Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon

Waiting impatiently for Book 9 of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and for Season 4 of the Outlander TV series?  If you need a fix, never fear!  Though re-reading (or re-watching) can be satisfying, there is an alternative!  Seven Stones to Stand or Fall (2017) is a collection of seven of novellas and short stories that Diana calls “Bulges.”  These fall outside of the main storyline of the series about the marriage of Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser.  Some are historical mysteries about Lord John Grey, a major secondary character (is that a thing?) from the series.  Others deal with minor characters or events outside the main timeline of the Big Books.
There are two brand-new novellas in this collection, along with several that have been published in other anthologies.  The novella “A Fugitive Green” centers on Lord John Grey’s brother Harold (Hal), the Duke of Pardloe, and his future wife Minnie in the time period around their first acquaintance.  His recovery from personal tragedies and her role as an intelligence agent (at age 17!) contribute to a typically complex series of subterfuges and revelations. 
Following the events of the previously published “A Plague of Zombies,” which is also included here, the new “Besieged” finds Lord John Grey still serving in the Caribbean.  We get to know other members of the family when Lord John attempts to rescue his mother and cousins from a precarious situation in Havana as the British Navy is about to invade.  Seven Stones starts out with another Lord John novella, “The Custom of the Army,” which had been published in the anthology Warriors and introduced one of said cousins.  At least I believe he was introduced there; Diana has created a pretty expansive, interconnected world, so it’s possible he’d appeared elsewhere and I’ve forgotten. 
My favorite of all of Diana’s novellas, “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows,” is a prequel, telling the story of, as Diana says, “What Really Happened” to Roger (Wakefield) MacKenzie’s parents.  Roger had been told only that his mother died in the Blitz when he was a very small child, and his father was lost while serving in the Royal Air Force.
The collection is rounded out by “Virgins,” published also in the anthology Dangerous Women, edited by George R. R. Martin and Garland Dozier—though the virgins are not women, but young Jamie Fraser and Ian Murray serving as mercenaries in France—and “The Space Between,” featuring a Fraser-Murray son and the Comte St. Germain.  This last was previously included in The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, and we know who fits that bill.
Virginia Beach Public Libraries carry the anthologies mentioned as well as others featuring Gabaldon’s works: Songs of Love and Death and Down These Strange Streets.  Naturally, in all these collections you can find similar stories by other best-selling authors that can help tide you over during the “Droughtlander.”  Several are also available as ebooks and/or audiobooks, read in part by the wonderful Davina Porter who recorded the main Outlander books.
P.S.  I realize this review is rather long and involved; it's clearly influenced by Diana Gabaldon!

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