A book review by Zoey Tsoura
At the end of Outlander, we left a pregnant Claire Randall sailing towards France and a new life with a Jamie Fraser who’d just been through a horrible ordeal. At the beginning of Dragonfly in Amber, we meet Claire in 1968, without a clue about what happened in the meantime and, most importantly, why she returned to her time since she had clearly decided to live with Jamie in the 18th century. Her daughter, Brianna, whom she has raised with Frank, is now twenty years old. Claire travels with her to the Highlands, to search for answers about Jaime and to reveal to her her biggest secret: who her real father is. There, Claire tells us her story, and takes us, Brianna, and Roger Wakefield – a young historian who assists them in their investigation – back to the past, to fill in the blanks.
The first part of Dragonfly in Amber takes place in France, where Claire and Jaime settle. They live in Paris, manage the wine trading business of one of Jamie’s many uncles, and infiltrate the French high society, befriending nobles and the Bonnie Prince, Charles Stuart, in order to see their mission through: undermine the Prince’s efforts to acquire the money and support he needs, and prevent the future Jacobite uprising and the slaughtering of the clans at Culloden. They play a very dangerous game, constantly trying to survive the multi-layered schemes of the French aristocracy, as well as those of English and Scottish nobles who’ve already chosen a side. Paris is an elaborate chessboard… but this part of the story didn’t win me over. I often felt this plot thread was lost, that it was weak, or in the background. Perhaps because of having solely Claire’s point of view, who, as a woman, doesn’t participate in the political machinations as much as Jamie. Perhaps it tired me a bit because I’m not a fan of pompous aristocrats, palaces, meals and balls, and puffy dresses. However, there were elements that firmly kept my interest: Claire becoming acquainted with the occult and Cabbalistic rituals, the rivalry between the Frasers and the Count of St Germain, the remarkably vivid secondary characters that Gabaldon creates, like Master Reymond, and the challenge of Claire’s high risk pregnancy. Thankfully Claire and Jamie aren’t static, and don’t suffer from ‘happily ever after’: they evolve, as does their relationship that suffers a lot. And, of course, the return of a well-known character from the previous book acted like an electrifying wake-up, a catalyst to an avalanche of events, making me realize that character is just as essential to the story as Claire and Jamie.
Unfortunately, all their plans fail, and in the second part of the book, after a personal tragedy, Claire and Jaime return to Scotland. They devote themselves to a new mission: the success of the rebellion and the changing of history – a mission that feels doomed from the very beginning. I liked this part of the story much more. I shared the overwhelming relief of the two main characters over their return to Scotland, as if I, too, was brought home: a wild, authentic place, away from the stench and hypocrisy of Paris. Scotland itself is a vital piece of this series it seems, and the story lacks something when it’s absent. Here, we follow Claire and Jaime through the cruelty and hardships of war during the second Jacobite rebellion, until the end, which was like a knife through the heart, and explains the heartbreaking reason we see Claire again n 1968. All in all, a truly beautiful, deeply human story, that is worth following.
“I will find you,» he whispered in my ear. «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.»
His voice dropped, nearly to a whisper, and his arms tightened around me.
«Lord, ye gave me a rare woman, and God! I loved her well.”
Synopsis: For twenty years, Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to the mysteries of Scotland’s mist-shrouded Highlands.
Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as shocking as the events that gave it birth: the secret of an ancient circle of standing stones, the secret of a love that transcends centuries, and the truth of a man named Jamie Fraser—a Highland warrior whose gallantry once drew the young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his.
Claire’s spellbinding journey continues through the intrigue-ridden French court and the menace of Jacobite plots, to the Highlands of Scotland, through war and death in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves.
Title: Dragonfly in Amber
Book Series: Outlander, Book 2
Author: Diana Gabaldon
First Published: 2015