Time-travelers revolutionize colonial America with anachronisms and cliffhangers galore, in Gabaldon’s sixth Outlander epic.
It’s 1773, and we rejoin Jamie Fraser, an exiled Scots laird, and his 20th-century physician wife Claire in the North Carolina colony where they had emigrated in Drums of Autumn (1997). Their mountain compound, Fraser’s Ridge, is shared by daughter Brianna, her husband Roger and, intermittently, by Ian, Jamie’s semi-feral nephew, a former adopted Mohawk. Brianna and Roger, also moderns, had slipped through a time portal in the Highlands. Jamie and Claire, now middle-aged, still have plenty of swash in their buckle. Roger doubts son Jem’s paternity since Brianna was raped by pirate Stephen Bonnet in a previous installment. Jamie, forced to swear fealty to the Crown, inwardly espouses the rebel cause, and not just because his relatives know who wins. Abductions and daring rescues abound. Claire is kidnapped by a band of marauding arsonists. On her return, hot flashes and non-stop medical emergencies demand her attention. Homemade penicillin, quinine and ether help her cure appendicitis, malaria and syphilis. Brianna invents matches, makes paper and almost brings hot running water to the Ridge. When Claire falls ill amid a dysentery epidemic, no one suspects her assistant Malva, abused daughter (actually niece) of Jamie’s comrade Tom Christie. Later, Malva, six months pregnant, implicates Jamie. Claire finds Malva dead, her throat slit, and attempts an emergency Caesarian. Taken prisoner, Claire becomes the colonial governor’s unpaid scribe. While Roger, called to the ministry, is away seeking ordination, Brianna is snatched by one of Jamie’s enemies, and ends up the captive, once more, of the unsinkable Bonnet.
Gold ingots, a corpulent white sow, polyandry, incest, miscegenation, a new time-portal and much backstory augment this installment’s edematous bloat.