I’m such a bad book blogger. This has taken far too long to post so I apologise for that. If you haven’t already then check out my review of the first Outlander book before you read this.
You’ve probably gathered by now that I am Outlander obsessed. The first book captured my imagination unlike any other book has in a long time and I have been fangirling ever since. I’ll start off by saying I didn’t enjoy the second book in the series as much as the first and I feel like I’ve been putting off writing this because I don’t want to feel sad again. Bear with me here, it might seem like I didn’t love this book but I did. This series has me transfixed but I did spend a lot of time comparing Dragonfly in Amber to Outlander so this review might seem negative at times. Probably because it ripped out my heart and stomped on it. Am I supposed to enjoy being heartbroken?
Dragonfly in Amber is split into four parts: Scotland 1968, Paris 1744, Scotland 1745 and back to 1968 again. It begins at the end as we are thrusted back into the twentieth century as Claire tries to piece together a life for herself and her daughter without the love of her life, Jamie Fraser *weeps gently* … who am I kidding? *ugly sobs* and without her first (second?) husband, Frank Randall.
Thankfully, we do go back to eighteenth-century life to spend time with our fave ginger hunk as Claire convinces Jamie to prevent the Jacobite uprising in order to save thousands of Highlander lives. Claire and Jamie spend some time in Paris gallivanting with prostitutes and Bonnie Prince Charlie before returning to Scotland to settle into agricultural life and win the war after failed attempts at prevention.
I won’t spoil too much. There is a whole lot of drama in between but, finally, we go back to the beginning again as Jamie forces Claire to travel through the stones to her “own time” where she and her unborn child can live in safety under the protection of another man who loves her too *heart shatters into a thousand tiny pieces*
Reason number one to love this book is tall with a mop of red hair and his name begins with the letter J. You guessed it Jamie Fraser is and always will be one of the best parts of this series. If you’re looking for a new book boyfriend then look no further than Gabaldon’s wild Highland warrior. He is sweeter than ever in this book and I liked that we saw an insight into his intelligent and calculating side. While Outlander very much focuses on him as a fighter and a lover, Dragonfly in Amber really showcases Jamie as a clever and educated young man. Plus there’s this:
I promise. If I must endure two hundred years of purgatory, two hundred years without you – then that is my punishment, which I have earned for my crimes. For I have lied, and killed, and stolen; betrayed and broken trust. But there is the one thing that shall lie in the balance. When I shall stand before God, I shall have one thing to say, to weigh against the rest … Lord, ye gave me a rare woman, and God! I loved her well.
Excuse me while I take a moment to drown in my own tears… Anyway!
My favourite new character from this book was Master Raymond: a weird and frog-like apothecary who Claire befriends in Paris. You never really know where his loyalties lie and his mysteriousness really adds a sense of magic and fantasy to the series, which I felt was perhaps lacking in the first text. He is also a badass in the herbal department and manages to save Claire’s life when she is on the brink of death. What’s not to love?
Other favourite characters include the new and adorable, Fergus (real name Claudel), a Parisian street rat who Jamie takes under his wing and fosters as his own son. Fergus is the comic reprieve from what can be an otherwise dark and heavy read. Similarly, Claire’s new friend Louise de la Tour is a really fun and sexy character who provides some levity to the story.
Plot & Setting
Dragonfly in Amber is undoubtedly a lesson in history. Compared to the first book, it was far more focussed on the history of the period and, for me, this could be difficult at times. In my first review, I mentioned that I loved the romance of this series but I felt that Dragonfly in Amber was very much focussed on being a historical fiction piece than a love story. Which is great if that’s what you’re into but, as I’ve said before, I am a sucker for the soppy stuff. Literally, I just groaned every so often: “SO MUCH WAR.”
I feel like the phrase “be careful what you wish for” comes to mind when I complained that Outlander lacked in the history and magic departments. Because Dragonfly is not only packed with history, it was also a lot more magical than the first book. This book brings in mysterious folklore like La Dame Blanche and plenty of cults and strange rituals which were fascinating to read about. I feel like Paris worked well for this reason.
However, I want to point out just because Dragonfly in Amber didn’t feel like as much of a love story to me as Outlander does not mean that Gabaldon scrimped on the soppy love stuff. We get some classic quotes from Jamie Fraser who just won’t quit. Like this:
If it was a sin for you to choose me . . . then I would go to the Devil himself and bless him for tempting ye to it.
In terms of setting, I much preferred being back in the Scottish Highlands. The Parisian world is incredibly descriptive but I enjoyed it a whole lot less than I would have thought. In theory, eighteenth century Paris should be right up my street. It exudes luxury, sex and, violence, which is always going to make for a great book. Yet it fell flat for me. I found myself longing for the familiarity of the rolling green Scottish hills. I don’t know if it’s because I am Scottish or because one of the reasons I love Outlander is its exploration of Scottish heritage and culture. Maybe I’m just a creature of habit, I’m not sure, but I loved the second half of the novel so much more than the first.
Dragonfly in Amber made me feel like the honeymoon was over. Outlander was a delicious and sexy romp filled with the excitement of first love. Dragonfly is beautiful and poignant in its own way but even all good love affairs become a bit dull over time. It is one of those books I will enjoy more as time passes when I have the gift of hindsight. I spent so much time comparing it to the first that I probably didn’t value it in its own right enough. I’m probably just bitter at how much it made me cry.
Anyway, like I said, it sounds like I didn’t love this book but I did. It just broke me a little by the end. It will have you sobbing your eyes out. I didn’t know so much heartache could be contained in one book, excluding Me Before You. And, I have just ordered Voyager. I can’t wait to start it because I am suffering from a seriously bad case of Droughtlander right now. I need me some Clan Fraser.