A Breath Of Snow And Ashes by Diana Gabaldon

The basics

Title: A Breath Of Snow And Ashes


Series: Outlander #6

Outlander (1991) – also called Cross Stitch
Dragonfly In Amber (1992)
Voyager (1993)
Drums Of Autumn (1996)
The Fiery Cross (2001)
A Breath Of Snow And Ashes (2004)
An Echo In The Bone (2009)
Written In My Own Heart’s Blood (2014)
Book 9 (201-?)

Add it: Goodreads

Goodreads Summary:

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.

Read a full summary of A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon below. If you can’t remember what happened in A Breath of Snow and Ashes and you need a refresher, then you’re in the right place.

in short

A lot of birth, a lot of death, and a lot of intrigue.  There’s the Frenchman’s Gold mystery, the Donner party mystery and a whole load of politics thrown in the mix as well.  And time travel, of course.

what happened in A Breath of Snow and Ashes?

  • A Dutchman’s cabin near the ridge burns to the ground, leaving behind several bodies under suspicious circumstances; poison and stabbing, to say nothing of the fire.
  • Ian returns to the Ridge with a head wound.  Major Donald McDonald questions him about Indian involvement and speaks with Jamie regarding accepting the position of Indian Agent.  Jamie accepts the position, if only to prevent the morally questionable Brown brothers from doing so.
  • Jamie recalls a fortune teller in France telling him he would die nine times before finally resting in his grave.  With Claire’s help, he calculates his current total at five.
  • Jamie and Ian ride off to make their introductions to the local Cherokee villages.  Roger, accompanied by Arch Bug and Tom Christie, ride off to collect new Protestant settlers for the Ridge.  At River Run, Roger discovers Bonnet has been keeping an eye on Jem.
  • Roger carves a toy car for Jem, calling it a VROOM.  Bree and Roger talk increasingly of aspects of “their time”.  Bree develops matches with the phosphorus sent by Lord John.  Claire distils ether to be used as an anaesthetic.
  • Claire operates on Tom Christie’s gnarled hand, thus restoring it’s use.  Christie decides maybe Claire isn’t a horrible witch afterall, though there is still some animosity between him and Jamie.  Christie’s daughter, Malva, starts helping Claire in the surgery.
  • Jamie and Roger ride out to the Cherokee villages and come across another burned cabin.  The couple were hanged and their children, missing.  They find one of the daughters, with burns too severe for her to live.
  • Bree expresses concern that Fergus might be hitting his wife, Marsali.  Claire visits Marsali at the malting shed to ask her directly, but the two of them are attacked by a group of men.  Marsali puts up a decent fight in spite of he advanced pregnancy, and is eventually tossed aside.  Claire is abducted.
  • The group is headed by Hodgepile, one of Bonnet’s associates who was assumed dead in the warehouse fire in Drums Of Autumn.  Lionel Brown is also present, as is a young man with wild hair, Donner, who asks Claire, “Does the name Ringo Starr mean anything to you?”
  • Days go by, Claire is physically and sexually abused.  The men from the Ridge, led by Jamie, rescue Claire and kill all the men present, save Lionel Brown who, with his broken leg, is taken for questioning.
  • Back at the Ridge, there is debate over whether or not to kill Brown after questioning him.  He escapes, and crawls to beg Claire for his life.  She takes him in to patch him up, but when she turns her back Mrs Bug suffocates him with a pillow.
  • Marsali gives birth to Henri-Christian, who is a dwarf.  Ian tells Marsali of his own stillborn daughter as Fergus struggles to accept his newborn son.
  • Roger is asked to speak at a funeral.  Half way through proceedings, the old woman is found to still be alive, though she dies minutes later.
  • Jamie travels once more to the local Cherokee village to try and convince them of the Native American’s fate after the Revolution, in an attempt to save them.
  • Lizzie’s fiancé, Manfred McGillivrey, visits Claire and breaks off the engagement after admitting to having contracted syphilis.  He then runs away from the Ridge.
  • Roger unknowingly observes Tom Christie switching his daughter.
  • Roger causes talk on the Ridge when he spends more time helping widow Amy McCullum than he does with his own family.  In reconciling his need to help others with those of his family, he decides to become a minister.
  • Amy McCullum’s son must have his appendix removed; his surgery is the first on the Ridge to be performed with the aid of Claire’s ether.
  • Jamie, Claire, Ian and Brianna attend a barbeque at River Run in celebration of Flora McDonald’s arrival in America.  Jacosta suffers an acute pain from her glaucoma and Claire relives the pressure in her eyeball by puncturing it with a needle.
  • While Jacosta is recovering, she tells Jamie and Claire that the mystery man who helped them to move the Frenchman’s Gold originally is back, wanting to take the gold.  She still doesn’t know who he is.
  • Donner makes a comeback, surprising Bree by whistling Yellow Submarine.  He explains Springer’s (Ottertooth) original plan and how he came to ravel back in time. He is arrested for theft shortly afterward.
  • Jamie, Claire and Ian visit Cross Creek both for shopping and to follow a lead on Manfred’s whereabouts.  Jamie defends the local printer from being tarred and feathers, and then he and Claire visit the local brothel to administer penicillin to the staff.
  • A family on the Ridge is found suffering from dysentery.  Many others fall ill, including Claire, who nearly dies from meningitis.  Much to her dismay, when she awakes she finds that, in an effort to bring down her fever and save her life, Mrs Bug and Malva have shaved her head.  Also, Fergus tried to kill himself, but Jamie stopped him.
  • Jamie resigns from his position as Indian Agent to the Crown, declaring himself for the rebels.  The ever honourable Lord John writes letters in an attempt to dissuade him.
  • Jamie sends Fergus and Marsali to New Bern for a fresh start, and to establish a print shop.  They successfully begin circulation of a paper, with a view to print treasonous pamphlets on the side.
  • Ian takes Bree into the mountains to show her the skeleton of a mammoth.  Along the way he tells her the story of his time with the Mohawk; of his marriage and the string of unsuccessful pregnancies that ultimately lead him to be asked to leave.
  • A mysterious letter arrives from Phaedre, asking Claire (and possibly Jamie) to go to River Run.  When they arrive, they discover Phaedre is missing, and that she is the bastard daughter of Hector Cameron.
  • Jemmy has lice.  Through shaving his head, a mole is revealed in the same place Roger also has a mole.  Everyone breathes a sigh of relief, and the readers rejoice.
  • Lizzie is pregnant with one of the Beardsley twins’ child, but she can’t say which one.  Chaos ensues.  Lizzie must choose one of them to marry, but no agreement can be reached and she ends up being handfast to one, and married by an unwitting Roger, to the other.  She is delivered of a healthy son and everyone is apparently okay with the situation.
  • 18th April 1775 – Paul Revere’s Ride and the Battle of Lexington & Concord, the arguable beginning of the Revolution.
  • Malva Christie is the second unmarried woman to be discovered to be pregnant.  She claims the child is Jamie’s – Claire slaps her, and rightly so.  More chaos ensues as the people of the Ridge believe her story.
  • Ian admits her unborn child could be his – though, apparently, it could just as easily belong to Bobby Higgins.  Later, Claire finds Malva dead, her throat slit, in the vegetable patch.  She performs an emergency C-section, but the child also dies.
  • Richard Brown et al arrive to arrest Claire for murder.  Jamie and Claire are briefly besieged but agree to go to Hillsboro with Tom Christie as escort.
  • Jamie and Claire are stoned on their way, before being separated.  Claire is taken to New Bern and imprisoned.  She helps to deliver a fellow prisoner’s baby, and is then taken to perform similar midwifery for the Governor’s wife at the Governor’s Palace.  Claire has a letter delivered to Fergus.
  • Jamie escapes his own imprisonment with the help of Ian.  Before they can get to Claire, she has left on the Cruizer with the Governor, posing as his wife and acting as his secretary.
  • Claire is “rescued” in exchange for Tom Christie, who comes aboard and confesses to the murder of his daughter.  He is innocent, but believes he should have been the one to kill her as he believed her to be a witch.  Plus, he’s in love with Claire.
  • Jamie finds Roger in Edenton, where he intends to finally be officially ordained, to tell him that our old friend, Stephan Bonnet, has kidnapped Brianna.
  • Bonnet takes Brianna to his house on Ocracoke (home of the standing stones) and intends to sell her to the highest bidder.  She makes a decent attempt at escape, and is helped by the arrival of Jamie, Roger, and Ian.  Bonnet is captured and knocked unconscious; Bree spares his life in order that he might be returned to the mainland to be tried as a pirate and hanged.
  • Ian finds Phaedre, who was sold on by Ulysses after he found out about her and Duncan – and she retaliated by telling him she knew about his and Jacosta’s relationship.
  • Bree gives birth to a daughter, Amanda, who is discovered to have a heart defect that can only be mended by going back to the future.
  • Stephen Bonnet set for execution by being tied to a stake a low tide and eventually being drowned when the tide rises.  Hours later, Roger rows Bree out to Bonnet, where she shoots him in the head.
  • On their way to the execution, Bree and Roger find Lord John and his son, William.  It is obvious to everyone but William that he and Brianna share a father.  She agrees not to tell him, but insists on having a proper conversation with him before they leave.
  • After Bree takes Amanda through the stones, Roger gives Jem the opportunity to stay behind with Claire and Jamie, but he follows his father.
  • Claire speaks with Allan Christie and discovers it was he who killed Malva.  The two of them had an intimate relationship and it was his child she was carrying.  Ian kills him.

how did A Breath of Snow and Ashes end?

December 21st, 1776 Donner and his friends arrive on the Ridge, demanding gemstones to give them safe passage back to the future.  They refuse to believe the stones are gone and continue to trash the house.  The ether leaks, and when Ian lights a candle, the house is engulfed in flame.  Jamie and Claire make it out, though Donner and his friends aren’t as lucky.  In the confusion, it is revealed it is Arch Bug who was the mysterious escort of the Frenchman’s Gold.  Jamie asks Arch and his wife to leave the Ridge.  Jamie decides that he and Claire will visit Scotland to retrieve his printing press, then return to America to fight.

The MacKenzies move into Lallybroch and find a wooden box with the name JEREMIAH ALEXANDER IAN FRASER MACKENZIE burned into the top.  It contains two books, a small cherrywood carving of a snake, and a stack of letters – the topmost of which is from Claire, telling them that they survived the fire on the Ridge.


extra information (terminology etc.)


Fraser’s Ridge, North Carolina 1773 – 1776

River Run, North Carolina 1773 – 1776

Cross Creek, North Carolina 1774

Charlotte, Macklenburg County 1775

Edenton, North Carolina 1775

Ocracoke, North Carolina 1775

Lallybroch, Scotland 197?


Notable Characters

Flora Macdonald; helped Prince Charles to escape Scotland after the Battle of Culloden.


PoV Characters

Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser (age 57 – 60)

James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser (age 51 – 55)

Brianna Ellen Randall Fraser MacKenzie (age 25 – 28)

Roger Jeremiah Wakefield MacKenzie (age 32 – 35)

Ian James Fitzgibbons Fraser MacKenzie (age 21 – 24)

This is a full plot summary of what happened in A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon. Check out our recap list for more recaps. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!

Other recaps for this series:


  • Joey Bortnick says:

    Isn’t Ian’s last name Murray???

  • martha day says:

    I have a question concerning the stones on the island? in North Carolina.
    Donner I believe wished he could go back and have a beer and watch baseball. So I assume he came from the u.S. to 177 something in North Carolina.
    So where did Brianna, Roger and children end up? Did the North Carolina stones take people wherever they want to go?
    Do they end up in Scotland? Boston??
    Why could Claire and Jamie go to the future??Perhaps they will in later books..
    Any way, any ideas?

  • Outlander Fan says:

    Ian’s last name is Murry. Jem has Ian as one of his middle names. The stones only move you through time. Brianna , Roger and the kids go forward 202 years, that is what happens unless you focus on a specific time or person at a specific time. The ability to travel through the stones is inherited, Jamie can’t travel.

Leave a reply