Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

Courtesy Ashley Dzama

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon–when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach–an “outlander”–in a Scotland torn by war and raiding Highland clans in the year of Our Lord…1743. (Summary from: Goodreads)

I found the book started a little slow – as per the summary, I knew the premise.  Claire Randall time travels – and, for me, it took too long for that to happen.  Once it did, I kept trying to guess where the plot was going – who was the man she would fall in love with? Would it be the first man she encounters, her husband’s ancestor, Jack Randall? Or, the red-haired Scot, Jamie,  whose shoulder she pops back in and whose life she saves?

But, then Gabaldon’s writing swiftly turned me away from the guessing game of who Claire’s lover would be and brought her journey into focus.  Claire is clever, sharp and keeps her wits about her in a way that one would expect a strong heroine would.

Of course, she’s an incredible field nurse in 1945 who happens to be married to an historian. So her vast medical knowledge and the snippets she remembers from her husband’s ramblings aid her in 1743.  I found this a little too convenient, but I was reading a novel about time travel… I had to get over it.

Once I made my peace with the main female character, I found myself hooked.  The relationship between Claire and Jamie was so gradual that I no longer expected it.  Suddenly, they were married and their adventure began.

Outlander relies heavily on the deep, sweeping love that develops between Claire and Jamie.  I tired of Claire’s constant need to assert herself and inadvertently end up in life threatening situations from which Jamie saves her.  Nonetheless, I did enjoy reading Gabaldon’s portrait of Victorian Scotland and her colourful characters.

I was extremely disturbed by Jamie’s horrific ordeal at the hands of Jack Randall near the end of the novel.  I understand that “these things happened”, I understand that the episode is almost necessary to truly solidify Jamie and Claire’s relationship when she saves his life – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – but, I was horrified by the sheer evil that one human being can inflict upon another, and didn’t really need it all described.

Unless you enjoy historical fiction, or fantasy/time travel books this might not be the book for you.  However, if you enjoy a really good romance that truly captures the beauty of a loving, honest relationship – you may decide to overlook the whole time travel thing and let yourself be taken in.

From Wikimedia

For twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland’s majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones … about a love that transcends the boundaries of time … and about James Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his.  Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful copper-haired daughter, Brianna, as Claire’s spellbinding journey of self-discovery continues in the intrigue-ridden Paris court of Charles Stuart … in a race to thwart a doomed Highlands uprising … and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves. (Summary from Goodreads)

I finished Outlander and immediately began Dragonfly in Amber because I had to know if Claire would thwart the Bonnie Prince, Charles Stuart, and change the entire course of Scottish and English history. How would Gabaldon handle this?

As with Outlander, I didn’t get to answer my questions quickly.  I had to read through a lot of stuff with new characters that I really didn’t care all that much about.

It is twenty years later – yes, twenty. Claire is a successful doctor and surgeon.  She is in the present time trying to find clues about Jamie’s life and outcome.  The clues are discovered, told and re-told too many times to count.  Until eventually, with the help of a young, astute historian, Claire can almost pinpoint Jamie’s location in history.  

In between these searches, we are taken back to 1743 and follow Jamie and Claire on their trip to Paris where Claire enhances her Victorian medical knowledge and also manages to have sex with the French King.  The trials and challenges continue until the pair find themselves back in Scotland, forced to follow and support Bonnie Prince Charlie in a rebellion against the English.  Historically, after some success, the Scots fail miserably and the clans are essentially annihilated.  Jamie and Claire are pushed to the limit, until they must part.  Jamie forces Claire to return to the future and to Frank (her husband in 1948 -it’s been three years since she time traveled) because Claire is pregnant and Jamie will not condemn his unborn child, nor his wife.  It is a heart wrenching decision and scene as the two are literally torn apart.

I enjoyed the past more so than the present in this novel.  The present repeated the same scene in different words over and over – Claire revealing bits about her past, Roger on the hunt for Claire’s secrets and finding little tidbits, Brianna dealing with the knowledge that Frank was not her father, but some guy from the 1740’s named Jamie Fraser!

Although Dragonfly in Amber can stand on its own and you don’t really have to read the first novel to understand the second novel, I got through book 2 because of how much I liked Outlander.  I felt like Dragonfly in Amber was a book I had to get through, I was rooting for it the whole time; whereas in Outlander I really wanted to know what happened to the characters.

I’m currently reading book #3 in the series, Voyager and although interested – I’m not really taken by it yet.

Have you encountered a series where the subsequent books were not as good as the first?

 

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