A Breath of Snow and Ashes is the sixth novel in the best-selling Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. The novel takes place in the colony of North Carolina, from early 1773 to late 1776.

Plot Summary

The book follows 20th-century doctor Claire Fraser and her 18th-century husband, Jamie Fraser, as they face the politics and turmoil of the forthcoming American Revolution. The preceding novel, The Fiery Cross, concluded with political unrest in the colonies beginning to boil over while the Frasers try to live peacefully on their isolated homestead. Claire's skill as a healer on Fraser's Ridge brings suspicions of witchcraft and murder upon her, while Jamie faces conflicting loyalties – one to the oath he swore to the British crown after the Jacobite Rising, and one to his hope for the American independence his daughter Brianna has assured him of.

Timeline of Significant Events


March 1773

  • Ian hears men nearby and gets injured in the confusion
  • Claire, Jamie, Brianna, and Roger, along with several other men of Fraser's Ridge, examine the remains of a family, possibly Dutchmen, that apparently died prior to their house catching fire
  • Claire and Jamie return home to find Major MacDonald waiting for them; Ian returns shortly thereafter with a head injury
  • Brianna and Roger resolve to fetch Jem from the McGillivrays'
  • MacDonald tells Jamie of at least three other incidents similar to the Dutch cabin, and proposes that Jamie form a Committee of Safety, as well as become an Indian Agent to the Crown. He also asks Jamie to accept a large number of new tenants, recently arrived from Scotland

April 1773

  • Bobby Higgins arrives with a letter and parcels from Lord John, who imparts his views about the so-called "Boston Massacre" and asks Claire's help in treating Bobby's ills
  • Claire treats Lizzie's malarial attack and Bobby’s piles, and comes to a conclusion about Bobby’s mysterious fainting spells
  • Jamie decides to become an Indian agent after the Browns visit and announce they have formed a Committee of Safety
  • Jamie asks Roger to go with Arch Bug and Tom Christie to retrieve the Scottish emigrants currently residing in Cross Creek and Campbelton

July 1773

  • Jamie parleys with the People of the Snowbird, and fends off the unwanted attentions of two Cherokee women
  • At River Run, Roger and Duncan Innes discuss religion over whisky until they are joined by Jocasta and Tom Christie. Later, Phaedre tells Roger about a tall, blond Irishman who took an inordinate interest in Jemmy earlier that day

August 1773

  • Claire fills Jamie in on everything he had missed while he was away, including the burning of a field of barley and the arrival of the new tenants
  • Jamie writes a letter to Lord John about his decision to become an Indian agent
  • Brianna writes about running water in her dream journal, and Roger whittles a toy car for Jemmy

September 1773

  • The haymaking is complete, and Jamie says a prayer aloud for the group
  • MacDonald brings news of more burnings in the backcountry
  • Claire reads a letter from Lord John and unpacks his gifts to her: handcrafted glass globes and oil of vitriol for producing ether
  • Jamie and Ian return with Cherokee guests, one of whom requires oral surgery
  • An Indian named Sequoyah delivers the bones of a white man as proof his death was not a violent one, nor at the hands of the nearby tribes, and the Frasers bury him in the Ridge's cemetery
  • Brianna succeeds in making matches using the white phosphorous Lord John had sent her
  • Claire mends a gash on Tom Christie's hand, and tries to convince him to let her perform additional surgery on his hand to correct its contracture
  • Arch Bug tells Jamie and Claire the story of how he lost two fingers at the hands of the Frasers of Glenhelm
  • Tom Christie tries to back out of the hand surgery, but Claire persuades him to come round. The morning of the surgery, Tom refuses use of the ether, and Claire performs surgery on his hand while he is awake, though aided by whisky and Jamie's restraining hand.
  • Jamie and Roger travel to visit the Cherokee, but encounter a hanged couple and burnt cabin en route, and find a little girl in her last moments of life

October 1773

  • Roger returns from his harrowing journey to find Brianna digging a pit for a kiln
  • While at the malting shed, Claire and Marsali are attacked by a large group of men, who then take Claire captive. Among them is Arvin Hodgepile, erstwhile clerk at the Crown's warehouse in Cross Creek; Lionel Brown, who tries to kill Claire to prevent her reporting his involvement to Jamie; Tebbe, a mulatto who fears supernatural retribution from Claire; Harley Boble, former thief-taker whom Claire had met at the Gathering in 1770; and a man named Donner, who reveals that he is originally from the year 1968. Hodgepile ties Claire to a tree trunk on the second night, and four men confront her: first, one of the teenaged boys fondles her breast and ejaculates on her; Boble hits and kicks Claire, causing severe damage to her face and body; Donner, who begs answers from Claire about her own experience with time traveling; and a nameless man who rapes her.
  • At dawn on the third day of Claire's captivity, Jamie, Ian, Roger, Fergus, Arch Bug, Tom Christie, and Kenny Lindsay arrive and slaughter the entire group except for Lionel Brown, whom they take back to the Ridge for questioning.
  • Jamie interrogates Lionel Brown, who is being kept at the Bugs' cabin. Brown reveals that Hodgepile's gang had attacked and begun looting the Beardsley tradepost, and the Browns' Committee of Safety had reached an agreement of mutual benefit to the gang and the Browns.
  • Days later, Lionel Brown crawls from the Bugs' cabin all the way to the Big House, where Claire tends to his injuries and he implores her for mercy. While Claire is out of the surgery for a minute, Mrs. Bug smothers Brown with a pillow and kills him. In anticipation of retribution, Arch Bug offers his own life in place of wife's, but Jamie spares them both.
  • Jamie and Claire, alongisde Bird-whos-sings-in-the-morning, peace chief of the Snowbird Cherokee, lead a convoy of Ridge residents and Indians to deliver the body of Lionel Brown to his brother, Richard, at Brownsville
  • Marsali's fourth child, Henri-Christian, is born a dwarf. Marsali is fiercely protective of her son, whose arrival sparks much talk on the Ridge of devil's spawn and the like. Ian relates the story about his own child, who died at or shortly before birth, and his fight against a pregnant wolf.
  • Claire stumbles upon Fergus, who is wretched with despair about his youngest son's future

November 1773

  • Roger presides over the funeral of Hiram Crombie's mother-in-law, Mrs. Wilson, who makes an untimely resurrection before her actual death


March 1774

  • Jamie tells Roger that he may need to sell one of the gemstones, asks Robin McGillivray about acquiring muskets

April 1774

  • Jamie sends a letter to Lord John, along with one of the gems, in care of Bobby Higgins
  • Claire tests the ether on Lizzie and Bobby
  • While visiting the Snowbird Cherokee, Jamie meets another Indian agent, Alexander "Scotchee" Cameron, and retells a few memories of Culloden, some of which surprise even him

June 1774

  • Manfred McGillivray confesses to Claire that he may have gotten "the French disease" from a whore. Before she and Jamie can figure out what to do about him regarding his marriage to Lizzie, Manfred flees, and in the middle of the night Ute McGillivray storms into the Big House accusing Claire of slander, and declaring that the Frasers will no longer be allowed to trade with her family
  • Claire shows Malva the syphilis spirochetes under the microscope
  • Claire observes Tom Christie punishing Malva with switches, and asks Jamie to look into the matter. They have a long discussion about corporal punishment, reflecting on the incident early on in their marriage when Jamie used his swordbelt on Claire, and Jamie tells her about Jenny's proclivity for punishment from her husband, as pleasure.
  • Jamie talks to Malva and becomes curious about her family background

July 1774

  • Jamie helps Brianna move a large boulder in the stream; Jem and Germain point out a peculiar pile of charred bones, and Jamie suspects it is some sort of charm. Later, Brianna asks Mrs. Bug about it, and the old woman recites a love charm called the "The Venom of the North Wind"
  • While contemplating the need to sever ties with Amy McCallum (in light of the rumors swirling about Roger visiting her so frequently), Roger finds Amy distraught over her son Aidan. Claire's diagnosis is appendicitis, and she finally puts her ether to the test with a successful appendectomy. Tom and Allan Christie are angry to discover Malva involved with the use of ether; later, Tom is in awe of Claire after she resuscitates Aidan.
  • Roger tells Jamie he intends to become a minister, and later tells Brianna
  • Jamie writes to Lord John, thanking him for the advance payment against the gemstones

August 1774

  • The Frasers attend Flora MacDonald's barbecue at River Run.
  • Claire performs minor surgery on Jocasta's eye to relieve symptoms of her glaucoma. Afterwards, Jocasta relates to her and Jamie that an unknown man spoke to her about the Frenchman's gold, and she recognized it as that of the masked man who had a taken a portion of the gold before the Battle of Culloden nearly thirty years ago, at an inn in Coigach. She had heard the voice one other time, at the Gathering in 1770.
  • While Brianna sketches Ian, she hears someone whistle to tune to "Yellow Submarine" by the Beatles, and meets Wendigo Donner.
  • Claire pays a visit to Dr. Charles Fentiman in Cross Creek, hears the doctor's account of removing a man's testicle, and leaves in possession of a penis syringe
  • In the town, Claire finds the apothecary packing up his family to leave for England, and Jamie holding off an angry mob bent on tarring and feathering the local printer. Claire also meets Mrs. Jezebel Hatfield Morton, the first wife of Isaiah Morton
  • Claire and Jamie seek an interview with Mrs. Sylvie, the proprietor of a brothel in Cross Creek

September 1774

  • Roger returns from the Presbyterian Academy in Charlotte, and performs his first baptism – Rogerina Ogilvie.
  • Roger delivers his first sermon, made memorable by a slithering guest
  • Lord John writes a concerned letter to Jamie regarding the latter's name being attached to the Committee of Correspondence in North Carolina, and also Bobby Higgins' proposal of marriage to Lizzie
  • Jamie arranges a meeting with Joseph Wemyss and Bobby Higgins regarding Lizzie, but Joseph refuses
  • Claire, Brianna, Marsali, and Lizzie find the MacNeill family in dire straits, struck by a devastating illness. As the same illness strikes other families across the Ridge, Claire tends to them as she can, while Roger sees to burying the ones that succumb.
  • Claire falls suddenly ill and nearly dies. Once she recovers, she considers the evidence to hand and concludes that her illness was not the same as the one that had ravaged the MacNeills and other families on the Ridge.
  • Jamie tells Claire that Fergus tried to kill himself while she was ill

October 1774

  • Jamie brings guns to the Cherokee and terminates his role as Indian Agent
  • Fergus, Marsali and the children leave the Ridge to settle in New Bern
  • Ian takes Brianna to see an enormous, ancient skeleton, tells her about Emily and his daughter, and asks her advice

November 1774

  • Claire receives a cryptic note from Phaedre, and she and Jamie travel to River Run to see what's to do, only to discover that Phaedre has disappeared. Jocasta reveals that Phaedre's father was her late husband, Hector Cameron.
  • Lizzie reveals that the father of her child is one of the Beardsley twins, but neither she nor they know which. After Jamie handfasts Lizzie to Kezzie, the three of them go to Roger to handfast her to Jo.
  • Jemmy has lice and Jamie shaves the boy's head, revealing an unusual birthmark on his scalp. A birthmark that Roger also has and Claire explains would be hereditary, confirming Jem's paternity.


March 1775

  • After receiving another worried letter from Lord John, Jamie responds with a final letter to sever their communication, though regretfully.

April 1775

  • Brianna and Roger recite "Paul Revere's Ride" to each other during the wee hours of April 19, 1775. Later in the morning, Lizzie gives birth to a son.
  • Roger tells Brianna he has formed a Freemason lodge on the Ridge.
  • Jamie and Claire read a letter from Marsali, and Jamie signs his name to a copy of the Lexington Alarm.

May 1775

  • Malva Christie names Jamie as the father of her child, leading to suspicion and doubt among the residents of the Ridge.
  • Jamie and Roger travel to Charlotte in Mecklenburg County for the congress.
  • Claire finds Malva murdered in her garden, and tries to save the girl's unborn child, but fails.
  • Jamie, Ian and Roger ride with Joseph Wemyss to seek Fraulein Berrisch for marriage. The lady in question, meanwhile, arrives at the Big House, looking for Joseph.

June 1775

  • Roger leaves the Ridge to take Brianna and Jemmy to River Run, thence to travel alone to Edenton for his ordination.
  • Richard Brown arrives with a large group of men demanding to take Claire to be tried for murder, and a siege of the house ensues. As a mob of residents of the Ridge gathers, Tom Christie elects to travel with the Browns while they have custody of Jamie and Claire, to ensure their safe delivery to a judicial body for trial.

July 1775

  • On the way to Wilmington, a crowd throws stones at Claire and the traveling party. The night afterward, Ian speaks to Jamie in secret, and agrees to follow Richard Brown if he ventures away from the group.
  • At Brunswick, Brown and his men restrain Jamie and take Claire to New Bern, where they leave her in the custody of the local sheriff, Tolliver. Meanwhile, Jamie finds himself tied up in a boat shed, where Ian finds and releases him.
  • After a few days in gaol, men from the governor's palace arrive in need of "the midwife" – Claire had delivered another prisoner's child days prior – and they take Claire with them.
  • At Tryon Palace, Claire attends to Mrs. Josiah Martin, who is in an advanced state of pregnancy and taken ill. Governor Martin also enlists Claire to make fair copies of documents. Claire manages to write a note to Fergus and Marsali, who live in New Bern, and entrusts its delivery to one of the house slaves. Meanwhile, Jamie arrives at the printshop himself, in time to read Claire's note and leave for the palace with Ian.
  • After Mrs. Martin is absconded from the palace under cover of darkness, the governor has Claire dressed up in his wife's clothes to pose as the woman while the governor himself escapes the rising tension in New Bern. Unbeknownst to Claire, Jamie sees Claire leave with the governor. Claire and the governor eventually go aboard the Cruizer anchored off of Brunswick, where Martin continues his gubernatorial duties with Claire as his secretary.
  • Major MacDonald calls on the governor aboard the Cruizer, and Claire asks him to get word to Jamie of her whereabouts.
  • Jamie arrives the next morning to try to release Claire, but doesn't manage it. The following day, Tom Christie comes aboard, and turns himself in, confessing to the murder of his daughter. Claire protests, but after a long conversation with Mr. Christie, relents and waits for Jamie to retrieve her.

August 1775

  • While staying at River Run, Brianna is kidnapped and delivered into the custody of Stephen Bonnet.
  • Jamie goes to Edenton, where Roger was intending to become a minister officially, to tell him that Brianna had been abducted.
  • Brianna finds herself held prisoner aboard the Anemone. She convinces Bonnet not to rape her by revealing she is pregnant, and pleads with a whore named Hepzibah to get word to her family that she believes Bonnet's destination is Ocracoke, for a rendezvous at the dark of the moon.
  • Roger and Ian interrogate Neil Forbes while Jamie holds Mrs. Forbes captive.
  • Roger and the Frasers encounter Manfred McGillivray and a whore named Hepzibah. They hire a fishing boat to take them to Ocracoke, where they search the island for clues of Brianna's whereabouts. Roger finds a stone circle, and a slave ship approaches the island.
  • Bonnet takes Brianna to his hideaway, and he tries to sell her to prospective buyers. Brianna discovers Phaedre working in the kitchens of Bonnet's house.
  • Roger, Ian and Jamie find Brianna, who has escaped the house, and they leave the decision to Brianna, what they do with Bonnet.

September 1775

  • L'Oignon–Intelligencer publishes a notice about the capture of the notorious pirate, Stephen Bonnet, and his sentence to death by drowning.

October 1775

  • Jocasta, Duncan, and Ulysses visit Fraser's Ridge on their journey north, as they emigrate to Nova Scotia. Jocasta admits to maintaining a longstanding affair with Ulysses. Ulysses leaves in the night, to join Lord Dunsmore's army in Virginia.


January 1776

  • The Frasers and MacKenzies remove to the cabin, waiting to see whether the Big House will really burn down on January 21, 1776, as the newspaper clipping had said it would. It does not, though Major MacDonald arrives for one last visit to entice Jamie to join General Hugh MacDonald's troops, who will march against the rebels.

February 1776

  • Jamie summons the men of the Ridge, and announces that he will march to Wilmington, with whatever men will follow, to join the rebel militias.
  • Jamie and the men of the Ridge, along with the other rebel forces, crush the British opposition, largely composed of retired Scottish soldiers, at the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge. Jamie remembers his godfather Murtagh's death at Culloden, and feels his presence during the fight. Jamie kills Major MacDonald.

April 1776

June 1776

  • Claire becomes certain that Mandy has a heart murmur, which she cannot safely repair in the 18th century.

July 1776

  • The Frasers and MacKenzies travel to Wilmington in search of enough gemstones which the MacKenzies might use to make safe passage through the stone circle on Okracoke.
  • Brianna discovers the existence of her half-brother, William Ransom, who is also Lord John Grey's stepson.
  • Brianna shoots Stephen Bonnet, who had been sentenced to death by drowning.
  • Jamie asks Lord John to help him find a gemstone, and Lord John gives him his ring, which has a sapphire in it.

September 1776

  • Brianna and Roger gradually take their leave of the Ridge, and the people they love.
  • Jamie presents Claire with a gemstone, but she throws it out into the night, firmly refusing the possibility of ever leaving him to return to the future.

October 1776

  • The MacKenzies leave through the time portal on Okracoke.

November 1776

  • Jamie dreams about Brianna, Roger, and the children in their future.
  • Claire finds Allan Christie at Malva's grave; he admits to having sexually abused Malva since she was a small child, impregnating her, and killing her when she threatened to tell the truth. Ian kills Allan following his confession.

December 1776

  • On her way home from treating a patient, Claire finds the Big House being burglarized by Wendigo Donner and several companions. Donner demands gemstones, and when none are forthcoming, he and the others resort to tearing the house apart.
  • One of Donner's men finds a gold ingot in Mrs. Bug's work basket, revealing that Arch Bug was the one who had stolen Jocasta's gold hoard.
  • The looters break the glass containing Claire's highly flammable ether, and when Ian lights one of Brianna's matches, the house quickly goes up in flames.
  • Arch Bug admits that he was the masked man, all those years ago, who received one-third of the French gold intended to aid Charles Stuart's rebellion.
  • Claire asks Jamie what they shall do, and he says they will go to Scotland, to fetch his printing press.


  • Previous working titles for the sixth book include King, Farewell and Sons of Liberty.[1]
  • Excerpts that at one time were attributed to the then-unfinished sixth book in the series eventually made it into the seventh, An Echo in the Bone.[1]

Book Covers


External Resources

  • Point of view guide – A chapter-by-chapter breakdown of character points of view. Includes dates for chapters when noted.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Diana Gabaldon Excerpts – Sons of Liberty – website archived in 2001. Accessed 12 October 2015.

See also