Before I go further, I will throw out the warning about spoilers. I don't think I can avoid some of them in order to properly review this book. So read at your own peril! I will also assume you know the basic premise of the Outlander series. If not, please refer to my review of Outlander here.
At the end of Outlander, we leave Claire and Jamie in the year 1744, with the knowledge that Claire is pregnant. In the first pages of Dragonfly in Amber, we find ourselves with Claire and her twenty-year-old daughter Brianna in the year 1968. Huh? I thought I'd picked up the wrong book in the series, but all was revealed soon enough. In order to save her own life and the life of her unborn child, Jamie insists that Claire return to the year 1945, back to her first/original husband Frank. Side note: I would've liked to be a fly on the wall to hear how she explained that one! Once Frank dies, twenty years later, Claire decides that she must reveal to Brianna her true parentage. They travel back to Scotland, and with the help of historian Roger Wakefield, attempt to determine the fates of Jamie and his clansmen in the bloody Battle of Culloden, a battle fought soon after Claire left. Claire finds Jamie's grave, and begins to tell her story to Brianna and Roger.
At this point, we flash back to 1744 and spend the next 3o-ish discs reliving the events that led to the Battle of Culloden. Having decided to try to alter history to prevent the deaths of many, Jamie and Claire use their connections in France and Scotland to collect information about the growing political tension and alliances. They throw in a monkey wrench where they can, but worry that nothing they do will make a difference. Attempts are made on both of their lives, Claire gains the reputation of a witch, they have multiple confrontations with the evil Jack Randall, Claire sacrifices her virtue to the King of France to free Jamie from prison...never a dull moment in these people's lives. Through it all, the love between Claire and Jamie remains steadfast, but seriously intense. If they aren't trying to kill each other, they are in the bedroom swinging from the chandeliers. I feel like I've been in bed with them; Gabaldon does not spare us the details.
After Claire tells her story and we are back in 1968, Claire reveals a secret that has been nagging at me since the last book. I will not go into the details, but this time travel plot twist continues to haunt the reader at the end of this book, and I assume will continue to haunt us going forward. And of course, Gabaldon would not be doing her job unless she drops the final bomb on us in the last paragraph. I literally threw up my hands, and with them, my iPod, and screamed "Oh for Pete's sake!".
I am still as besotted with this series as I ever was. I will warn all impatient readers that there are oceans and oceans of detail. I can't fathom what Gabaldon must do to get in the frame of mind to create such a level of minutia. What this accomplishes for the reader, however, is the sensation that you've been there and lived it with them. You know what they eat, how they cook it, how they dress, their customs, and step-by-step details on how a hanged man is drawn and quartered (I'm not kidding). Jamie is as dude-ish as a guy in a kilt can be - fierce in battle but emotional and passionate. Claire continues to be strong-willed and headstrong, intelligent, and willing to do whatever it takes to protect her husband. I can't think of a more compelling love story.
I was quite blown away by the way the book started...how dare she? You are instantly filled with a million questions. Why did Claire have to leave Jamie and come back in the first place? How did Jamie die? Are we sure he died at Culloden? Why can't Claire go back in time again, right before Jamie died, and save him? How will Brianna react to the news of her hidden parentage? I NEED ANSWERS NOW!!!! I found myself nervously twitching throughout the entire flashback, wanting anxiously to get back to 1968. Of course, when I did get back to 1968, I didn't get all my questions answered then, either!
By the way, there are rumors swirling around that Gerard Butler may play Jamie in the upcoming movie. Does anyone out there have better information? I think it could work, although my vote is still for Viggo...but "Gerry" (as the swooning women are calling him) doesn't look half bad.