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WesternSFA
A Trail of Fire: Four Outlander Tales
by Diana Gabaldon
Orion Books, UK, 331pp
Release Date: November 8, 2012

This is a treat for all Diana’s fans of her Outlander series; unfortunately, it has not yet been published in the US so the only way to find it right now is from the UK (or the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale , AZ ). This is a set of four novellas all set sometime within the Outlander timeline.

The first story gives us a little background on Roger Wakefield McKenzie’s parents during WWII. Unsurprisingly, one of them is also a time traveler and the experience is anything but happy but ends with heart’s ease. It also connects with a scene from An Echo in the Bone.

The second story is a Lord John story set in 1759 that concerns the siege of the Citadel of Quebec. Lord John is called to a court martial of a gentleman of his acquaintance but the local military commander has taken it into his head to take Quebec and Lord John is swept up in the pending attack. One piece of good news: John has a lovely romantic encounter. Diana doesn’t give the poor man many opportunities. This story was originally published in the anthology “Warriors” edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois in 2011.

The third is yet another Lord John story that was originally published in “Down These Strange Streets” also edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois in 2011. It’s titled “Lord John and the Plague of Zombies.” This was a great crossover piece where Lord John has a chance to meet the lady of Rose Hall in Jamaica , who is, of course, Geillis Duncan. The poor man is denied an ‘opportunity’ by our favorite author and suffers a bit of unrequited lust. This was a great little mystery concerning the nature of zombies and who’s responsible for a murder.

The last story was the best for me – a piece with Michael Murray, Ian Murray’s oldest son, and Joan MacKimmie, Jamie’s other daughter, set during 1778. Michael is reeling from the death of his beloved wife and Joan suffers from a particular affliction that she hopes will be alleviated by entering a convent; although, Joan isn’t exactly convent material... Michael is escorting her to Paris where he expects to join the family wine business. He is haunted by Auntie Claire’s warning about The Terror about to visit France , and Joan is haunted by voices and death premonitions. Indirectly, their fates are influenced by the Comte Saint Germain, whom we last saw in An Echo in the Bone dying in front of Claire, and Master Raymond. We also have another opportunity see what became of Mother Hildegard. And, again, unsurprisingly, more than one of them is a time traveler.

There really isn’t much else to say, Diana Gabaldon is a consummate writer and story-teller. Even when she dashes off these ‘short’ stories, they are prime pieces of writing. And it was a treat to have these in-between her Really Big Books, the next of which is still months away. ~~ Catherine Book

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