I am developing a love/ hate relationship with this series. I care very much about the relationship that has grown between Claire and Jamie. Diana Gabaldon has built this complex, passionate, beautiful love story surrounding these two people. It is the draw that keeps fans true to these books, decades after their story began. Yet, my problems with this book began in the very first chapter and compounded over the course of the story.
My first issue may be one of the very biggest I had: the premise. In the aftermath of Outlander, I was ready for this epic love story to continue. Only this book begins with Claire back in her own time. She has returned through the stones, something she swore she would never do. Even worse, it’s been 20 years since she has done it. She’s nearly 50 years-old, with Jamie’s grown daughter in tow. Frank is dead and she is ready to share the truth of the girl’s parentage. All the Scots Claire knew and loved are long dead. Including Jamie. Their great love lasted less than three years. What. The. Hell.
I kept reading. I kept waiting for the facts to change. Surely with some wonky time travel, Gabaldon can fix this, right? I mean, the series is about Claire and Jamie. That would be difficult to sustain with Jamie dead, right? Well, I can’t speak for future books, but every bit of Jamie we see in this book is done in flashback. It tells the story of all that happened to the couple between the end of the last book and the moment Claire stepped back through the stones.
The story is at its best during the flashbacks, but even they were not without problems. There was too much emphasis on politics. I couldn’t keep up with all of the stuff about who should be the rightful king and which characters were on which side and why. It was extremely important to the story and I just didn’t care. I cared about what was happening with Jamie and Claire. I cared a lot and there was plenty of that in the book as well. Frankly, it’s the only thing that kept me from tossing the book aside. That, and my curiosity as to how Gabaldon would reconcile the premise with the idea that the series would continue.
I hated Jack Randall’s return. I hated Claire’s response to it and her whining about her needs to Jamie in order to keep him alive. I wanted to smack her in the mouth. What that man did to Jamie warrants something far worse than death, but Claire’s selfishness kept him alive, forced Jamie to endure his presence, led to the rape of another innocent person, and all for nothing. It damaged her character so much for me.
On top of all this, the book is simply too long. It went on and on at times, and would have been much better for cutting out some of the endless political intrigue and set-up in the present day. It took way too long to get to the storyline that interested me. Part of me wants to wash my hands of the series, but two things hold me back. One, I still need to know how the heck the series can move forward with how the book ends. And, two, I need to see more Jamie and Claire. But do I want 50 year-old Jamie and Claire?? Eh.
I’ll keep you posted.
Rating: C (?)
Click to purchase: Amazon
Dragonfly in Amber
by Diana Gabaldon
Release Date: July 1, 1992
Publisher: Delacorte Press