When Jamie and Claire Fraser sent their daughter, Brianna, her husband, Roger, and their two children back through the stones to the future, they'd resigned themselves to never seeing them again. But they unexpectedly returned, leaving Jamie and Claire rejoicing over having their family back together again. However, despite making their home in the back country of North Carolina, the Revolutionary War has been creeping ever closer to Fraser's Ridge. The loyalties of Jamie's tenants are split between those who are faithful to the British crown and those who pledge fidelity to Jamie and the rebel cause. As things gradually heat up to the boiling point, Jamie makes the decision to gather together a militia of those men he can trust to protect the ridge and its interests. He also knows they'll need to fight in an upcoming battle that will take place close to the ridge, and the outcome of that battle may leave his life hanging in the balance.
Meanwhile Brianna and Roger worry that the danger which led to them returning to the past might catch up to them, and even if it doesn't, they wonder if the eighteenth century with all its inherent dangers of disease, starvation, and war, is actually a safer place to raise their family. But for the time being, they decide to make the best of it, enjoying being surrounded by their family and friends, while Roger prepares for his official ordination as a Presbyterian minister and Brianna takes on a commission to paint a portrait at Lord John's request.
At the same time, Brianna's half-brother, William Ransom, continues to struggle with figuring out his own identity now that he's aware of being Jamie's illegitimate son. As the Earl of Ellesmere, he feels like an imposter and becomes increasingly convinced that he should find a way to renounce his title. Meanwhile William's adoptive father, Lord John, searches for a way to reconcile with his son after keeping his true parentage a secret for so many years. The two also continue the search for William's cousin, Ben, who went missing during the war. And an old nemesis of John's who is aware of John's preferences for male companionship is fully prepared to use this information to blackmail John's brother into giving him what he wants, but it could spell disaster--or even death--for John if anyone else finds out.
Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone is the ninth book in Diana Gabaldon's wildly popular Outlander series. This one spans more than a year and a half from June 1779 to February 1781. Just returned from the future, Bree and Roger and their kids settle back into life on Fraser's Ridge. The first good chunk of the book encompasses interactions between Jamie and Claire and their family and friends on the ridge. The Revolutionary War is still fairly distant, but coming closer by the day. Some of the residents of the ridge are Loyalists and as tensions begin to mount, Jamie considers creating a partisan band (aka militia group) to help protect the ridge during the battle he knows is coming. Claire as usual deals with her fair share of medical issues. Eventually Roger and Bree and Ian and Rachel travel away from their homes on the ridge, each couple dealing with their own personal matters, but of course, in time, return to Jamie and Claire's open arms. Elsewhere Lord John and William continue their search for John's nephew, Ben, who's been missing for some time. By the end, Lord John is tricked by a ne'er-do-well who knows of John's proclivities and plans to use them against him if his demands aren't met.
Jamie and Claire will always and forever be the backbone of this series. However, rather than them being involved in some type of wartime dealings or battles, this volume sees them mostly living quietly on the ridge. That's not to say that there isn't trouble, because unfortunately it does tend to follow them around. When Bree returned from the future, she brought along her other father's book about the history of Scots in North Carolina that had just been published before she left. As Jamie reads this book, he gets the eerie feeling that Frank Randall is talking directly to him. Between the book and his time traveling family members' knowledge of what's to come, he knows that eventually even the ridge won't be safe from the Revolutionary War and that a battle will soon be fought not far from the ridge. Frank's book also makes mention of someone named James Fraser who dies in that battle. Never one to shirk away from such things, Jamie sets about strategizing how to handle what the future holds, which involves him creating a small militia unit and deciding how to utilize them. Meanwhile, some new tenants on the ridge who are Loyalists start stirring a bit of trouble for Jamie, which he manages to evade but not without getting hurt. Ultimately though, it's the upcoming battle on King's Mountain in which fate will decide whether Jamie lives or dies.
While probably more than fifty percent of the story is told from Jamie and Claire's perspectives, many other characters have their own POV scenes. Most prominent of these is Brianna and Roger. After returning from the future, they and their children, Jem and Mandy, spend a good deal of time simply settling back into life on the ridge and getting reacquainted with their family and friends there. Roger decides to finally pursue formal ordination as a Presbyterian minister, which takes them on a journey to Charles Town, where they meet up with Fergus and Marsali who are still publishing their newspaper. Jamie has tasked Fergus with obtaining guns for his new militia and Roger and Bree smuggle them back home in a creative way. From there they travel to Savannah, where Lord John has gotten Bree a commission to paint a portrait for a friend of his. They spend several months in Savannah, during which Bree is able to become acquainted with her half-brother, William, something that Lord John and Jamie were both hoping would happen. Roger accidentally gets swept up in a Revolutionary war battle in Savannah, while Bree also agrees to paint a portrait of a fallen rebel officer. But eventually the pair return home, where Roger follows Jamie into battle on King's Mountain. And then, by the end, it appears that the future may have caught up to them in the past when someone who'd previously caused trouble for them shows up.
William is another prominent POV character. He's still struggling with his identity crisis, and since he now knows that he's actually a bastard, he's strongly considering the possibility of abdicating his title as the Earl of Ellesmere, something that his Uncle Hal tells him won't be easy to do. While contemplating his life, he spends a great deal of time traveling around. First, he's off searching for his cousin, Ben, who he's pretty sure isn't dead after finding an imposter in Ben's supposed grave. William's journey takes him to Mount Josiah plantation, which has seen better days, and there he meets up with Lord John's friend and sometimes lover, Manoke, as well as John Cinnamon, the illegitimate son of Lord John's erstwhile cousin-in-law, Malcolm Stubbs, who John has been providing for. Because of this, John Cinnamon thinks that Lord John may be his father, so he accompanies William back to Savannah in search of his parent, and along the way, the two become friends. Back in Savannah, William meets Ben's supposed widow, Amaranthus, and her child. Amaranthus makes a rather scandalous proposal, which tempts William, but before anything happens between them, he's off on another journey, this time in search of his cousin, Dorothea, whose husband, Denny, has been taken captive and imprisoned by British forces. What he finds when he arrives is anything but what he expected. And later, after returning once again to Savannah and finding that Amaranthus has left, he goes searching for her as well, but comes back from that journey to find Lord John missing.
Additional POV characters include Ian and Rachel, who initially are just enjoying life on the ridge with Ian's mother, Jenny, and their new son, nicknamed Oggy, until they can find just the right name for him. However, Ian receives distressing news about an attack on the Mohawk village where his ex-wife, Emily, lives. Concerned for the welfare of Emily and her children, Ian decides to travel North to check on them, and Rachel and Jenny insist on accompanying him. Rachel is a bit nervous about meeting Ian's former flame, but all works out in the end. While there, they pay a visit to Joseph Brant, a college-educated Native American who once traveled to England to meet the King and who was an influential leader among the Iroquois. Jamie also tasks Ian with checking in on Silvia, the Quaker mother of three daughters who assisted Jamie at the beginning of the previous book, and as it turns out, she's desperately in need of help which Ian gladly provides.
The final perspective we get is Lord John's. He and his brother, Hal, are still trying to track down Hal's son, Ben, while caring for his "widow," Amaranthus, and her infant son. The two men are also involved in a major battle for Savannah, which the British win for now. John meets his charge, John Cinnamon, and tells the young man the truth about his parentage. John's step-brother and erstwhile lover, Percy, shows up again, seemingly wanting to rekindle a relationship with John, although he also still has designs on Fergus, wanting Fergus to claim his birthright as the supposed son of the Compte St. Germain. Then there's the sneaky Ezekiel Richardson who isn't exactly who he seems and who may be a double, or perhaps even triple, agent possessing lots of information and dirt on a variety of different people, including a knowledge of John's same-sex relationships which could get John hanged. However, what Richardson really wants is rather surprising, but until the man can get it, John finds himself Richardson's prisoner, leading to a bit of a cliffhanger ending.
Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone was another engaging installment of the Outlander series that I very much enjoyed. It's a bit slower than some of the other books, because Jamie and Claire and company aren't involved in as much action and adventure in this one. There are battles and skirmishes that they get caught up in, but they're fewer and farther between than in most of the previous books. Except for the battle on King's Mountain, Jamie and Claire stay put on Fraser's Ridge, finishing their new house, and just enjoying a relatively quiet life. It's the younger generation who find themselves in farther flung locales and getting into a bit more trouble. That's not to say that there aren't some new developments for our favorite romantic couple. They temporarily take in another foster child, and perhaps even more importantly, Claire discovers some unexpected newfound powers that could make a big difference moving forward. Then there's the whole time travel aspect, which seems to be unraveling as more people learn about it, and new characters are entrusted with Claire's (and Bree's and Rogers's) secret. I look forward to seeing where this all goes. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get to see more of Fergus and Marsali and Denny and Dottie (I love both of these couples), but given how far away from the ridge they are, I guess it was to be expected. I do love, though, that Ms. Gabaldon never really forgets any characters and how ones that might not have been seen for a while, sometimes pop up again, giving readers new opportunities to learn more about them. Such is the case with Silvia and her daughters, as well as Emily and her oldest son who we'd previously been led to believe might be Ian's. As always, I had a good time reading this new chapter in the Outlander saga. Even if it was a bit slower than most, it was still very enjoyable. I just love inhabiting this world, but now that I'm almost fully caught up (except for a couple of side novellas), it's going to be a torturous wait for the next book, which could be several more years in the making.:-(
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