Friday, June 2, 2017

Audiobook Review: Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

Series:     Outlander #2
Pub. Date:Oct. 26, 2006 (Audio)
Publisher:Recorded Books
Narrator:Davina Porter
Length:38 hrs 58 min

I'm finding it hard to review a book that I have read five times... I'm worried that what I want to say would be too spoilery! So this will probably be a very short review of a very long book. If I ever got stranded on a desert island, I would hope to have the Outlander series with me - and not just for entertainment, but also in case I needed a step stool! At 700-1000 pages a pop, these books will aggravate your carpal tunnel both because of the weight, and because you won't want to put them down! I tend to do my re-reads of the series in audio these days because I just love the narrator, Davina Porter. 

I remember the first time I read this book - I was so confused. And still today I have people ask me if they are reading the right book when they start this one. Because you are starting off in 1968 Inverness, when you left off Outlander in 1745 Scotland. Don't worry, you are in the right spot, so keep reading. And pay attention! You never know what small detail may be important later, or may give you an "ah ha" moment about some character or person/event in history.

Claire Randall/Fraser is back in her own time, working as a physician and mother to a fiery redhead daughter. After the death of Frank Randall, Claire and Briana are in Inverness to meet a grown-up Roger Wakefield (whom we met briefly as a child in Outlander) and seek his help to find out what happened to the Fraser men at Culloden. Claire is also seeking someone she met during her time in the past, and must come clean to her daughter about her father and their time travel abilities. So we spend about a third of this book in 1968 on the hunt for the Fraser regiment, and setting up a secondary love story for future installments of the series.

The other two-thirds of Dragonfly in Amber is spent as a flashback to the past with lots of rich and vibrant details of Claire and Jamie's time in France, and their activities in Scotland leading to the dreadful battle at Culloden. 

From Mother Hildegard, a nun who runs L'Hopital des Anges, to Master Raymond, a sorcerer operating in the shadows, and a whole host of characters between those extremes, you are sure to find a favorite secondary character in this installment. These two that I have mentioned are my favorite. I loved Mother Hildegard and her infection-sniffing dog, Bouton. She was a no-nonsense matron that aided Claire in many aspects, and through one of the most difficult times of her life. The mysterious Master Raymond likewise helped Claire, through that same difficult time, but in a very different way. I have always been intrigued by Master Raymond, and I would love to see a short story or novella telling us more about his character and backstory.

Jamie and Claire's time in France with Charles Stuart was fascinating. Gabaldon does great research for her stories, and she doesn't pull punches with her historical figures. She doesn't take the easy way out and give us the romanticized version of Prince Charlie, but instead lays out all his faults and frivolities to paint an accurate picture of what went wrong with his failed uprising. Throughout that history, she weaves the captivating details of Jamie and Claire's lives. Whether moments are light-hearted, tense, or gut-wrenching, I can't get enough of these two when they are together. Gabaldon certainly didn't contrive an easy life for our main characters, and they will experience heartache and failure aplenty... but their abiding love for one another sees them through the toughest times.

This book (and the whole series) is so complex and detailed, that I discover something new with each re-read. The character development is extensive and captivating, as is the descriptions of the dress and settings of the time. I actually picked up this story to re-read for the 5th time because I wanted to give it another pass before I endeavored to watch Season 2 of Outlander. I sped through it in a week (tough for an audio of this size) and started binge-watching the show last weekend. I'm glad I re-familiarized myself with the book before I started watching. The show follows the book pretty closely, but there are some changes here and there. The costumes are OMG-amazing! So I definitely recommend watching if you are fan of the books.

After finishing Dragonfly in Amber, I had to deviate from my reading schedule to move on to Voyager. Some of my favorite moments of the series occur in Voyager, and I just couldn't put it off until later in the season when Outlander, Season 3, premiers. 

I recommend this book to fans of historical fiction, time travel and epic romance. Are you an Outlander fan? Let's chat! I saw a car with an Outlander bumper sticker the other day and I wanted to run up to the driver and yell Tulach Ard!!!