A Trail of Fire

A Trail of Fire - Diana Gabaldon This book has it all! Four short stories by Diana Gabaldon - all wonderful in their own way. And while it might not be obvious why these stories were grouped together in one book, as you get to the new story (A SPACE BETWEEN), you can see the pieces come together... but only if you've been paying attention to the names and characters from the previous short stories and have a background with the Outlander series. (Doesn't hurt to have a background with the Lord John Grey series, either.)BEWARE - there might be unmarked spoilers in this review! If you haven't read all the Outlander books, you might want to skip this; if not, you were warned!1. A LEAF IN THE WIND OF ALL HALLOWS: The story of Roger Wakefield MacKenzie's parents, Jerry (Jeremy) and Dolly (Marjorie) MacKenzie. Jerry is a WWII pilot who just happens to be in the right place at the right time when British Intelligence officer Frank Randall needs another pilot to fly over Poland and take pictures of the German concentration camps.But when Jerry is practicing with the new cameras over Northumberland, his Spitfire goes down... in a ring of standing stones... near All Hallow's Eve. Jerry finds himself in a strange place and time, where there are no roads or buildings where they ought to be and suspicious folk who'd rather beat him and steal from him than help him. Could that be because he can't understand a word they say, and vice versa?After wandering around for awhile, stealing food and clothing where he can, he ends up captured and locked into an outbuilding. But 2 mysterious men - 1 of whom seems to know him quite well - rescue him and send him back to his wife and son through the same stones.Jerry makes his way to London, only to discover it's two years after the day he went through the stones. While trying to find his wife, Dolly, and their small son, Roger, another bombing attack starts. Jerry hurries into the subway - one of the bomb shelters - only to see his wife with wee Roger in her arms on the stairs above him... and the stairs are collapsing. Dolly, smiling through her tears and radiant as ever, throws the wee boy into his arms, just as the stairs finally crumble from another fierce shake of bombs...================This is such a beautiful, bittersweet story. It makes me cry every time. Jerry and Dolly obviously love one another very much, despite being separated by war. You get the sense that they have the same kind of fiery-fierce love that Jamie & Claire have, just in another place and time. Which is brought home all the more when it turns out that Frank Randall is the British Intelligence officer who meets Jerry and recruits him. Frank has to visit Dolly to tell her of Jerry's death... And wee Roger, who reminds me so much of Jem!The ending of this story is so sad, and yet, it's hopeful and happy, too. Because we see Dolly & Jerry together again, at last! And we know that the grown-up Roger has had the chance to see his father and know him, even if for only a day. The hug that Roger gives to Jerry is bone-crushing, in more ways than one.2. THE CUSTOM OR THE ARMY (A Lord John Grey story): This story takes place just after [b:Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade|41502|Lord John And The Brotherhood Of The Blade (Lord John Grey, #2)|Diana Gabaldon|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320437912s/41502.jpg|1612336], "Lord John and the Haunted Soldier", during [b:Voyager|10987|Voyager (Outlander, #3)|Diana Gabaldon|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348436979s/10987.jpg|1131570] before Jamie & Claire are reunited, and just before [b:Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner|8533018|Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner (Lord John Grey, #3)|Diana Gabaldon|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1315032379s/8533018.jpg|13400250]. In it, Lord John Grey finds himself in Canada, after a party incident with electric eels and a challenge to a duel! But there, Lord John finds an old friend (and lover) who needs his help to bring charges against another officer. This is important, because the crux of this story is finished in [b:Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner|8533018|Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner (Lord John Grey, #3)|Diana Gabaldon|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1315032379s/8533018.jpg|13400250]; in that book, Lord John continues his crusade to get the culprit, while dealing with his feelings and need for Jamie Fraser. Lord John is mixed up in a court martial and somehow, in the amazing Battle of Quebec, where soldiers scale the impossible walls of the Quebec cliffs to surprise the French general and win the day. Lord John also makes the "acquaintance" of an Indian who becomes rather important to him... and is even mentioned in latter Outlander books. (Hoping for more info about Manoake and Lord John, either in MOBY book 8 or in another Lord John story. Lots left there to explore.)3. LORD JOHN AND THE PLAGUE OF ZOMBIES (A Lord John Grey story): This story takes place during [b:Voyager|10987|Voyager (Outlander, #3)|Diana Gabaldon|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348436979s/10987.jpg|1131570], after Jamie is in Helwater and after their adventure in [b:Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner|8533018|Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner (Lord John Grey, #3)|Diana Gabaldon|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1315032379s/8533018.jpg|13400250]. Lord John is sent to Jamaica to deal with a slave revolt. Or is it? The soldiers and locals claim that zombies are causing the revolt. What part does the mysterious Mrs. Abernathy play in all of this? As he digs deeper, Lord John discovers there's more than meets the eye at work here.... 4. THE SPACE BETWEEN: This is the NEW story. All the others have been published as either solo works (now) or as part of an anthology. But this story is brand-spanking new. It's the story of Michael Murray, Ian and Jenny's middle boy, who has been apprenticing with Cousin Jared in France at Fraser et Cie, the wine & spirits company. Michael has just lost his wife, Lilli, and had been home to Scotland for his father's funeral. Poor Michael is weighed down in grief. Luckily, he has a task to keep his mind somewhat occupied: he's escorting Joan Mackimmie MacKenzie to France to join a convent.Joan is Leoghaire's second daughter, and Jamie's step-daughter. Joan has wanted to become a nun all her life, despite never knowing or seeing a nun. But Joan has her own secrets... she's afraid she's got the same malady as Joan of Arc - she hears voices that tell her prophetic things to say to others... and she can tell when someone is going to die soon. Joan thinks that in joining a convent, perhaps she can get some perspective on this "gift": is it a curse from the devil, himself, or a gift of God? Is it angels or demons speaking to her? What is she to do with this gift?Joan's new order is headed by none other than Mother Hildegard, Claire's friend from [b:Dragonfly in Amber|5364|Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander, #2)|Diana Gabaldon|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320388682s/5364.jpg|2866304]. Joan has a letter to Mother Hildegard from Claire; but Joan's French isn't quite up to speed, and she inadvertently says that she's Claire's daughter, rather than step-daughter (of sorts).That small mistake leads the Comte St. Germain (no, he's not dead!) to mistake Joan as the daughter of La Dame Blanche - a woman he never wants to meet again. But the Comte (who's given name is important) has been madly pursuing his sorcery ever since his mysterious "resurrection". He teamed up with a female sorcerer (whose name is important) in France for awhile; she told him about time travel and stones... The Comte has discovered a type of "light" around people and things that tells him if they're like he is - can travel or not. And the Comte has been trying to travel into the future; he's traveled a bit into the far past and even into his own past. When the Comte hears that "the frog" or Master Grenouille (French for "frog" has been looking for him, he's afraid and excited. It was this man (Master Raymond) who gave him the Dragon's Blood that seemingly took his life in the court of King Louis XIV. But the Comte is intrigued by what Master Raymond might want of him and wants to ask his own questions. When Raymond tells the Comte that he's looking for "his lost daughter", the Comte thinks that she must be Joan - the daughter of La Dame Blanche.Thus starts an intriguing mystery that entangles Joan, Michael, Mother Hildegard, the Comte, and Master Raymond....=======My only nit is that THE STORY ENDED!!! I wanted so much more - but that's the way Diana Gabaldon's writing is - I always want more.This is a clever story that amazes me, especially the way that Diana says she writes - in scenes, not in outlines. Perhaps that gives her a wider range of freedom with her characters and new stories, but I have NO IDEA how she keeps things wrapped so neatly together!I caught her "hint" within this story, but even so, it was nice to have a not from Herself at the end to confirm it... just in case her readers didn't pick up on it.Also, pay attention to the Comte's dealings with a certain young whore... that answers a few questions that arose in my mind during [b:Echo In The Bone|2832909|An Echo in the Bone (Outlander, #7)|Diana Gabaldon|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327346980s/2832909.jpg|2859015] - namely, how did the Comte have other heirs? I also found it delightful that Fergus's eldest is named Germain! Since I was paying attention to names, this one finally hit me. How ironic, right?AN AMAZING BOOK!