it only gets better! love love love this series
Date published: 2017-02-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It continues... More time traveling, a real-and-true love triangle, lots of Claire's healing, Roger and Brianna, etc. Obviously some far-fetched stuff - I don't mind that, but there is quite a bit of the same sort of theme being repeated. Still good to read though.
Date published: 2017-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Breath of Snow and Ashes Yet another great book in the Outlander series. The series is still gripping and highly entertaining. I recommend this book to absolutely everyone :) Also this format is much easier to read when the books are 800 pages +
Date published: 2017-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love this series Great series. I highly recommend it
Date published: 2016-12-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent Fantastic series - must read!
Date published: 2016-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from love this book! Great series. I highly recommend it
Date published: 2016-12-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Book. Read this book a while ago. Very good writing. Hard to put down once pickid up.
Date published: 2016-03-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love her writing! I read this book quite a while ago. Great writing. My kind of book. Once I started reading it I couldn't put it down.
Date published: 2016-03-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A bit more Jamie please! At around 1000pp, and I'm still craving more Jamie! This series continues to draw me in and I've loved each of the 6 books I've read thus far. This particular installment took me a little longer than it should have to read. The first 1/3 was captivating, the middle 1/3 dragged and seemed to lack purpose and forward motion, and the final 1/3 was engaging. I thought the ending in the second epilogue was a jaw dropper, and I'm keen to move on to book #7. I'm trying to pace them out for the release of #8 as I've had the luxury of spending my evenings with Jamie for the last year or so as I've moved throught he series ~ I'm not keen to have that end! A highly recommended series!
Date published: 2014-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my favourites of the series Reviewed at Another Look Book Reviews I stayed up late last night. 3 am on a work night is not a great idea. I’ve read A Breath of Snow and Ashes (ABOSAA) twice before so it’s not like I didn’t know how it was going to end. I just get so immensely pulled into the eighteenth century with the Fraser's that I simply couldn't put it down. Doing a re-read of the Outlander series is a time consuming effort and a commitment worth every missed meal and having my bum constantly fall asleep from sitting for great lengths of time. When I got to the end of ABOSAA, I reflected on what I had read since the beginning of the novel and I am just astonished by how much story is compacted into one book. Outlander just blows my mind as no other series does. My main observation during this re-read is discovering how much I really really like Bree, Jamie & Claire’s daughter. I have no idea why she annoyed me before. Ok, annoy me might be a bit too strong but I guess I just didn’t care for her storyline as much. I remember that previously I had skimmed through the lots of the Roger and Bree storylines (as well as other secondary characters since I was so rabid for anything and everything Jamie and Claire) and that just proves how awesome re-reads of stories can be. I was foolish. By breezing through Bree & Roger’s chapters, I was in essence missing important components of Jamie & Claire's life. In feel ABOSAA is one of the most emotional books of the series. It really pulled at my heart strings and invokes a lot of frothing at the mouth outrage by me. This outrage is directed at certain characters that even as I write this, angers me. By this stage in the series the reader is already so emotionally invested in the characters that I find the sense of worry is hightened on the slightest conflict. I always felt during reading ABOSAA that the wonderfully warm magic family bubble that was built on Fraser Ridge could burst at any moment and have everything come crashing down. The imminent American Revolution was always on the cusp of conversations and I loathed the visits from Major MacDonald as much as Claire did. I admit that the Regulation/Loyalists and how the war is prepared for the reader is amazing. Jamie must walk such a tight line and break to one side. I found from a historical perspective, I was much more interested this time around. The constant drama at the Fraser Ridge community never leaves the reader bored with the setting. Funerals, sickness, abductions, brutality, fear, pregnancy, suspicion, religion, Indians, master manipulation (don’t get me started on Malva and Allan Christie) and just the daily grind of a hard life of operating a farm in the eighteenth century; all made for a masterfully crafted story. Each chapter felt like its own story yet they all were woven together intricately and they fed off one another. I was never lost. After staying up late reading ABOSAA (and then dreaming about it) today I just feel heavy. I feel fulfilled however I am so happy that ABOSSA was not the last book. I am not ready to let go of the Frasers’ or the MacKenzies. (will I ever?) The next book is Echo in the Bone. I have only read it once. My first read through was rushed and I really skimmed through that book desperate for Jamie and Claire scenes. I actually rated it a lot lower than all of the previous books and I do remember being rather disappointed. So on that note, I am ready to dive in now with a completely fresh and new perspective. Random comments - *sniff* Do we ever hear anything more about Josh again?, Oh Ian how I adore you, Marsali is probably the hardest working woman ever written, MALVA!
Date published: 2012-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing So Far Although I'm not down reading this, its an amazing book that has kept me reading these series throughout and I'm so glad I didn't get distracted from the size of the book. Anyways. I'll write a full review when I'm finished
Date published: 2011-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tears, Love and Passion! Claire and Jamie seemed to have settled into to building their community on the Ridge and are quite happy. They are hoping that the outside world will leave them relatively alone for the next couple of years. The outside world will not and does not. Soon Claire is in battles for her life one right after another. There is also the impending doom foretold in the newspaper that the big house will burn with Claire and Jamie it in. This is a must read series! They are long, but you get so caught up in them. I found this was the hard book of the series to read. I love Claire so much and felt much of the pain and frustration that she did.
Date published: 2010-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A good comeback After reading Fiery Cross - I was a bit dissapointed, it seems the author was capitalizing on the whole "highlander" idea. Fiery Cross was such a hard read until about 1/2 way through. A Breath of Snow and Ashes was literally a "breath of fresh air" for me - I found the book great from start to finish, can't wait for the next!
Date published: 2009-08-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Slow at first, but worth it in the end I must admit: I cannot put this series down, even though this was the hardest book to start so far. Gabaldon seems to be going the route of Robert Jordan: Describing every unnesessary detail! Once I got about half-way through, though, I couldn't put it down. The characters are in my heart, and I'm sad to see them go now that I've finished this book. I read all six of them in a row without anything in between, so I'm quite attached! It's absolutely fascinating reading history intertwined with fiction. This story was a heart-grabber, for sure. There is finality with this book, so I was quite surprised to find out there will be another story. It's fine with me, because I love these characters to death, but at the same time... how much is too much?
Date published: 2008-06-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It needs to end The outlander series is truly one of my favorite books however this series need to end. I mean it was great however the characters are all getting really old, it is the same adventures over again and it needs to be over. She should not make several more book. It will only go downward. That being said i am a HUGE fan of her books, therefore i loved it. but then again she needs to end it. It cannot go on forever. And now would be a good time for it to end.
Date published: 2008-05-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Breathable, readable This book was beautiful in almost every aspect. Hang on... Almost? Sure, Mrs. Gabaldon seems to not be able to stop herself from writing, and as a result there tend to be moments of "please can we move on?" But the action is mainly spot-on and interesting. The humour is delightful; it's not often you read historical novels without finding yourself bored to tears with factsfactsfacts. So, I therefore praise Mrs. Gabaldon for her intelligent use of her pen/keyboard.
Date published: 2008-01-31
Rated 2 out of 5 by from "Not as good as the rest of the series" I have to admit this book wasn't as good as the original series. Everyone loves Jamie, but for some reason that really didn't come over that well in this book. Maybe it's the length of time between reading the original books and now reading this one?
Date published: 2008-01-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Sad to see it end! Another fabulous book in the Outlander series, and I'm not sure which couple/relationship in this book that I enjoyed more - Claire and Jamie or Roger and Brianna. I was very sad to have the book end and am hoping that Gabaldon has at least one more book up her sleeve for these characters. The writing style in this one has changed just slightly from the original books in the series, and I would liked to have had a little more of the original romance that the original books had, but I wasn't disappointed, and found the ending of the book not only surprised me but brought tears to my eyes. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2008-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic This book was amazing. Diana has a great way of drawing you in and making you feel part of the story. Jamie and Claire are like two old friends you're catching up with. The story line is riviting and I had a very hard time putting it down. A must read for anyone who loves historical fictions
Date published: 2007-02-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful This book was phenomenal. Diana Gabaldon has done it again. I don't know how but Claire always seems to be able to get into scrapes unlike any other that she has ever been in. Life on the Ridge is only somewhat peacefull. I had tears in my eyes near the end of the book....a mother's love.....
Date published: 2006-11-24

Read from the Book

DUTCH CABINMarch 1773No one had known the cabin was there, until Kenny Lindsay had seen the flames, on his way up the creek.“I wouldna ha’ seen at all,” he said, for perhaps the sixth time. “Save for the dark comin’ on. Had it been daylight, I’d never ha’ kent it, never.” He wiped a trembling hand over his face, unable to take his eyes off the line of bodies that lay at the edge of the forest. “Was it savages, Mac Dubh? They’re no scalped, but maybe—”“No.” Jamie laid the soot-smeared handkerchief gently back over the staring blue face of a small girl. “None of them is wounded. Surely ye saw as much when ye brought them out?”Lindsay shook his head, eyes closed, and shivered convulsively. It was late afternoon, and a chilly spring day, but themen were all sweating. “I didna look,” he said simply. My own hands were like ice; as numb and unfeeling as therubbery flesh of the dead woman I was examining. They had been dead for more than a day; the rigor of death had passed off, leaving them limp and chilled, but the cold weather of the mountain spring had preserved them so far from the grosser indignities of putrefaction. Still, I breathed shallowly; the air was bitter with the scent of burning. Wisps of steam rose now and then from the charred ruin of the tiny cabin. From the corner of my eye, I saw Roger kick at a nearby log, then bend and pick up something from the ground beneath. Kenny had pounded on our door long before daylight, summoning us from warm beds. We had come in haste, even knowing that we were far too late to offer aid. Some of the tenants from the homesteads on Fraser’s Ridge had come, too; Kenny’s brother Evan stood with Fergus and Ronnie Sinclair in a small knot under the trees, talking together in low-voiced Gaelic.“D’ye ken what did for them, Sassenach?” Jamie squatted beside me, face troubled. “The ones under the trees, that is.”He nodded at the corpse in front of me. “I ken what killed this puir woman.”The woman’s long skirt stirred in the wind, lifting to show long, slender feet shod in leather clogs. A pair of long handsto match lay still at her sides. She had been tall—though  not so tall as Brianna, I thought, and looked automatically for my daughter’s bright hair, bobbing among the branches on the far side of the clearing. I had turned the woman’s apron up to cover her head and upper body. Her hands were red, rough-knuckled with work, and with callused palms, but from the firmness of her thighs and the slenderness of her body, I thought she was no more than thirty—likely much younger. No one could say whether she had been pretty.I shook my head at his remark.“I don’t think she died of the burning,” I said. “See, her legs and feet aren’t touched. She must have fallen into thehearth. Her hair caught fire, and it spread to the shoulders of her gown. She must have lain near enough to the wall or the chimney hood for the flames to touch; that caught, and then the whole bloody place went up.”Jamie nodded slowly, eyes on the dead woman.“Aye, that makes sense. But what was it killed them, Sassenach? The others are singed a bit, though none are burned like this. But they must have been dead before the cabin caught alight, for none o’ them ran out. Was it a deadly illness, perhaps?”“I don’t think so. Let me look at the others again.”I walked slowly down the row of still bodies with their cloth-covered faces, stooping over each one to peer again beneath the makeshift shrouds. There were any number of illnesses that could be quickly fatal in these days—with noantibiotics to hand, and no way of administering fluids save by mouth or rectum, a simple case of diarrhea could killwithin twenty-four hours.I saw such things often enough to recognize them easily; any doctor does, and I had been a doctor for more than twenty years. I saw things now and then in this century that I had never encountered in my own—particularly horrible parasitical diseases, brought with the slave trade from the tropics— but it was no parasite that had done for these poor souls, and no illness that I knew, to leave such traces on its victims. All the bodies—the burned woman, a much older woman, and three children—had been found inside the walls of the flaming house. Kenny had pulled them out, just before the roof fell in, then ridden for help. All dead before the fire started; all dead virtually at the same time, then, for surely the fire had begun to smolder soon after the woman fell dead on her hearth?The victims had been laid out neatly under the branches of a giant red spruce, while the men began to dig a gravenearby. Brianna stood by the smallest girl, her head bent. I came to kneel by the little body, and she knelt down across from me.“What was it?” she asked quietly. “Poison?”I glanced up at her in surprise.“I think so. What gave you that idea?”She nodded at the blue-tinged face below us. She had tried to close the eyes, but they bulged beneath the lids, giving the little girl a look of startled horror. The small, blunt features were twisted in a rictus of agony, and there were traces of vomit in the corners of the mouth. “Girl Scout handbook,” Brianna said. She glanced at the men, but no one was near enough to hear. Her mouth twitched, and she looked away from the body, holding out her open hand. “Never eat any strange mushroom,” she quoted.“There are many poisonous varieties, and distinguishing one from another is a job for an expert. Roger found these, growing in a ring by that log over there.”Moist, fleshy caps, a pale brown with white warty spots, the open gills and slender stems so pale as to look almostphosphorescent in the spruce shadows. They had a pleasant, earthy look to them that belied their deadliness.“Panther toadstools,” I said, half to myself, and picked one gingerly from her palm. “Agaricus pantherinus—or that’swhat they will be called, once somebody gets round to naming them properly. Pantherinus, because they kill so swiftly— like a striking cat.”I could see the gooseflesh ripple on Brianna’s forearm, raising the soft, red-gold hairs. She tilted her hand and spilled the rest of the deadly fungus on the ground.“Who in their right mind would eat toadstools?” she asked, wiping her hand on her skirt with a slight shudder.“People who didn’t know better. People who were hungry, perhaps,” I answered softly. I picked up the little girl’s hand,and traced the delicate bones of the forearm. The small belly showed signs of bloat, whether from malnutrition or postmortem changes I couldn’t tell—but the collarbones were sharp as scythe blades. All of the bodies were thin, though not to the point of emaciation.I looked up, into the deep blue shadows of the mountainside above the cabin. It was early in the year for foraging, but there was food in abundance in the forest—for those who could recognize it.Jamie came and knelt down beside me, a big hand lightly on my back. Cold as it was, a trickle of sweat streaked hisneck, and his thick auburn hair was dark at the temples. “The grave is ready,” he said, speaking low, as though he might alarm the child. “Is that what’s killed the bairn?” Henodded at the scattered fungi. “I think so—and the rest of them, too. Have you had a look around? Does anyone know who they were?”He shook his head.“Not English; the clothes are wrong. Germans would have gone to Salem, surely; they’re clannish souls, and no inclined to settle on their own. These were maybe Dutchmen.” He nodded toward the carved wooden clogs on the old woman’s feet, cracked and stained with long use. “No books nor writing left, if there was any to begin with. Nothing that might tell their name. But—”“They hadn’t been here long.” A low, cracked voice made me look up. Roger had come; he squatted next to Brianna, nodding toward the smoldering remains of the cabin. A small garden plot had been scratched into the earth nearby, but the few plants showing were no more than sprouts, the tender leaves limp and blackened with late frost. There were no sheds, no sign of livestock, no mule or pig. “New emigrants,” Roger said softly. “Not bond servants; this was a family. They weren’t used to outdoor labor, either;the women’s hands have blisters and fresh scars.” His own broad hand rubbed unconsciously over a homespun knee; his palms were as smoothly callused as Jamie’s now, but he had once been a tender-skinned scholar; he remembered the pain of his seasoning.“I wonder if they left people behind—in Europe,” Brianna murmured. She smoothed blond hair off the little girl’s forehead, and laid the kerchief back over her face. I saw her throat move as she swallowed. “They’ll never know what happened to them.”“No.” Jamie stood abruptly. “They do say that God protects fools—but I think even the Almighty will lose patiencenow and then.” He turned away, motioning to Lindsay and Sinclair.“Look for the man,” he said to Lindsay. Every head jerked up to look at him.“Man?” Roger said, and then glanced sharply at the burned remnants of the cabin, realization dawning. “Aye—who built the cabin for them?”“The women could have done it,” Bree said, lifting her chin.“You could, aye,” he said, mouth twitching slightly as he cast a sidelong look at his wife. Brianna resembled Jamie inmore than coloring; she stood six feet in her stockings and had her father’s clean-limbed strength.“Perhaps they could, but they didn’t,” Jamie said shortly. He nodded toward the shell of the cabin, where a few bits offurniture still held their fragile shapes. As I watched, the evening wind came down, scouring the ruin, and the shadowof a stool collapsed noiselessly into ash, flurries of soot and char moving ghostlike over the ground.“What do you mean?” I stood and moved beside him, looking into the house. There was virtually nothing left inside, though the chimney stack still stood, and jagged bits of the walls remained, their logs fallen like jackstraws.“There’s no metal,” he said, nodding at the blackened hearth, where the remnants of a cauldron lay, cracked in twofrom the heat, its contents vaporized. “No pots, save that— and that’s too heavy to carry away. Nay tools. Not a knife, not an ax—and ye see whoever built it had that.”I did; the logs were unpeeled, but the notches and ends bore the clear marks of an ax. Frowning, Roger picked up a long pine branch and began to poke through the piles of ash and rubble, looking to be sure. Kenny Lindsay and Sinclair didn’t bother; Jamie had told them to look for a man, and they promptly went to do so, disappearing into the forest. Fergus went with them; Evan Lindsay, his brother Murdo, and the McGillivrays began the chore of collecting stones for a cairn. “If there was a man—did he leave them?” Brianna murmured to me, glancing from her father to the row of bodies. "Did this woman maybe think they wouldn’t survive on their own?”And thus take her own life, and those of her children, to avoid a long-drawn-out death from cold and starvation?“Leave them and take all their tools? God, I hope not.” I crossed myself at the thought, though even as I did so, I doubted it. “Wouldn’t they have walked out, looking for help? Even with children . . . the snow’s mostly gone.” Only the highest mountain passes were still packed with snow, and while the trails and slopes were wet and muddy with runoff, they’d been passable for a month, at least.“I’ve found the man,” Roger said, interrupting my thoughts. He spoke very calmly, but paused to clear his throat. “Just— just here.”The daylight was beginning to fade, but I could see that he had gone pale. No wonder; the curled form he had unearthed beneath the charred timbers of a fallen wall was sufficiently gruesome as to give anyone pause. Charred to blackness, hands upraised in the boxer’s pose so common to those dead by fire, it was difficult even to be sure that it was a man— though I thought it was, from what I could see.Speculation about this new body was interrupted by a shout from the forest’s edge.“We’ve found them, milord!”Everyone looked up from contemplation of this new corpse, to see Fergus waving from the edge of the wood.“Them,” indeed. Two men, this time. Sprawled on the ground within the shadow of the trees, found not together, butnot far apart, only a short distance from the house. And both, so far as I could tell, probably dead of mushroom poisoning. “That’s no Dutchman,” Sinclair said, for probably the fourth time, shaking his head over one body.“He might be,” said Fergus dubiously. He scratched his nose with the tip of the hook he wore in replacement of hisleft hand. “From the Indies, non?” One of the unknown bodies was in fact that of a black man. The other was white, and both wore nondescript clothes of worn homespun—shirts and breeches; no jackets, despite the cold weather. And both were barefoot. “No.” Jamie shook his head, rubbing one hand unconsciously on his own breeches, as though to rid himself of thetouch of the dead. “The Dutch keep slaves on Barbuda, aye—but these are better fed than the folk from the cabin.” He lifted his chin toward the silent row of women and children. “They didna live here. Besides . . .” I saw his eyes fix on the dead men’s feet. The feet were grubby about the ankles and heavily callused, but basically clean. The soles of the black man’s feet showed yellowish pink, with no smears of mud or random leaves stuck between the toes. These men hadn’t been walking through the muddy forest barefoot, that much was sure. “So there were perhaps more men? And when these died, their companions took their shoes—and anything else ofvalue”—Fergus added practically, gesturing from the burned cabin to the stripped bodies—“and fled.”“Aye, maybe.” Jamie pursed his lips, his gaze traveling slowly over the earth of the yard—but the ground was churned with footsteps, clumps of grass uprooted and the whole of the yard dusted with ash and bits of charred wood. It looked as though the place had been ravaged by rampaging hippopotami.“I could wish that Young Ian was here. He’s the best of the trackers; he could maybe tell what happened there, at least.”He nodded into the wood, where the men had been found.“How many there were, maybe, and which way they’ve gone.”Jamie himself was no mean tracker. But the light was going fast now; even in the clearing where the burned cabinstood, the dark was rising, pooling under the trees, creeping like oil across the shattered earth.His eyes went to the horizon, where streamers of cloud were beginning to blaze with gold and pink as the sun set behind them, and he shook his head.“Bury them. Then we’ll go.”One more grim discovery remained. Alone among the dead, the burned man had not died of fire or poison. Whenthey lifted the charred corpse from the ashes to bear him to his grave, something fell free of the body, landing with asmall, heavy thunk on the ground. Brianna picked it up, and rubbed at it with the corner of her apron.“I guess they overlooked this,” she said a little bleakly, holding it out. It was a knife, or the blade of one. The wooden hilt had burned entirely away, and the blade itself was warped with heat.Steeling myself against the thick, acrid stench of burned fat and flesh, I bent over the corpse, poking gingerly at themidsection. Fire destroys a great deal, but preserves the strangest things. The triangular wound was quite clear, seared in the hollow beneath his ribs.“They stabbed him,” I said, and wiped my sweating hands on my own apron.“They killed him,” Bree said, watching my face. “And then his wife—” She glanced at the young woman on the ground,the concealing apron over her head. “She made a stew with the mushrooms, and they all ate it. The children, too.”The clearing was silent, save for the distant calls of birds on the mountain. I could hear my own heart, beating painfully in my chest. Vengeance? Or simple despair?“Aye, maybe,” Jamie said quietly. He stooped to pick up an end of the sheet of canvas they had placed the dead man on. “We’ll call it accident.”The Dutchman and his family were laid in one grave, the two strangers in another. A cold wind had sprung up as the sun went down; the apron fluttered away from the woman’s face as they lifted her. Sinclair gave a strangled cry of shock, and nearly dropped her.She had neither face nor hair anymore; the slender waist narrowed abruptly into charred ruin. The flesh of her headhad burned away completely, leaving an oddly tiny, blackened skull, from which her teeth grinned in disconcerting levity. They lowered her hastily into the shallow grave, her children and mother beside her, and left Brianna and me tobuild a small cairn over them, in the ancient Scottish way, to mark the place and provide protection from wild beasts,while a more rudimentary resting place was dug for the two barefoot men.The work finally done, everyone gathered, white-faced and silent, around the new-made mounds. I saw Roger stand close beside Brianna, his arm protectively about her waist. A small shudder went through her, which I thought had nothing to do with the cold. Their child, Jemmy, was a year or so younger than the smallest girl.“Will ye speak a word, Mac Dubh?” Kenny Lindsay glanced inquiringly at Jamie, pulling his knitted bonnet down over his ears against the growing chill. It was nearly nightfall, and no one wanted to linger. We would have to make camp, somewhere well away from the stink of burning, and that would be hard enough, in the dark. But Kenny was right; we couldn’t leave without at least some token of ceremony, some farewell for the strangers. Jamie shook his head.“Nay, let Roger Mac speak. If these were Dutchmen, belike they were Protestant.”Dim as the light was, I saw the sharp glance Brianna shot at her father. It was true that Roger was a Presbyterian; so was Tom Christie, a much older man whose dour face reflected his opinion of the proceedings. The question of religion was no more than a pretext, though, and everyone knew it, including Roger. Roger cleared his throat with a noise like tearing calico. It was always a painful sound; there was anger in it now as well. He didn’t protest, though, and he met Jamie’s eyes straight on, as he took his place at the head of the grave. I had thought he would simply say the Lord’s Prayer, or perhaps one of the gentler psalms. Other words came to him, though.“Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard: I cry aloud, but there is no judgment. He hath fenced up my waythat I cannot pass, and He hath set darkness in my paths.”His voice had once been powerful, and beautiful. It was choked now, no more than a rasping shadow of its formerbeauty—but there was sufficient power in the passion with which he spoke to make all those who heard him bow theirheads, faces lost in shadow. “He hath stripped me of my glory, and taken the crown from my head. He hath destroyed me on every side, and I am gone: and my hope hath He removed like a tree.” His face was set, but his eyes rested for a bleak moment on the charred stump that had served the Dutch family for a chopping block. “He hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me. My kinsfolk have failed,and my familiar friends have forgotten me.” I saw the three Lindsay brothers exchange glances, and everyone drew a little closer together, against the rising wind.“Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends,” he said, and his voice softened, so that it was difficult to hear him, above the sighing of the trees. “For the hand of God has touched me.”Brianna made a slight movement beside him, and he cleared his throat once more, explosively, stretching his neck so that I caught a glimpse of the rope scar that marred it. “Oh, that my words were now written! Oh, that they wereprinted in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever!”He looked slowly round from face to face, his own expressionless, then took a deep breath to continue, voice crackingon the words. “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body”—Brianna shuddered convulsively, and looked away from the raw mound of dirt—“yet in my flesh shall I see God. Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold.”He stopped, and there was a brief collective sigh, as everyone let out the breath they had been holding. He wasn’t quite finished, though. He had reached out, half-unconsciously, for Bree’s hand, and held it tightly. He spoke the last words almost to himself, I thought, with little thought for his listeners. “Be ye afraid of the sword: for wrath bringeth the punishments of the sword, that ye may know there is a judgment.”I shivered, and Jamie’s hand curled round my own, cold but strong. He looked down at me, and I met his eyes. I knew what he was thinking.He was thinking, as I was, not of the present, but the future. Of a small item that would appear three years hence, in the pages of the Wilmington Gazette, dated February 13, 1776. It is with grief that the news is received of the deaths by fire of James MacKenzie Fraser and his wife, Claire Fraser, in a conflagration that destroyed their house in the settlement of Fraser’s Ridge, on the night of January 21 last. Mr. Fraser, a nephew of the late Hector Cameron of River Run Plantation, was born at Broch Tuarach in Scotland. He was widely known in the Colony and deeply respected; he leaves no surviving children. It had been easy, so far, not to think too much of it. So far in the future, and surely not an unchangeable future—after all, forewarned was forearmed . . . wasn’t it? I glanced at the shallow cairn, and a deeper chill passed through me. I stepped closer to Jamie, and put my other hand on his arm. He covered my hand with his, and squeezed tight in reassurance. No, he said to me silently. No, I will not let it happen.As we left the desolate clearing, though, I could not free my mind of one vivid image. Not the burned cabin, the pitifulbodies, the pathetic dead garden. The image that haunted me was one I had seen some years before—a gravestone in the ruins of Beauly Priory, high in the Scottish Highlands. It was the tomb of a noble lady, her name surmounted by the carving of a grinning skull—very like the one beneath the Dutchwoman’s apron. Beneath the skull was her motto: Hodie mihi cras tibi—sic transit gloria mundi. My turn today—yours tomorrow. Thus passes the glory of the world.From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

“The sixth instalment of the adventures of Claire and Jamie Fraser, already number one on the bestseller list, is a whopping 980 pages of action-packed escapism. It also has surprisingly melancholy and insightful views on the experience of growing old and dealing with the losses that entails…. One of the things that sets Gabaldon apart from other romance writers is exhaustive research of the times in which her characters live, so evident in her attention to period detail…. plot lines and stand-alone yarns are expertly woven together with the overall theme of impending doom and the question of predetermination.” The Toronto Star “Fans of Diana Gabaldon’s popular Outlander series have another rousing historical-science-fiction-romance novel to savour in A Breath of Snow and Ashes…. For fans, this book is another slam-dunk hit. It’s a massive, long-lasting source of entertainment.” The Gazette