If you pick up this book thinking that it is part of the Outlander Series you would be mistaken. As author Diana Gabaldon advises in the first pages, it’s “a collection of seven…er…things, of varying length and content, but all having to do with the Outlander universe.”
I came rather late to the Outlander series and am still reading it, so when the opportunity to read Seven Stones to Stand or Fall, I jumped at the chance. I must admit to being a little apprehensive at first, worried that by reading these short stories, that were placed in between and around the Outlander novels, that I would discover secrets that would spoil the main books, but this was not the case.
Diana took the time to explain each story’s place in the Outlander Universe by providing a chronological list of all the Outlander books that she has written, with a brief outline of each. As an Outlander fan, I found these helpful to review before starting each story. As a new reader to these stories, this comprehensive list may well lead you to purchase more of the series.
Each novella begins with an outline explaining how the story came about. In the first story, she tells how, whilst researching, she discovered an interesting piece of trivia surrounding the procedures for courts-martial: “The custom of the army is that a court-martial be presided over by a senior officer and such a number of other officers as he shall think fit to serve as council, these being generally four in number, but can be more but not generally less than three… The person accused shall have the right to call witnesses in his support, and the council shall question these, as well as any other person whom they may wish, and shall thus determine the circumstances; and if conviction ensure, the sentence to be imposed.”
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As the author points out, that was it: no elaborate procedures, no standards or guidelines for sentencing, nothing more… and so the story began in her head. The Custom of the Army, is set in 1759 London and tells a story of Lord John Grey, who attends an electric eel party in London (yes there were such things) and finds himself in a duel and ends at the Battle of Quebec at a court martial. Do I have you intrigued?
Other stores include; The Space Between, set in 1778 Paris, which tells the story of Michael Murray (Ian’s younger brother and Jamie’s nephew) who is working in the wine trade in Paris. It was originally published in the short story anthology The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination.
The third story, A Plague of Zombies, is set in 1761 Jamaica and tells the story of Lord John Grey and his time leading a battalion commanded to put down the slave rebellion in which he discovers an affinity for snakes, cockroaches and zombies.
The fourth story, A Leaf on the Wind of all Hallows, is set between 1941 and 1943 and is the story of what really happened to Roger Mackenzie’s parents. Story five is simply called Virgins and is set in 1740 France, when Jamie Fraser and his lifelong friend, Ian Murray, at just 14 years old, were mercenaries.
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The sixth story is A Fugitive Green and is set between 1744 and 1745 in Paris, London and Amsterdam. This story tells of Lord John’s older brother, Hal and his soon to be wife, Minnie. The final story is set in 1762 Jamaica and Havana Cuba and is called Besieged, another John Grey story about his mother, who he discovers is living in Cuba, a town the British are preparing to lay siege.
Diana states “you can read the short novels and novellas by themselves or in any order you like”. If you are not yet an Outlander fan, these stories will give you an insight into the world, but be warned they may hook you to reading the main novels. If you are a fan, you will find them a fascinating insight to the characters and world, and will help hold you over until the next instalment is released.
These well-researched/written short stories enhance an already-intriguing series – and highlight the fascinating titbits of history on which it was based.
Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon is available now from Dymocks. Click here to learn more.