Thursday, July 19, 2018

Fiction Review: Dragonfly in Amber

The second book I read for my Big Book Summer Challenge (still time to join the fun!) was Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon, sequel to Outlander, which was one of my very first Big Book Summer reads six years ago. I had this second chunkster on my Big Book list for the past several summers, so I was glad to finally get to it. I wish I hadn't waited so long! I think it really says something when you finish a 743 page novel and are sorry it ended and wish you could read more. In fact, if I didn't have other reading obligations lined up, I would have gone right onto book 3 in the series because I hated to leave Jamie and Claire. These epic stories that combine history, romance, and time travel are incredibly compelling and entertaining.

Don't worry - I will avoid spoilers in case you haven't yet read the first book. The basics of the set-up of the first book are that a woman named Claire in 1945 travels back in time to Scotland in 1743 and meets a man named Jamie.

At the start of book 2, Claire is back in her own time, returning to Inverness, Scotland, twenty years later in 1968 with her daughter, Brianna, who looks exactly like Jamie. Her husband, Frank, has died, and Claire has returned to Scotland to investigate what happened to her friends in the 1700's after she left...and maybe to finally share some of her unusual personal history with her daughter. She enlists the help of Roger, adopted son of Reverend Wakefield, who helped Frank with his historical research years ago. After a short introduction in 1968, the novel then shifts back to 1744, as Claire shares her story of what happened back then. She and Jamie were in France, since Jamie was no longer safe in Scotland. The setting is quite different from the wilds of the Scottish Highlands, as Claire and Jamie join the royal court of King Louis in Paris. Although ostensibly they are Jacobites (supporters of Scottish independence), in secret their mission is to prevent the Scottish attempt to regain independence from England, which Claire knows from her history lessons will result in a massacre of many thousands of Scots. In the last part of the novel, they return to Scotland, so this second novel fills in the story of what happened to Claire after the end of the first novel and before she returned to her own time. The story wraps up back in 1968.

Much of this novel has a different feel to it than Outlander because of the setting, among the elite of Paris, but it is just as fascinating a glimpse into history. The beginning of the novel perfectly sets up the rest of the story so that you think you know what will happen, though there are plenty of surprises along the way. As with the first book, the mix of history, romance, and intrigue is absolutely engaging, and here there is some royalty and high society added, as well as espionage. And if you yearn for the Scottish Highlands, you'll get plenty of that toward the end of the book as well. Jamie and Claire are just as endearing as ever and feel like old friends. While the historical detail is absorbing, and Claire and Jamie's relationship is as tender and moving as ever, I personally love the time travel aspects best. As with any time travel novel, ever-intriguing questions are explored, like can you change history? and what happens if someone goes back in time and affects your ancestor's life?  I was pulled into the story immediately, even though it's been at least five years since I read the first book (though it helped that I recently watched season 1 of the Outlander TV show), and it gripped me all the way through 700+ pages. I never wanted it to end and am ready to jump into the next book of the series now! birthday is next week...

768 pages, Delta Trade Paperbacks

P.S. Each season of the Starz Outlander TV series corresponds to one of the books, so season 1 covers Outlander and to avoid spoilers, read Dragonfly in Amber before you watch season 2!

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

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  1. I haven't read these books or watched the TV show, but I know they are popular. I love Scotland so perhaps I should give this one a go.

    1. I think you would like the series, Helen! I stayed away from it for years because I'd heard it was "romance" (not usually my thing), but they are complex and beautifully written novels combining historical fiction, adventure, suspense...and yes, some romance, too :)

  2. I'm a big Outlander fan. Honestly, the first time I read DinA, I didn't care for it because I missed Scotland so much and just wanted them to leave France, but the reread allowed me to sit back and relish the scenes in Paris. I really enjoyed her days in Versailles (which I am actually visiting in less than a week!). I love Jamie and Claire and Voyager is my favorite book in the series. Can't wait to watch season 4 this fall. That's why I'm reading Drums of Autumn when I get back from France in mid-Aug. Happy reading, and je suis pret!

    1. I felt the same way at first, Jane! I was disappointed the beginning (after the present part) was set in France...but it didn't take long for me to get into it - the historical details in both Scotland and France are so fascinating. I learned a lot! Hope you enjoyed Paris and Versailles - I haven't been there since my high school trip when I was 16!

  3. Though I have major love for historical romance novels, I've never heard of Outlander. I admit it took the TV show to have my attention captured and kept, because I'm a huge fan of the show. It gave me all the feels, so I decided it was time to read the book.