• Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
• Paperback: 752 pages
• Publisher: Delta, 2001 (first published 1992)
• ISBN: 0385335970
• Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance/Science Fiction
• Recommended For: Anyone interested in history, particularly Scottish/British history; anyone interested in a good love story.
Quick Review: Earns an 88 %, or 4.4 stars out of 5. Check out my rubric for my detailed assessment. Dragonfly in Amber Rubric
Overall, I definitely recommend this series to readers interested in romance and history. I definitely enjoyed it, and am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Voyager.
How I Got Here: I read the first book of the Gabaldon’s series, Outlander, last fall, and was ready to continue the story of Jaime and Claire.
The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis
With her now-classic novel Outlander, Diana Gabaldon introduced two unforgettable characters — Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser—delighting readers with a story of adventure and love that spanned two centuries. Now Gabaldon returns to that extraordinary time and place in this vivid, powerful follow-up to Outlander….
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….
My Analysis and Critique:
I have to say, I think I prefer Dragonfly in Amber over Outlander, the first in Gabaldon’s romantic, time-traveling, highlander historical fiction series. I think it offered more in the way of pulling me in.
Dragonfly in Amber begins with our heroine Claire Randall/Fraser in 1968, telling her time-travelling story to her daughter Brianna and their friend Roger Wakefield. Claire’s story begins right where Outlander left off, and right away, the reader knows that it will end with the death of Claire’s beloved Jamie. The story travels from Claire and Jamie’s time in France in the court of Louis XV, to the Fraser lands of Lallybroch, to the battles of the Jacobite Uprising all over Scotland. The reader learns a lot of history, sees a lot of Scotland, and meets a lot of characters. A LOT of characters.
Which is one of the only gripes I have with this book. While all of the characters that Gabaldon writes are very true and realistic, there are just SO MANY. I had trouble telling the difference between many of them and discerning which were truly important and which weren’t. Sometimes, I found that I wasn’t really paying attention to parts of the plot because I didn’t know that it and the characters involved were really important. It was just SO MUCH. Yet, I have a sinking feeling that, like with my readings of George R.R. Martin, my lack of attention to certain characters and scenes might come back to haunt me when they reappear in later books. And, I WILL be reading the later books, as I really do care about the main characters.
I REALLY care for the romance of Jamie and Claire. Sure, Jaime is very swoon-worthy with his long red hair and exclamations of “You are mine!”, but what I think really gets me, and why I think I prefer this book over the first book in the series, is the reality of their relationship. Unlike Outlander, this book is not full of bodice-ripping passion and romps in the woods. Well, there is some of that, but mainly this book conveys the deep sense of companionship between Jaime and Claire. They are a true married couple, very much in love and very much devoted to each other, and they love and fight like any true couple. Theirs is a comfortable relationship (well as comfortable as it can be, considering they’re in the midst of a rebellion), and I relished the scenes of quiet strength in their relationship. They might be my favorite literary couple of all time just for being so very real.
In addition, I am very grateful to this book for stirring my interest in Scottish and English history. Countless times during my reading, I took to Google to do a bit of research on James II, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Scottish Clans, and the court of Louis XV. Anytime a book pushes me to learn, I am pretty stoked. So, major bonus points to Gabaldon for the history lesson!
Overall, I do highly recommend this series to readers interested in romance and history. I definitely enjoyed it, and am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Voyager.
Today, in honor of my reading of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, I have posted my review of the first book in the series, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I read the book in April, so I can’t believe that I never got around to posting a review. I absolutely loved it!
So, check out my review as I read the next book in the series!
(By the way, my full-time reading is going excellently! I finished Dragonfly in Amber yesterday and got a quarter of the way through the amazing Song of Susannah!)
Today, I’ll finish up my reading of Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon. This is the second book in the Outlander series, and while it can be both considered a romance and science fiction by way of its use of time travel, Dragonfly in Amber is mainly historical fiction, imagining and relating the Jacobite uprising of 1745 by Bonnie Prince Charlie. In honor of today’s reading, I’d like to share some facts about Scotland that I find personally interesting and useful in my reading of Dragonfly in Amber. Enjoy!
Note: except where noted, these facts are directly taken from Eupedia.com, and sometimes expanded upon from Wikipedia.
- Scotland was an independent country until 1603. Then, the King of Scots, James VI, became King of England and Ireland as James I, beginning the Stuart monarchy in England. The two countries didn’t merge their governments until 1707, under Queen Anne’s Acts of Union, to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. One result of this merger was the end of the Stuart dynasty after Queen Anne, due to the surviving Stuarts’ Catholicism, and the eventual Jacobite uprising, which is the central historical focus of Dragonfly in Amber.
- Scotland is reputed for its whisky (different from “whiskey” made in the United States and Ireland), known outside Scotland as Scotch Whisky. Whisky is quite beloved and revered by Jamie Fraser, one of the two main protagonists in Dragonfly in Amber.
- Surprisingly, whisky, kilts, tartans, and bagpipes aren’t Scottish inventions. While kilts originated in Ireland, whisky, tartans and bagpipes have origins in Central Asia. Also, genetic studies are now pointing that the mutation for red hair, which now reaches a world maximum in Western Scotland and Northern Ireland, may have originated in Central Asia too. This means that Scottish people may be (partly) descended from Central Asia.
- Inverness-shire, where much of the Outlander series takes place, is Scotland’s largest county, and is home to Britain’s highest peak, Ben Nevis (1,343 m/ 4,406 ft), Britain’s deepest lake, Loch Morar (310 m/ 1,017 ft), and Britain’s second longest and second deepest lake, the famous Loch Ness.
- The Duke of Atholl commands the only legal private army in Europe, the Atholl Highlanders, whose headquarters are at Blair Castle, Perthshire. Blair Castle also has the distinction of being the last ever place in Britain to have been besieged, in 1746. The Jacobites laid siege to the castle, and only withdrew to fight the British at the Battle of Culloden (which is what I am dreading in my reading, as that is where Jamie is fated to die. 😦 )
- Scotland has three officially recognized languages: English, Scots (a relative of English), and Scottish Gaelic (a completely different language). When you’re in Scotland, you can still see road signs in both English and Gaelic*.
- Scottish surnames are divided in two main categories: Gaelic names (typically starting with “Mac-” or “Mc-“) and Germanic names (e.g. Barclay, Blair, Brown, Cumming, Stewart, …). Outlander‘s Jaime’s names are Gaelic (Mackenzie) and French (Fraser).
- About 5 million Americans reported Scottish ancestry. The highest concentration of people of Scottish descent are found in New England and the Northwest.
- In 2004, Edinburgh became the UNESCO’s first City of Literature.
- Scottish literature includes such names as Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, Lord Byron, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and J.K. Rowling.
- Scotland’s motto is “No one provokes me with impunity”.* This motto is surely lived by the many Scots in the Outlander series.
- As per the census conducted in 1909, the Scots were the tallest race in Europe.* Jamie Fraser is often noted for his great size in the Outlander series.
- Scotland’s national animal and symbol is The Unicorn of Scotland.* How cool is that?!
* This fact derives from The Scotland Blog.