Seven Stones to Stand or Fall

Written by Diana Gabaldon
Review by Helene Williams

Gabaldon fans awaiting the ninth installment of the main Outlander series will be delighted with this hearty snack of seven novellas, which fill in narrative gaps and explore the lives of some of the series’ secondary characters. Five of the pieces were previously published. “The Custom of the Army” and “A Plague of Zombies” feature Lord John Grey, first in the Battle of Quebec, then fighting off the undead in Jamaica. Both tales are awash in adventure, swordfights, and literal skullduggery, and they deepen readers’ understanding of Grey’s analytical and tactical skills. In “The Space Between,” the recently widowed Michael Murray (brother of young Ian) is escorting Jamie Fraser’s stepdaughter, Joan MacKimmie, across the English Channel to Paris, where she is to join a convent. Their paths cross with the Comte St. Germain, who will do anything, to anyone, to locate his rival, Master Raymond. This tale alternates between the contemplative and shocking, with a convincing intersection of storylines. “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows,” reveals the gripping backstory of Roger Mackenzie’s parents, and beloved Jamie Fraser and his best friend Ian Murray are in fine form as young mercenaries in France in “Virgins.”

The two new novellas are equally compelling reading. In “A Fugitive Green,” Harold “Hal” Grey, Duke of Pardloe, is undergoing political and personal trials; a young Minerva Wattiswade treads dangerous ground in trying to root out his secrets for her information-selling father. We return to Hal’s younger brother, John, in the final story, “Besieged,” in which Lord Grey finds himself rescuing his mother in Havana while Spain and England battle over Cuba. Gabaldon is in fine form throughout, weaving together characters’ lives, connecting plot points, and showing tantalizing glimpses of the larger Outlander world, of which this reader can never get enough.