Book Review: Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander Book #2)

This review applies to the audio book narrated by Davina Porter and compares the book to the movie.

 

Expectations:

This book was harder for me to love than Book #1…at first. By this point, I was in for the long haul and was eager to get back to Jamie and Claire. I’ll not lie. After completely Book #1, I hit “play” on Book #2 and just kept on running. Unfortunately, there were a lot of bumps in the road.

First, the author herself hated this book more than any of her others. She took advantage of the movie and used it to clean up Book #2. I’m thrilled she did…at first.

When picking up Book #2, you think you’ve picked up the wrong book in the series. I ended up starting Book #3 before realizing that Book #2 was in fact, Book #2.

 

To the point (No Spoilers):

“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. Lord, ye gave me a rare woman, and God! I loved her well.”

This…this is Outlander.

I spent a lot of my time in Season #2 shouting, “No! No! No! You got it wrong!”

In short, I struggled with Part #1 of this book. My opinion on this is biased and it does, sadly, reflect my review.

I am a linguist with an ear and a passion for Latin and Germanic based languages and Japanese: Italian, Spanish, Latin, Japanese, German, Norse, and Icelandic I get. I can hear them and I can hear the words. I can build phrases from the words. Unfortunately, I can’t understand a word of French. The sounds just slur together. As an audible book, this evolved into a major listening comprehension for me.

I listened to this book and, therefore, couldn’t commit to memory the number of French sounds I was hearing. I couldn’t tell if they were place names or people and couldn’t tell who was who. Getting through the scenes in Part #1 was downright difficult. For example, I can READ that L’Hôpital des Anges is “Hospital of the Angels.” My French name is “Ange,” so seeing the words allows me to easily and correctly guess their meaning. But hearing “O’Pee’Tell, Day Awnj” ….I had no clue what it was until…well…until the very end of Part #1.

Part #2 and Part #3 were glorious. The story was breathtaking and easily allowed me to move on from Part #1.

My favorite author is Victor Hugo. I am no stranger to political writing. I thoroughly enjoyed the events leading up to the climax. In all honesty, the movie did a lot to help me understand what was happening in Part #1. For me, the story of Book #1 continued in Part #2 of Book #2, and I, too easily, fell back into this world.

Looking back after delving into season #3, I now see the big picture and wow! Is it astounding! Read this book! Simply gorgeous.

***SPOILERS***

The Story

The story continues right were we left off. Jamie is recovered on the outside, but struggles still on the inside, though we see more of this struggle in the movie.

I’ll be honest, this book should have been cut into two books, or, better yet, three novellas. There was just so much…so much to take in, so much change that I still look back and say, “Wow! That was all in Book #2?”

There are 56 chapters in Book #2, and only 13 episodes in the movie. That is how much was cut from the movie. Let’s see if I can recall this…

Part #1… France

Well…not exactly France. We left Claire and Jamie soaking in a hot spring. Claire hints that she is pregnant and Book #1 ends. Book #2 starts in 1668. We’re in 3rd person POV. We’re introduced to Roger…who the hell is Roger?…whose father just died. Why the hell do we care? He turns and sees Brianna, a tall redhead. Beside her is her mother, Claire. Now there is a face we recognize, but we’re seeing all this through Roger’s perspective. Clearly, Brianna is Jamie’s daughter. The part was so frustrating!

After 50 agonizing pages of Roger, we finally get to Claire’s 1st person POV.

Claire finds Randall’s grave at an old church and laughs. He did die on 16 April 1945. Roger and Brianna enter the church and they hurt a blood curdling scream. They run back to the graveyard and there is Claire, kneeling before another gravestone that reads “James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser…Wed to Claire.” There is no date.

Claire points to the stone and says, “This is your father and that, ‘Claire,’ that is me.”

She then launches into the events of Book #1 and how she met and married Jamie. How they were haunted by Randall until Jamie was captured and tortured and they escaped to France.

The scene fades taking us right back to where we left off.

Claire and Jamie are in France and suddenly, they have an expensive estate and are meeting with King Louis XVI. What? How did this happen? I’ll go along with it. Jamie’s X shows up and all but fecks him there in front of Claire. Most of this part revolved around French Aristocracy. Voltaire’s Candide kept running through my head.

The king shits before an audience. The “Swan Dress” at the king’s ball was straight from the book, and that concludes this ball. Why did we go again?

Jamie spends much of his time in a brothel with someone named Charlie, but, as the story is only seen through Claire’s 1st person POV, we can only see what she sees. One night this kid stumbles through the window. It’s Charlie…I guessed him to be 16-ish. He was an immature kid. Then Jamie introduces the boy to us and we realize we’re looking down at a 21-year-old Bonnie Prince Charlie, son of King James and the house of Stuart.

Claire grows with her pregnancy and Jamie works his way through the politics. One night, he comes home…well, actually, he doesn’t. The next morning, he comes home with bite marks on his thighs…in the book they were an inch from his penis. Lipstick is smeared on the back of his neck, and Claire and I never got so much as an explanation as to how bite legs ended up next to his dick. It was made funny in the movie. It wasn’t funny in the book.

We meet Alex. Claire faints and wakes to find both Jamie and Alex Randall at her side. We meet a Mary Hawkins, Frank’s 6th time great grandmother. Claire and Mary are attacked in the street. Mary is raped. Claire is spared when they call her The White Witch in French. Mary is “ruined” and can not get married despite her feelings for Alex Randall.

Jamie brings home a French urchin named Fergus. “He’s our new pick pocket.”

Claire and Jamie pay a visit to the estate of the Duke of Sandringham when John Randall appears.

Randall thinks Jamie is dead. When he meets Claire he’s a pompous ass who congratulates her on marrying a French Noble. But when he sees Jamie down the hall, he peers at him and speaks his name like a lost lover. It’s sick and re-boiled my blood all over in hate for that sick feck.

Jamie challenges Randall to a duel and Claire—as seen in the movie—obsesses over Frank. “If Jack Randall dies, then Frank dies.” Here is where I just hated Claire. Despite all this, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Butterfly Effect. Why this never came up was beyond me. Why Claire never explained the Butterfly Effect to Jamie…I don’t know. If Frank isn’t alive to wed Claire and return her to Scotland for a second honeymoon, then Claire would never have been there at Craig Na Dun to touch the stones, never sending her back to 1743 with Jamie. In killing Jack Randall, it’s Claire who would cease to exist in Jamie’s world. Why wasn’t this ever addressed?

Claire convinces Jamie not to kill Jack Randall for one year.

Here we learn more about the abuse that Jamie was subject to.

“He made me suck my own blood from his cock.”

Jamie promises Claire. She resumes her life and then…Jamie doesn’t come home…again. This time, two women pay Claire a visit, and Claire overhears their gossip. Jamie got into a brawl over a whore at the brothel and has challenged another patron, and Englishman, to a duel.

Claire scrambles to prepare for travel, locates a letter from Jamie.

“I’m sorry. I must.”

She runs out the door arriving just in time to see Jamie stab Randall. Already at a high-risk pregnancy with bleeding at 5 months along, the placenta separates from Claire’s uterine wall. Blood flows and she passes out. When Claire wakes she is in the hospital.

I was so frustrated with this. Remember, this all is in Claire’s POV. For the next 50 pages, Jamie isn’t asked about, thought about, talked about. 50 pages and we know nothing about where Jamie is. Meanwhile, Claire miscarries, has a fever, nearly dies, two weeks pass. She wakes, goes home, and grieves. Not one word about Jamie. It’s like the character never existed.

Finally, Claire returns to the estate and she sees Fergus gazing into the fireplace. Fergus asks her where Jamie is. Claire doesn’t know, but mentions a voyage he had to take to Spain. She assumes he’s on that ship and won’t be back until September. Good riddance, she thinks and makes plans to leave and be gone before his return. As Claire turns to leave Fergus at the fireplace, she notices a brand on the boy’s chest. “JR”

If you saw the movie, you know what this means. Randall doesn’t just rape his prey. He brands them. All of them. Fergus burst into tears and explains that the Madame at the brothel told him to go with Randall and she would split the cost. Fergus often does this when men ask and Madame insists. But this man insisted on branding him.

Fergus screamed under the metal and Jamie came running. Seeing the brand, knowing what it means, Jamie snapped, challenged Randall, returned to the estate for his weapons, wrote Claire the note, and confronted Randall. Claire finds room for some forgiveness in her heart and retires for the evening. Before she can move, Murtagh appears with an order. This order is the directions on catching the ship to Spain. Jamie never received the order, which means…Jamie was never on the ship to Spain. So where is he?

Murtagh investigates and comes back to report that Jamie has been in Bastille prison for nearly a month for dueling. Knowing Jamie must catch the ship to sail to Spain in an attempt to prevent the Battle of Culloden, Claire goes to King Louis. Here, the movie reflects the book exact. Payment is made and Claire returns to the estate. She collects Fergus and together they leave the estate and move into a convent several days’ North of Paris.

I loved this part so much. Claire goes about her life, living as a childless mother. Unsure of her future, she resigns to living the rest of her life alone at the convent. Time passes, and Claire remains unfeeling and doesn’t much care about anything. She’s lost Frank. Lost Jamie. Lost Faith. Her life is over.

A servant comes to Claire and tells her she has a guest. She sends the guest away. “But Madame. It’s Lord Broch Tuarach.” Claire dismisses him, telling the servant to send Jamie away, but he’s there, walking toward her. Claire runs to the moor to escape and Jamie pursues. Oh, why the movie didn’t write it this way, I’ll never know.

Jamie calls to her and Claire runs. After a while he catches up to her and she breaks.

“Claire, it was my child too.”

“No it wasn’t!” I screamed at Jamie infuriated that he left, infuriated that he didn’t come to her when she needed him…that he wasn’t there to grieve with her.

His presence tears Claire’s defenses down and she finally cries falling into Jamie’s arms. Claire isn’t angry, she’s broken. Jamie isn’t mad, stale, or hateful, he’s heartbroken and needs his Claire. Despite his state of mind, he seems only interested in caring for Claire. How do you recover from such loss? How do you bear the pain? You stand and you bear it together. Truly, this scene is simply breathtaking and is worth reading the book just for it.

 

By this point, it already feels like you’ve read a full novel. Not because of the length, but because so much happens within that time.

Part #2 – Scotland

Upon arriving at Lollybroch, Claire and Jamie become potato farmers for a short while. We see later just how important this is in book #3.

Here at Lollybrooch, readers are introduced to Doonan. Doonan is an untamed white stallion who Jamie has been attempting to break. Fergus attempts to ride Doonan and nearly gets killed in the process.

Out of the blue, a letter arrives declaring Jamie as traitor because a certain Bonnie Prince Charlie forged Jamie’s hand on a declaration of war. Taking up 30 men, Jamie, upon Doonan, and Claire begin the long trek to meet up with the regiment.

Here is where the movie seriously strays from the book. Massive events are deleted from the movie. The order of events are different than they appear in the movie. Laoghaire is not in the book at all. To be honest, the sheer size of this part is told on such a large scale, I don’t know how the author pulled it off.

The scene that stands out the most is the church scene.

In the cabin, they lose a man. More than 30 men and Jamie’s horse, Doonan, are crammed into this church. It hits everyone hard. Claire speaks up in protest when they Redcoats propose burning the church. Then they insist the woman be released.

The other scene, with the beggar also stands out. At the estate of the Duke of Sandringham, after Claire is locked (and barred) in her room, Claire spots him from her window, and he comes to her. Claire gives him a verbal message to take to Jamie, but the beggar doesn’t make it out of the courtyard. Claire watches the guards take him down and kill him on the spot.

I don’t remember how Jamie found Claire. There was just so much happening. I remember it made perfect sense. Murtagh doesn’t kill the Duke of Sandringham outright. In fact, we don’t see the scene at all. He comes out of the house with a bag of food and a bag dripping with blood. Jamie collects the beggar’s body and returns it to the beggar’s wife and child. There Murtagh presents the head of Duke of Sandringham to the widow, Claire, and Mary.

Part #3 – The War

On a political note, the war and Rising of ‘45 was accurately depicted.

At their first battle, Bonnie Prince Charlie visits the wounded to give congratulations only. The argument with Dougal is not in the book. Jamie pissing in the jar is. The belly wound Rupert suffered was actually Jamie’s wound in the book. Angus is a character who doesn’t appear in the book. Another wounded man who was left out of the book was one who had his scrotum sliced open with a spear. Claire sews him back up after Jamie offers to with his mangled right hand.

The Scots fought back the British as far to the South as London, wiping out the British as they went. It was a clean sweep, but, when the winter sets in, the clans retreat and return home to prepare their farms and families for winter.

In retaliation, Charlie declares their actions as treason and has several clansmen arrested.

Meanwhile…

Jamie and the troops come down with a fever due to poor nutrition, starvation, and exhaustion. Claire is adamant and puts Jamie (and Fergus) to bed when there is a knock at the door. She opens the door and there is Jack Randall. He grabs her arm and pulls her into the streets before explaining himself. His brother, Alex Randall, is dying and he offers Claire information on the war in exchange for medical treatment. Claire accepts his deal and does not speak a word of this to Jamie who believes she gets the knowledge from gossiping patients.

We are one year out from 16 April 1945 and the Battle of Culloden…and Randall’s predicted death.

Desperate for more troops, Jamie visits his grandfather, and the advance continues lead by the information passed from Randall through Claire.

At one point, the British troops close in and Charlie takes Doonan saying, “Jamie won’t mind.” Jamie does mind and, by the time he learns of this, Charlie and Doonan are gone.

One night, while Claire is visiting with Alex Randall, she is asked to bring Jamie the next day. Mary Hawkins is pregnant. Alex is dying. He won’t last much longer.

The next morning, Claire takes Jamie to Alex. Mary is there, but they’re waiting for one more person. Randall. Jamie’s reaction to Randall’s sudden appearance was downplayed. Alex, right then, arranges the marriage between Randall and Mary. They both agree, no persuasion needed and Alex, who is a minister, weds the two as Claire and Jamie bear witness. Jamie steps outside and Randall gives Claire her last piece of advice. General Cumberland is having a birthday celebration. Strike hard during this event and they will win the war.

It’s March 1945.

The troops are starving. Charlie is out of money. Troops are sick and dying. The British are gathering and building in strength. Jamie is travelling with Claire to meet back up with Charlie. Along the way they receive word: the men haven’t eaten meat in over a month. They ate all the horses. Jamie falls to the ground, stricken with grief. “And…” he asks. “The Prince’s horse?”

“Oh, they didn’t eat Doonan. It wasn’t proper for a Prince to walk.”

Jamie cries. “I’ve seen my men lay dead on the side of the road. Around me, men die falling for a lost cause, and I’m crying for a horse.”

This scene was powerful and cut from the movie.

Jamie meets up with Charlie in Inverness, and informs him of Cumberland’s birthday celebration. The data checks out, but Charlie refuses to go. He prefers to fight at Culloden. Jamie convinces Charlie to give it a shot, but, as Jamie waits for Charlie to arrive at the edge of Cumberland’s camp, he receives word that Charlie has doubled back and abandoned this battle. They will march at Culloden.

Desperate for a solution to avoid the battle and prevent the extinction of Highland culture, Claire proposes killing Charlie. Jamie does give a long thought to this, but declines. Too late, Dougal has heard and attacks. Jamie kills Dougal and there is a witness. Jamie asks the witness for one hour then seeks out Murtagh with Claire at his side.

The scene is extraordinary and the movie botched this scene so badly.

Jamie presents the deed to Lollybroch, signs the property over to his sister’s son, and takes Claire upon Doonan and ride.

They ride for a few hours when they arrive at Craig Na Dun and the decrepit cabin…the same cabin where Claire first tended to Jamie’s wounds. Jamie tells Claire she must enter the stones and return to her own time for their child. Claire has been so preoccupied with the war, she doesn’t realize she is 46 days late for her period, but Jamie has been tracking.

The date is 15 April 1945.

The next 24 hours is heart-wrenching, beautiful, and simply stunning. The author doesn’t rush us. They make love. Claire begs Jamie. She falls asleep in his arms, they make love again. They wake, and Claire has made up her mind she won’t go. She’ll die with him at Culloden. The make love one last time, when British soldiers appear to use the cabin. The soldiers approach and Jamie takes Claire one last time and shoves her out the back of the cabin.

The Redcoats close in while another spots Claire who runs to the standing stones. She throws herself, just in time, into the stones.

 

We’re back to 1968. Claire has finished telling Roger and Brianna her story.

I loved

This books is very quotable.

I loved watching the war enfold in its many parts. In the movie, Claire and Jamie are harsher, colder, and their anger toward each other, more visible. In the book, while their love never wanes, it’s their hurt and their shared grief you see, not their anger.

I love the sheer scope of the story. The history on the Rising of ’45 is extraordinary.

I hated

France. Part #1. The wait. Starting this book was so confusing. It wasn’t until I went on to book #3 and made my way half way through season #3 that, looking back, I understood and appreciated the layout of book #2.

Honestly, this comes book, whether you love it or hate it, comes down to the wait. The author slowly reveals the story, savoring it without letting it drag. You are handed so many mysteries and you just want to know the answers to your questions. If you have the patience, this book is to be savored like a fine wine. If you don’t like the suspense of not knowing, you’re in for a very difficult read.

How does it compare to the movie?

The book is so much better. I felt cheated by the movie. The season finale was terribly executed, never giving you time to settle into the past to fully immerse yourself in 1745. As soon as you feel the story take you, you’re ripped away again and thrown into 1968. I hated the season finale and does not do the book justice save for the line that summarizes all of Outlander:

 

“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. Lord, ye gave me a rare woman, and God! I loved her well.”

In conclusion:

The quotes truly say it all.

 

About the Author: Angela

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