Title: Dragonfly in Amber & Voyager
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Genre: Historical, Romance, Fantasy
Links (for Dragonfly only): GoodReads || Amazon || Barnes & Noble || Author Website
I hated parts of it. I really did. And yet, I still ran to Barnes and Noble to get the follow-up, Voyager.
To give you an idea on how that went, I’ve already finished the third novel. Here’s my review on both.
THE SUMMARY (DRAGONFLY IN AMBER):
“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….
Following on the heels of the mass market publication of Outlander, which introduced readers to Claire Randall and her journey through time, Dragonfly in Amber returns us to the heroine 20 years after her fantastic voyage through the stones in Scotland.” – Barnes and Noble
THE BAD (BOTH):
ACCURACY VS SENSIBILITY: One of the best parts about the novel is that it sticks to the historical accuracy of the time, even if the material is hard to read. Some examples of this are the vast amounts of sexual assault and violence against women written throughout the series. Claire’s best protection against this is her marriage to Jamie Fraiser. But, even then, she is constantly at risk of being harmed and used as a possession. Although I understand the historical accuracy of this, at what point has there been enough? We get it. Everyone is a rapist and everyone is at risk. Claire is sexually assaulted multiple times, Jamie is raped and even his nephew, a young child, is raped.
The use of this as a dramatic plot line constantly throughout the series, with little followup regarding the state of character after the act, reduces the worth of the story. It feels more like background noise at this point and that’s something that truly upset me.
DOWNRIGHT INSENSITIVE: I didn’t want to feel this way but after reading the second novel (and even the third) I’m beginning to think that Dianna Gabaldon has a personal vendetta against the LGBT community and POC. First of all, the two main villains in the first few novels are attracted to men. Gabaldon has gone on record of saying that Black Jack (the villain of the first two novels) “derives sexual pleasure from hurting people, but he’s not particular about the gender of a victim“. But, even so, very little is highlighted about his female victims (considering he sexually assaulted Claire and Jaime’s sister). A MAJORITY of the series, however, focuses on the relationship between Jaime and Jack. While there’s nothing wrong with that per se, the implication that the attraction there is a bad thing (yes rape is bad but male-male attraction is not), was hard to read.
Second, the characterizations of the few POC’s were just downright racist. One example is “Mr. Willoughby” or, more commonly referred to as, “China man”. He is a Chinese man, with broken English, who is often the butt of many jokes because he tries to have sex with women’s feet (yes I know, I was equally annoyed with that storyline). And, of course, he knows acupuncture. Another example is the African slaves that Claire runs into. The only scenes they have involved a voodoo ritual which includes the killing of a crocodile, along with consuming its blood and a hallucinogenic.
Really, the writing concerning any character that isn’t white or straight is just horrendous.
THIS QUOTE: “And finally I put down the last and the best advice I knew, on growing older. Stand up straight and try not to get fat.” (550)
THIS SCENE: Yes, that’s right. Gabaldon made Jamie a rapist. The fact that this was out of character is the least of my issues. The fact that he continues to be the romantic male lead, even after this, was terrifying. (I, personally, consider this scene to be horribly out of character for him. It, also, adds nothing to the story which makes me believe that Gabaldon was not under the impression that what she was writing was rape – which is equally disgusting.)
Her struggles were accomplishing by force what he had tried to do with gentleness. Half-dazed, he fought to keep her under him, while groping madly for something to say to calm her.
“But—” he said.
“Take it out!” she screamed.
He clapped one hand over her mouth and said the only coherent thing he could think of.
“No,” he said definitely, and shoved.
What might have been a scream emerged through his fingers as a strangled “Eep!” Geneva’s eyes were huge and round, but dry.
THE GOOD (BOTH):
STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER: What I loved about this series was how amazing the female lead was. Unlike other female characters that are written to be strong by being physically so, Claire Beauchamp is a war nurse who saves numerous lives throughout the series. She is strong in her sense of self and, because of this, is often sought out for advice from other males. Despite the fact that she has two love interests, Claire is also never defined by them. She has a life outside both of them and she never falls into the trappings of a love triangle. Claire’s character never diminishes throughout the series. She continues to be the well-rounded character that she always was.
UNIQUE CONCEPT: The Outlander series is a series that focuses on a woman who accidentally traveled back to Scotland in the 1700s and must survive. Since its original novel, it’s addressed many of the political issues of its time all while telling the story of a romance that literally stands the tests of time. The novel is not a romance, nor a fantasy or historical fiction. Instead, it sits in its own genre. The best way I can describe it is as an epic adventure. It’s uniqueness in that sense is one of it’s strongest qualities and it’s own that does not diminish past the first novel.
SHEDS LIGHT ON A SERIOUS ISSUE: Although I mentioned before that I had an issue with how many times the author used rape as a plot device, I do have to admit that it’s extremely honest in that sense. Women are only safe by their marriages and often times, even then, are still unsafe. Women are sold off to the highest bidders for money. Women cannot even own land without a man to claim it. What I liked about this honesty was that it constantly juxtaposed Claire’s 1900s life. There’s a clear commentary there. While Claire is often believed to be a witch because of her healing abilities, she notes that she was a surgeon in her time in the 1900s. That being said, it’s still mentioned that women’s rights have a long way to go – even in the 1900s. Gabaldon makes sure to highlight throughout the entirety of her series.
BEAUTIFUL IMAGERY: I don’t have much to add besides “oh my god”. The imagery the author creates were just extraordinary. As the settings change every book, the reader gets more rich detail regarding the previous eras and the simplistic beauty that came with that. I recommend this series to any novelist who wishes to write rich imagery. Gabaldon certainly does not lack this talent.
GREAT RELATIONSHIP: The first novel painted a beautiful picture of Jamie Fraser and Claire Beauchamp. Needing each other to survive, they get married in haste. But neither of their love starts at the point of their marriage. While most stories are a ‘will they or won’t they’ story where it ends with the couple getting together, Outlander practically starts with Jamie and Claire together. They become each other confidants, combating political turmoil together all the while seeking each other’s advice on how to proceed. There’s a clear respect between them. Jamie praises her healing abilities and Claire respects his ability to live off the land. There’s an understanding of each other’s pasts, even if they come to haunt them. Although Jamie is wanted from the law, Claire decides to live life as a runaway with him. When Claire is accused of being a witch, Jamie fights for her honor. Together, the two of them become stronger than they were before. The first three novels are a great example of this.
(Of course, by saying this I exclude the Jamie scene I mentioned before in my ‘cons’ list. As I said, it was extremely out of character that I don’t even believe it should be attributed to him. The author made a horrible mistake in writing it.)
OVERALL RATING (BOTH):
I loved Outlander. Although I didn’t review it, I would’ve given it a four out of five. While the following novels have many of the strengths the first novel had, it also had some large hurdles that were hard for me to look past. The second and third novels were often times horrendously insensitive to people of color and to the LGBT community. To give Gabaldon the benefit of the doubt, I’m sure some of this was meant to continue historical accuracy. But it wasn’t the presence of the slaves that bothered me but rather the treatment of them in the writing. All of these diverse characters were written stereotypically rather than as full, complicated, human beings.
All in all, I give the novels a two and a half out of five. It had all of the strengths of the first novel but, overall, was just way too insensitive for my liking.