Audiobook Review – Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

Posted March 15, 2016 by smutmatters in Audiobook, Challenges, Historical, Reviews / 0 Comments

Audiobook Review – Dragonfly in Amber by Diana GabaldonDragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander #2
Series Rating: four-stars
Published by Bantam on August 7th 2001
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 743
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Barnes & Noble

 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.  DRAGONFLY IN AMBER  For nearly 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 Jamie 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.

There isn’t really anything new to say about this series, but I spent 40 hours listening to this audiobook, so I’m doing a review, damn it. Also, I’m pretty sure that everyone has read this book, and it’s been out for 15 years, so I’m not going to worry about spoilers.

First off – as I said, this audiobook was 40 hours long. This is more due to Diana Gabaldon’s need to put in as much of her meticulously done research as she can than it is a necessity of the plot. I appreciate the research she does; she’s genuinely a master at it. I just don’t think she needs to include as much as she does. There’s a lot of day-to-day life here that, while it does allow us to see what life would have been like in the 18th century, and allows us to meet a dog who can sniff out infection and disease, doesn’t add very much to the story and could have been cut. If she needed to pad out a story that would be one thing, but with this one clocking in at almost 800 pages, that is certainly not the case.

I love Jamie and Claire’s story, but I’ve never gotten past Voyager because of how over-stuffed these books get. I’m going to try to spread them out a little more, which should help. I can’t read them all in a row, the minutiae wears me down and causes me to get bored and move on. I probably won’t listen to Voyager for a while. Also, looking ahead I see that The Fiery Cross is 55 hours and 34 minutes, and A Breath of Snow and Ashes is 57 hours and 46 minutes, so I’ll have to gird my loins for those two. That is crazy.

The setup in Dragonfly was a little confusing to me. We start out with Claire back in her own time, twenty years after the events of Outlander. Which is a bit of shock. I actually went back and checked my Outlander book to make sure I was right about where that one ended, then checked Gabaldon’s website to make sure I had picked up the correct book in the correct order. We spend a lot of time in Claire’s present day, several hours of listening time, then the majority of the story is told in flashback form. We go back to Claire’s time with Jamie in Paris and after that, and see (eventually) how Claire ended up going back through the stones, which I was pretty sure she would never do. Then we spend a few more hours after that back in present-day Scotland with Claire, Roger Wakefield, and Brianna. The present-day portions are told in a combination of first person POV (Claire) and third person POV (Roger). It was a little jarring to read those parts and the flip back and forth. And again, not a lot happens until the very end, when this all wraps up on a cliffhanger. I knew it was coming and was fine with it. But the set up for the cliffhanger was in the first part of the book, and the payoff was in the second half, so I still had to go back to my paper copy and remind myself why it was so dramatic. One of the downfalls of audiobooks. No search function.

Oh! The one thing that bugged me the most. So Jamie has a lot of deep-seated hatred for Jack Randall. As anyone would. He understandably wants to kill him. Claire begs him, over and over and over again not to kill Jack because if he dies, Frank, her husband from present-day Scotland would never be born. And that would be very sad because he’s an innocent man, and he doesn’t deserve to die or have his existence erased for something that’s not his fault. This bugged me for 2 reasons. First – there were plenty of people and events that Claire’s being there changed. Plenty of people Jamie himself killed who he wouldn’t have otherwise. No one was worried about their descendants. Second – and this was the biggest – all she ever said, all she and Jamie ever talked about regarding the possible eradication of Frank’s existence was just that. He wouldn’t exist and that would be sad. The end. No one ever mentioned the fact that Claire went through the stones in the first place when she was on a belated honeymoon with Frank and he wanted to go to on a super-romantic research trip. If Jamie kills Jack Randall and Frank never exists, there’s a very real chance that Claire would have never gone through the stones in the first place. Which sets up an enormous time-travel paradox that I’m not going to try to work out, but even if you leave it there, the possibility of Claire disappearing in front of his eyes should be enough to keep Jamie from killing Jack without having to have that same conversation over and over and over every time Jack Randall shows up on the page. See – right there, I just saved about 2 hours of narration.

Speaking of the narration – Anyone who listens to audiobooks regularly knows that Davina Porter is one of the best narrators working today. She’s amazing. There have been times I’ve been on the fence about a book and decided to give it a listen solely because she was the narrator. And she did as great a job with most of this book as you would expect her to. But I didn’t like her Claire very much. Which is a bit of problem since most of the book is in Claire’s first person POV. She gave Claire’s dialogue, especially the specific way she said “Jaime” when she was talking to him, a plaintive, almost whiny or petulant quality that I just didn’t like. It didn’t fit my version of Claire, and I don’t think it would have even before I saw the amazing performance of Catriona Balfe in season 1 of the show. That version of Claire is anything but whiny or petulant. But her Jamie was great, as was the rest of it. I’d still rather listen to her perform the rest of these books than read them.

If you haven’t checked out this series by now, I doubt you’re going to. I didn’t like this one as much as Outlander, but I liked it enough to eventually move on to Voyager.


About Diana Gabaldon

Diana Gabaldon is the author of the award-winning, #1 NYT-bestselling OUTLANDER novels, described by Salon magazine as “the smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting “Scrooge McDuck” comics.”
Dr. Gabaldon holds three degrees in science: Zoology, Marine Biology, and a Ph.D. in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology, (plus an honorary degree as Doctor of Humane Letters, which entitles her to be “Diana Gabaldon, Ph.D., D.H.L.” She supposes this is better than “Diana Gabaldon, Phd.X,”) and spent a dozen years as a university professor with an expertise in scientific computation before beginning to write fiction. She has written scientific articles and textbooks, worked as a contributing editor on the MacMillan ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COMPUTERS, founded the scientific-computation journal SCIENCE SOFTWARE QUARTERLY, and has written numerous comic-book scripts for Walt Disney. None of this has anything whatever to do with her novels, but there it is.

Diana and her husband, Douglas Watkins, have three adult children and live mostly in Scottsdale, Arizona.