I’m writing this at 9 p.m. on a Monday night. I’ve already taken two Tylenol PM because I’ve been fighting a headache all damn day, and I haven’t had a solid night’s sleep in at least a week (thanks, heat wave!). Let’s see if I can beat the clock, huh?
Is that a pun? Because this book deals with time travel? Oh god, I have no idea. Hey, Future!Alaina, when you review this before posting, if that’s not a pun, can you delete that? Thanks!
(Note from Future!Alaina: I mean, it’s not a pun, but it’s kinda funny. I’ll leave it in. Also, I did not finish writing this thing on that Monday (back in July, hence the reference to a heat wave), but I am pretty sure I got some good sleep that night, so – VICTORY)
Okay. Dragonfly in Amber jumps through a couple of periods of Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser’s life. At the very beginning of the book, we are in Scotland in 1968, and we meet Roger Wakefield, adopted son of the preacher who was helping Frank Randall determine his genealogy back in the 1940s, when Claire disappeared back to the past. But here, Roger meets Claire and her daughter, Brianna! Claire and Brianna have come to Inverness after the death of Brianna’s father, Frank.
Roger takes a quick shine to Brianna, and not gonna lie, it’s a tad creepy for my taste:
But if there was any bann-calling to be done, the name linked with Roger Wakefield in the parish register was going to be Brianna Randall’s, if Roger had anything to say about it. [p. 37]
PAGE 37. He like, just met her. She’s also barely twenty, buddy – calm your tits.
Anyway, Claire manages to get Roger to help her with some research – now that Frank’s dead, she’s free to research into whether Jamie and his family died in the Battle of Culloden, which was the end of the Jacobite uprising against the English. The three of them end up at a church, where Claire finds Jamie’s grave; on the stone is etched, “Beloved husband of Claire”. Claire gives us a recap of Outlander, and then we begin the next chapter of Claire and Jamie’s life, starting almost directly after the end of the first book.
Long story short (and I mean long story – this book is over 900 pages long): Jamie and Claire have headed to France after the end of Outlander in an attempt to change history. Claire knows what happens to the Scottish clans during the Jacobite uprising – they are slaughtered by the English, and the Battle of Culloden is that final battle. If she and Jamie can somehow convince Bonny Prince Charlie to remain in France – or, failing that, keep the Prince from raising the funds for his war chest – then they can avert that certain disaster back in Scotland.
What follows is a lot of fancy dresses and scheming. Claire is also pregnant, and Jamie is still dealing with the aftershocks of the trauma dealt to him by Black Jack Randall. At one of the parties at Versailles, Claire and Jamie meet Mary … something-or-other. Whatever, the book is thick and I’m starting to fade. But whatever – Mary, to Claire’s knowledge, goes on to marry Black Jack Randall, creating the ancestry that will eventually result in Frank, Claire’s husband back (forward?) in the 20th century.
While in Paris, Jamie takes over his cousin’s wine transport company, and Claire is … well … Claire is not used to sitting still. She’s used to being active and participating in the household – doing chores, making healing poultices, that type of thing. So when she’s expected to stay home and do nothing, well – it irks her, to say the least. So she starts volunteering her time at the local Hôpital, assisting the nuns in healing the poor. Jamie doesn’t like it – because Jamie is, if nothing else, traditional – but he also knows better than to ban Claire from doing something.
There’s also a plot about a rival wine merchant who’s got it in for Claire and Jamie, because when Claire and Jamie first meet the Comte St. Germain, his wine ship has just made port and is carrying sailors with smallpox, and the local ordinances say that’s too bad, so sad, his boat has to be burned to prevent more plague. So St. Germain does pretty much anything to gain revenge against Claire, including labeling her as a white witch.
At one point, Claire and Jamie run into Black Jack Randall, who did not die during the stampede when Claire rescued Jamie from … Wentworth Prison? Hey, I was right! Anyway, Black Jack Randall shows up and Claire has to make Jamie promise not to kill him, but not because she wants Jamie to be above vengeance killing – no, she wants to make sure that Frank’s ancestry is assured. Which, as Jamie points out, is kind of a dick move, considering she chose to stay with Jamie in the last book.
Anyway, there’s a. lot. in this book, because in order to tell you about how Jamie does indeed end up getting into a duel with Black Jack, I also have to tell you about Fergus, the pickpocket that Jamie sorta hires and sorta adopts to help him steal messages from Bonny Prince Charlie, and how one morning Jamie takes Fergus with him to a brothel to pay a debt on behalf of the Prince or something, Black Jack Randall is at the brothel and decides to have his way with Fergus, who tries not to cry out during the event because it’s easier that way, which is so beyond fucked up I can’t even, and then Jamie catches them in the act and ta-da, a duel is scheduled for the following morning.
Claire finds out when and where the duel is set to take place, and shows up, just in time to see a) Jamie stab Black Jack Randall, possibly fatally; and b) Claire goes into early labor. She blacks out, and wakes up in the Hôpital with the nuns taking care of her. The baby is stillborn, who is christened Faith before being buried. But then Claire’s apothecary friend, M. Raymond, shows up and – tries to heal her? And magically it does? But it’s so weird, you guys, and also, pretty rapey, in a way.
It starts with a massage and some murmuring. But a page later –
I gasped and moved involuntarily, as one hand moved lower, cupped briefly between my legs. An increase in pressure from the other hand warned me to the silent, and the blunt fingers eased their way inside me.
I closed my eyes and waited, feeling my inner walls adjust to this odd intrusion, the inflammation subsiding bit by bit as he probed gently deeper.
Now he touched the center of my loss, and a spasm of pain contracted the heavy walls of my inflamed uterus. I breathed a small moan, then clamped my lips as he shook his head.
The other hand slid down to rest comfortingly on my belly as the groping fingers of the other touched my womb. He was still then, holding the source of my pain between his two hands as though it were a sphere of crystal, heavy and fragile.
“Now,” he said softly. “Call him. Call the red man. Call him.”
The pressure of the fingers within and the palm without grew harder, and I pressed my legs against the bed, fighting it. But there was no strength left in me to resist, and the incurable pressure went on, cracking the crystal sphere, freeing the chaos within.
My mind filled with images, worse than the misery of the fever-dreams, because more real. Grief and loss and fear racked me, and the dusty scent of death and white chalk filled my nostrils. Casting about in the random patterns of my mind for help, I heard the voice still muttering, patiently but firmly, “Call him,” and I sought my anchor.
“Jamie! JAMIE!” [p. 456]
It’s just … gah. Claire is clearly incapacitated, and it seems like this pelvic exam apparently cured her fever, and just … don’t let ANYONE cure my fever like that, okay?
Then, Claire learns that Black Jack Randall still didn’t die, but Jamie did castrate him. To which I said, GO JAMIE! Jamie ended up in prison, so Claire then had to do a favor for the King, and basically managed to paint Le Comte St. Germain as an actual witch, but then she also had to sleep with the King.
But they have to leave France, because – duh. Look at all the trouble they caused in the first half of the book! So back to Scotland they go, and live on Jamie’s estate for … maybe a year? I’m not sure, it’s a while, but then Bonny Prince Charlie manages to get enough funds to go to war with England. So Claire and Jamie leave Lallybroch behind and march towards Culloden.
The end of the book comes fairly fast. Turns out, Mary (remember Mary?) is in love with Black Jack Randall’s brother, who is dying of … something. On his deathbed, Claire witnesses a pregnant Mary get married to … Black Jack Randall. And that’s how Frank survives!
And on the day of the Battle of Culloden, knowing what was supposed to happen, Jamie brings Claire back to Craigh na Dun, and makes her go back through the stones because she’s pregnant. He asks her to name the child Brian, after his father. And Claire returns to “the future”, two years after she had disappeared, and to her life with Frank Randall.
This book was very long, and there is so much that happens in it. I didn’t mind it; but I struggled in parts getting through it. I almost wish that it was split into two books – the France stuff could easily be a novel of its own. I like the story enough, but it’s starting to feel a bit … soapy. Based on the next seasons of Outlander on Starz, the next book might go between Claire-in-the-20th-century and Jamie-surviving-Culloden, and then eventually Claire goes back in time and manages to reunite with Jamie, and then they all end up in America? It just feels like … like if I were writing a soap opera and didn’t want to stop writing about the characters, so I just kept throwing them into situations, only in the case of Outlander, those “situations” are “historical battles”.
It’s not bad; don’t get me wrong, I like the story of Claire and Jamie. But I’m writing this review almost a year after I read the book, and I don’t feel any need to go out and borrow Voyager right now. I guess I want my soap operas to be quick and fast-paced.
Grade for Dragonfly in Amber: 3 stars