The amazon.com product description:
It began in Scotland, at an ancient stone circle. There, a doorway, open to a select few, leads into the past--or the grave. Claire Randall survived the extraordinary passage, not once buy twice. Her first trip swept her into the arms of Jamie Fraser, an eighteenth-century Scot whose love for her became legend--a tale of tragic passion that ended with her return to the present to bear his child. Her second journey, two decades later, brought them together again in frontier America. But Claire had left someone behind in the twentieth century. Their daughter Brianna...It's taken me a few weeks, but I've finished reading The Drums of Autumn, sequel to Voyager. I'm finding that as much as I've been enjoying Diana Gabaldon's books, they're still slow going - at least when I'm not picking them up all that often. I'm not surprised though - Drums of Autumn came in at a hefty 1170 pages in the mass market edition.
Now, Brianna has made a disturbing discovery that sends her to the stone circle and a terrifying leap into the unknown. In search of her mother and the father she has never met, she is risking her own future to try to change history...and to save their lives. But as Brianna plunges into an uncharted wilderness, a heartbreaking encounter may strand her forever in the past...or root her in the place she should be, where her heart and soul belong...
One thing I have to say on this one. Even though I'd read the book before, I really felt like I was reading it for the first time, rather than re-reading it. It's been probably close to fifteen years I guess since my last read. While I remember a few of the events - specific scenes more like, I'd forgotten about 90% of the book.
Diana Gabaldon's books are definitely oriented to the senses - and not always in a pleasant way. The characters and settings are anchored through all five senses, as I've noted in previous posts - for example my essay on food and drink. However, I was particularly noticing the use of the sense of smell in Drums of Autumn. Smells of food, woodsmoke, different times of day and weather, all were described.
I know I'm talking more about the minor details of the book and less about the story as such, but by the time you hit book four - or more in a series, it gets harder and harder to talk about the plot and the characters without giving away spoilers for the previous books - especially when the story is so interconnected between the books.
Anyway, there were two things that really caught my notice in this book. First of all were the four or five references to spinning and knitting through Drums of Autumn. I don't recall any through either Outlander or Dragonfly in Amber, and I'm fairly certain there weren't any in Voyager. As someone who likes yarncraft myself, I love seeing mentions of this necessary task in my historical fiction reading. I would actually have loved to see a bit more detail on the spinning - there is an off-hand mention of the use of a great wheel, but that is all.
The second major thing I've noticed is something I've been thinking about a bit of late. I've been reading a few posts on disability and diversity in science fiction and fantasy recently. Now, Diana Gabaldon's books aren't exactly fantasy novels, but it made me think a bit. In terms of main or viewpoint characters there aren't a lot, but there are a fair number of secondary characters that are disabled in the series. Off the top of my head - blind characters (Jocasta Cameron for example), characters missing limbs (Fergus comes to mind first, but there are a number of others as well) etc.
To go back to the story itself, the various separate threads of the last few books come back together to form one big thread and in general gather up speed, picking up the reader along with them. Brianna's story finally rejoins Claire's. Roger picks up his own independent story that loops back into the main story and more. What's more, I found myself caring more and more for each of these viewpoint characters as their stories grew and intertwined.
Diana Gabaldon is a master at putting together a smaller scene that doesn't seem like all that much, but later on proves to be a very important part of the story. I can think of more than a few incidences of that happening in these books - sometimes even lasting between the different volumes of the story.
I'm looking forward to picking up The Fiery Cross next and seeing how it holds up in comparison to my previous reads (and review).