Customer Reviews for

The Game of Kings (Lymond Chronicles #1)

Average Rating 4.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

Hard slogging but well worth the effort

Definitely not for the faint of heart, but so rich and intricate have the heart to keep going. At first, I didn't quite know what to make of this book. It's written in a sort of antique English brogue with frequent French and old English spellings that are hard to read...
Definitely not for the faint of heart, but so rich and intricate have the heart to keep going. At first, I didn't quite know what to make of this book. It's written in a sort of antique English brogue with frequent French and old English spellings that are hard to read. I have mostly skimmed the parts I don't understand, being basically lazy, but when something was necessary for me to understand what was being said, I used Google, the ubiquitous explainer without which I could not live. I frequently wondered if it was worth all the effort, as it was initially very unclear where the plot was going. The first vignette is quite promising, however, being fairly comic and interesting if convoluted.... about a drunken pig and being smuggled into the country... the story progresses with one vignette or chapter after the other winding a circuitous route around the main character, a dashing, handsome, brilliant, and irrepressible noble by the name of Francis Crawford of Lymond, Master of Culter.

As I waded through a bewildering array of scenarios and characters, I gradually became enthralled. I am now almost finished and while reading this afternoon, I found myself responding to the story in a visceral way and realized that Ms. Dunnett had quite magically wound the story around my emotions, pulling them out and into a great knot in my stomach as I wondered how Lymond was going to survive; knowing he would as there are five more books, my heart torn asunder by his battle with his brother, Richard. Now, on the cusp of being finished, I am already sad that this sometimes exasperating and exhausting journey is almost at an end.

I am finished and have little to add, except the ending was most satisfactory. The hero is complicated and intelligent and the ideas and thinking are quite deep and profound. I am quite satisfied and am extremely glad I made the effort of reading it.

posted by sleo on November 19, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

A Hard Read, But Series Gets Much Better

This is the first book in the Lymond series. It is a tough read, and you must brush up on your foreign language skills. It is a must read for those interested in reading the series, because it introduces many characters that are carried through the series. It is an amaz...
This is the first book in the Lymond series. It is a tough read, and you must brush up on your foreign language skills. It is a must read for those interested in reading the series, because it introduces many characters that are carried through the series. It is an amazing series, if you can get through this first book.

posted by Megabeth68 on December 26, 2012

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  • Posted November 19, 2010

    Hard slogging but well worth the effort

    Definitely not for the faint of heart, but so rich and intricate have the heart to keep going. At first, I didn't quite know what to make of this book. It's written in a sort of antique English brogue with frequent French and old English spellings that are hard to read. I have mostly skimmed the parts I don't understand, being basically lazy, but when something was necessary for me to understand what was being said, I used Google, the ubiquitous explainer without which I could not live. I frequently wondered if it was worth all the effort, as it was initially very unclear where the plot was going. The first vignette is quite promising, however, being fairly comic and interesting if convoluted.... about a drunken pig and being smuggled into the country... the story progresses with one vignette or chapter after the other winding a circuitous route around the main character, a dashing, handsome, brilliant, and irrepressible noble by the name of Francis Crawford of Lymond, Master of Culter.

    As I waded through a bewildering array of scenarios and characters, I gradually became enthralled. I am now almost finished and while reading this afternoon, I found myself responding to the story in a visceral way and realized that Ms. Dunnett had quite magically wound the story around my emotions, pulling them out and into a great knot in my stomach as I wondered how Lymond was going to survive; knowing he would as there are five more books, my heart torn asunder by his battle with his brother, Richard. Now, on the cusp of being finished, I am already sad that this sometimes exasperating and exhausting journey is almost at an end.

    I am finished and have little to add, except the ending was most satisfactory. The hero is complicated and intelligent and the ideas and thinking are quite deep and profound. I am quite satisfied and am extremely glad I made the effort of reading it.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 19, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    For Readers More Interested in Literature than Pop-Fiction

    The Game of Kings is the first, and most difficult, installment in Dorothy Dunnett's wonderful Lymond Series. It took me some time to get into this book but, once I did, I was absolutely hooked and the books in the series are now my favorite books. Dunnett is a masterful historical author whose books are up there with any action/adventure/historical novels in the literary canon. One reads her books first just to find out what happens, then over and over again to get all the little nuances and literary touches missed the first, second, or third time through. They have received increased, and much-deserved, scholarly attention in recent years. I just cannot praise these books enough. Stick with the series and you will be on the edge of your seat by the end of the last book. I have listed some of the other books in the series in the "I Also Recommend" section, but not all of them because we are limited to 5 books and I wanted to include the Companion and one of her non-series books. Be sure to read them in order. The "Companion" is very helpful in terms of understanding her literary allusions and historical background.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 26, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A Hard Read, But Series Gets Much Better

    This is the first book in the Lymond series. It is a tough read, and you must brush up on your foreign language skills. It is a must read for those interested in reading the series, because it introduces many characters that are carried through the series. It is an amazing series, if you can get through this first book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 1, 2015

       The Game of Kings, by Dorothy Dunnett, is one of those books

       The Game of Kings, by Dorothy Dunnett, is one of those books that have a little bit of everything.  It’s a story filled with political intrigue and family drama, humor and pathos, adventure and historical accuracy.  This novel is quite gripping, especially in the last few chapters, but is not afraid to meander off the path of the main plot for some funny or interesting side stories.  My one caveat about the pacing is that the book can be kind of hard to get into in the beginning, as a lot of names are thrown at you at once and the dialogue is peppered with French, Spanish, German and Latin quotes (the quotes aren’t necessary to understand the story, but are interesting to translate anyway).




                The novel is set in 16th century Scotland during the Wars of the Rough Wooing (which is my new favorite name for a war) in which England attempted to force the Scots to agree to a marriage between Edward VI and Mary, Queen of Scots.  I knew nothing about this period before starting this book, and it isn’t really necessary to know more than very basic European history.  For the most part, the war serves as a backdrop to the Lymond’s many escapades.  Dunnett also uses the setting to discuss war in general, patriotism and tolerance. 




    “ It [Patriotism] is an emotion as well, and of course emotion comes first.  A child’s home and the ways of its life are sacrosanct, perfect, inviolate to the child.  Add age; add security; add experience.  In time we all admit our relatives and our neighbours, our fellow townsmen and even, perhaps, at last our fellow nationals to the threshold of tolerance.  But the man living one inch behind the boundary is an inveterate foe.”




                However, The Game of Kings is not at all a dry, boring book.  Francis Crawford of Lymond is like a mix of Robin Hood, James Bond and Tyrion Lannister (despite their similarity in name, this book has no other relation to Game of Thrones, although that would actually be kind of awesome, now that I’m thinking about it).  He’s a strategic mastermind, a polyglot, a poet, an expert swordsman and funny to boot.  As he leads a bound of outlaws on adventures throughout Scotland in an attempt to clear his name, he’s hunted by his brother, Richard, for reasons that would be super spoilery to mention in this review.  Richard annoyed me at first, but I came to really like him by the end of the story.  His wife Mariotta, however, is another story.  Excluding Mariotta, the female characters in this story were all strong and interesting.  I especially loved Sybilla Crawford, the mother of Richard and Francis, who should not be underestimated, and Christian Stewart, a blind girl who saves Lymond’s life.




                The Game of Kings was a twisty-turny, hilarious, tragic roller coaster of a book and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.




    Grade: A

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2014

    Loved it

    As suggested by Deborah Harkness as a good read, I read it...wow what an intricate story, loved every line, a tough read due to the language ( dialect ) in some places but oh so enjoyable...well on to the next one. Book 2

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2013

    Worth re-reading

    I read this series when I was in high school, over 40 years ago. Then I read for the romance and adventure, and of course, I fell in love with the Lymond character. This time I better appreciate the other characters and the historical and social setting. In fact, I though the presentation of some of the minor characters was entertaining and educational.

    Unfortunately, my library does not have any of this series, so I'm forced to buy the ebooks from B&N. Still worth it if I ration them slowly,

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2012

    An excellent beginning...

    Have you ever wondered where magnificently complex fiction had gone? It starts here, with the first of Dorothy Dunnett's "Lymond" series. This book is a must-read; though it is best to have a bit of French, Spanish, and Latin; that isnt an absolute requirement, as some of the foreign language bits can be understood via context.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2012

    Astonishing blend of history and riveting fictional characters.

    Rich and satisfying storytelling. Can't wait to read the rest of the Lymond series.

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  • Posted August 13, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    simply the best.

    this lymond series and the subsequent nicolo one are without peer anywhere. i own all--what is it, 14?-- books in trade paper, and many of them also in hardback, an entire audio set, and now all i have to do is decide if i can really spend what will eventually add up to nearly $150 for the ebooks. well, the first two are only $6.99 at this writing...and dame dorothy, sadly, will write no more.

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  • Posted October 26, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Great author

    I loved this book. Dorothy Dunnett has the ability to sweep a reader back in time. I highly recommend the series. If you plan on buying the series from B&N, you should buy the paperback version. I bought the first three in hardback and now that I'm ready to buy the last three, they are no longer available in hardback.

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  • Posted June 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Rich Characters in a Calamitous Setting

    Dunnett is certainly a master of historical fiction. Rarely does historical fiction reach the pinnacle of the "thriller" variety, but this one does it with ease. Lymond is on par with any of the main characters of Ludlum, Clancy and others who write in present. At times the use of historical language is a touch cumbersome, but it does add to the historical feel, and after a while you rarely notice it. I'll be reading the remainder of the series as soon as I get them in hand.

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  • Posted January 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Addicting and Life-changing

    I love this book so much. Overcoming the first 160 pages, however, was a huge struggle. It was bogged down with Dunnett's convoluted and crytic prose, foreign and ancient passages, intricate plot, and large cast of real and fictional characters. I put the book down several times, wondering if I could ever finish it. Although with the help of Webster's Dictionary and Dorothy Dunnett companion books, my patience and hard work eventually paid off. I devoured the remaining 5 books in a month. Each new installment got better and better!<BR/><BR/>GoK was the beginning of a life-changing experience for me. I still find that every time I re-read the Lymond Chronicles I always discover something new or "click," because I didn't get it before. I never get tired of reliving the extraordinary adventures of Lymond! Please read, or give it a try. A minority of people come out disappointed, but the majority come out happily rewarded and altered--in some way or fashion.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2008

    Reading an Errol Flynn Movie

    The historical color/detail in the book are excellent, but the characters are mostly straight out of Hollywood: They have 'late 20th century' opinions and attitudes, and they behave like teenagers. After a couple of adventures, one loses interest, since they--Lymond himself, mostly--will pull some rabbit--i.e. some skill, talent, or intricate scheme--out of a hat, and undo their [his] foes. [YES, I read the whole thing] On a positive note: Errol Flynn no longer making movies--if you miss them, this is as close as you're going to get to a new one.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2006

    Dorothy Dunnett-Master Story Teller

    I have read the entire series and felt that it was excellent entertainment as well as historically interesting as the facts and figures of the time period were woven into the storyline.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2005

    Excellent Reading

    The books of this series are among some of the best written, most entertaining I've ever read -- and I've read a lot. Dunnett's historical detail is excellent, and her writing and story-telling ability is way beyond other 'popular' writers. I will admit that getting into the first book was a bit tough because her writing style is very literary and not what we're accustomed to these days. Also, her frequent use of foreign languagues was distressing before I realized that it didn't really matter if I didn't know exactly what the words meant. (I bought the Companion before I started on my second read, and that helped.) But, once I got used to Dunnett's style, I became hooked on the story so that I was hardly able to put each book down until I'd finished it. When I finished reading the last, I wanted to go back and start the whole series over again. I was overwhelmed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2004

    A reading and fantasy finatic

    Even though I have not yet finished the first book in the Lymond Chronicles, I am most certainly hooked for the long haul. At first I was a little confused with all of the different characters, but as time went on things started making more and more sense and I became completely infatuated with Lymond. He's one of those old-fashioned, princely hero's and one cannot help but forgive him of his mis-deeds. A must for all avid readers, truly!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2004

    Forget about Realism in this series

    While I adore reading historical fiction, I prefer considerably more realism than this series offers and MUCH fewer untraslated, unexplained classical quotes & references in Latin, Italian, Turkish, French, Spanish. Perhaps the author is an exquisite linguist however I am not interested enough to sit reading with half a dozen foreign language dictionaries by my side. If you're a fan of the corny old Erol Flynn movies you'll love 'em. If you're looking for at least a smattering of historical accuracy and plausible characters FORGET IT! You'll scarcely get through the first book. I put the 2nd book down after the first dozen pages and will NOT pick it up again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2003

    An Amazing Masterpiece....

    This author was so gifted! Francis was the ultimate hero, handsome, intelligent, sensitive, and compassionate. He was sexy and romantic without ever having a love scene. This is not a difficult read, but focus and rapt attention is required.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2001

    historical fiction at its very best.

    once you have read this first book in the Lymond Chronical you just have to read them all, not just once but over and over. I first read this book in my teens and over the next 25yrs I have re-read them too many times to count.Greatly anticipating favourite sections and becoming sorrowful as the I reach the last few chapters of the last book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2000

    How do you start a series?

    The answer, of course, is exactly the way Ms Dunnett has. From the very first line, 'Lymond's back.' ,I was captivated. My mind was kept busy anticipating, guessing and being surprised. Even when I wasn't reading, my mind was leaping ahead, trying to devine what Lymond would do next. I loved him from the first, even at times believing the worst of him. I found it easy to forgive him all crimes. If it was Ms Dunnett's purpose to create a character at once lovable and despisable, she did a masterful job! He could be cold, cruel and calculating, but then he could suffer for the sake of another's virtue. The dramatic scenes between the two brothers bring the book towards an exciting, and most satisfying end. Of course, then you must read on to find out what happens to our favourite rogue...

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