In this first book in the legendary Lymond Chronicles, Francis Crawford of Lymond, traitor, murderer, nobleman, returns to Scotland to redeem his reputation and save his home.
It is 1547 and Scotland has been humiliated by an English invasion and is threatened by machinations elsewhere beyond its borders, but it is still free. Paradoxically, her freedom may depend on a man who stands accused of treason. He is Francis Crawford of Lymond, a scapegrace nobleman of crooked felicities and murderous talents, posessed of a scholar's erudition and a tongue as wicked as a rapier. In The Game of Kings, this extraordinary antihero returns to the country that has outlawed him to redeem his reputations even at the risk of his life.
About the Author
Dorothy Dunnett was born in 1923 in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. Her time at Gillespie's High School for Girls overlapped with that of the novelist Muriel Spark. From 1940-1955, she worked for the Civil Service as a press officer. In 1946, she married Alastair Dunnett, later editor of The Scotsman.
Dunnett started writing in the late 1950s. Her first novel, The Game of Kings, was published in the United States in 1961, and in the United Kingdom the year after. She published 22 books in total, including the six-part Lymond Chronicles and the eight-part Niccolo Series, and co-authored another volume with her husband. Also an accomplished professional portrait painter, Dunnett exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy on many occasions and had portraits commissioned by a number of prominent public figures in Scotland.
She also led a busy life in public service, as a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Library of Scotland, a Trustee of the Scottish National War Memorial, and Director of the Edinburgh Book Festival. She served on numerous cultural committees, and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In 1992 she was awarded the Office of the British Empire for services to literature. She died on November 9, 2001, at the age of 78.
Read an Excerpt
Opening Gambit: Threat to a Castle
First of ye chekker sail be mecioune maid
And syne efter of ye proper moving
Of every man in ordour to his king
And as the chekker schawis us yis forne
Richt so it maye the kinrik and the crowne,
The warld and all that is therein suthlye,
The chekker may in figour signifye.
"Lymond is back."
It was. known soon after the Sea-Catte reached Scotland from Campvere with an illicit cargo and a man she should not have carried.
"Lymond is in Scotland."
It was said by busy men preparing for war against England, with contempt, with disgust; with a side-slipping look at one of their number. "I hear the Lord Culter's young brother is back." Only sometimes a woman's voice would say it with a different note, and then laugh a little.
Lymond's own men had known he was coming. Waiting for him in Edinburgh they wondered briefly, without concern, how he proposed to penetrate a walled city to reach them.
When the Sea-Catte came in, Mungo Tennant, citizen and smuggler of Edinburgh, knew nothing of these things or of its passenger. He made his regular private adjustment from douce gentility to illegal trading; and soon a boatload of taxless weapons, bales of velvet and Bordeaux wine was being rowed on a warm August night over the Nor' Loch which guarded the north flank of Edinburgh, and toward the double cellar beneath Mungo's house.
Among the reeds of the Nor' Loch, where the snipe and the woodcock lay close and the baillies' swans raised their grey necks, a man quietly stripped to silk shirt and hose and stood listening, before slidding softly into the water.
Across four hundred feet of black lake, friezelike on their ridge, towered the houses of Edinburgh. Tonight the Castle on its pinnacle was fully lit, laying constellations on the water; for within, the Governor of Scotland the Earl of Arran was listening to report after report of the gathering English army about to invade him.
Below the Castle, the house of the Queen Mother also showed lights. The late King's French widow, Mary of Guise, was sleepless too over the feared attack, for the redheaded baby Queen for whom Arran governed was her daughter. And England's purpose was to force a betrothal between the child Queen Mary and the boy King Edward, aged nine, and to abduct the four-year-old fiancée if chance offered. The burned thatch, the ruined stonework, the blackened face of Holyrood Palace showed where already, in other years, invading armies from England had made their point, but not their capture.
Few civic cares troubled Mungo Tennant, awaiting his cargo, except that the ceaseless renewal of war against England made a watch at the gates much too stringent; and the total defeat by England thirty-four years since at Flodden had caused high walls to be flung around Edinburgh which were damnably inopportune for a smuggler. And for Crawford of Lymond, now parting the flat waters of the Nor' Loch like an oriflamme in the wake of the boat. For where a smuggler's load could pierce a city's defences, so could an outlawed rebel, whose life would be forfeit if caught.
Ahead, the boat scraped on mud and was lifted silently shoreward. The rowers unloaded. Burdened feet trod on grass, crossed a garden, encompassed an obstacle, and were silent within the underground shaft leading to the cellar below the cellar in Mungo's house. The swimmer, collared with duckweed, grounded, shook himself, and unseen followed gently into, and out of the same house. Crawford of Lymond was in Edinburgh.
Once there, it was simple. In a small room in the High Street he changed fast into sober, smothering clothes and was fed two months' news, in voracious detail, by those serving him. ". . . And so the Governor's expecting the English in three weeks and is fair flittering about like a hen with its throat cut. . . . You're gey wet," said the spokesman.
"I," said Lymond, in the voice unmistakably his which honeyed his most lethal thoughts, "I am a narwhal looking for my virgin. I have sucked up the sea like Charybdis and failing other entertainment will spew it three times daily, for a fee. Tell me again, precisely, what you have just said about Mungo Tennant."
They told him, and received their orders, and then he left, pausing on the threshold to pin the dark cloak about his chin. "Shy," said Lymond with simplicity, "as a dogtooth violet." And he was gone.
In his tall house in Gosford Close with the boar's head in chief over the lintel, Mungo Tennant, wealthy and respectable burgher, had invited a neighbour and his friend to call. They sat on carved chairs, with their feet on a Kurdistan carpet, ate their way through capon and quails, chickens, pigeons and strawberries, cherries, apples and warden pears, and noticed none of these things, nor even the hour, being at grips with a noble and irresistible argument.
At ten o'clock, the rest of the household went to bed.
At ten-thirty, Mungo's steward answered a rasp at the door and found Hob Hewat, the water carrier.
The steward asked Hob, in the vernacular, digressing every second or third word, what he wanted.
Hob said he had been told to bring water for the sow.
The steward denied it. Hob insisted. The steward described what instead he might do with the water and Hob described in detail how he had ruined his spine raising the steward's undistinguished water from the well. Mungo, above, thumped on the floor to stop the racket and the steward, cursing, gave in. He led the way to the apartment beneath the stairs where lived Mungo's great sow, the badge of his house, the pet and idiotic pig's apple of his eye, and waited while Hob Hewat filled its water trough. He then sat down suddenly under an annihilating tap on the head.
Hob, who had done all he had been paid to do, disappeared.
The steward slipped to the floor, and stayed there.
The sow approached her water dish, sniffed it with increasing favour, and inserted both her nose and her front trotters therein.
Crawford of Lymond tied up the steward, left the stye, and climbed the stairs to Mungo Tennant's apartments.
In the gratified presence of their host, Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch and Tom Erskine were still hard at it. Buccleuch, beaked like a macaw, was a baroque and mighty Scots Lowlander with a tough mind, a voice like Saint Columba's, and one of the biggest estates on the Scottish Border. Erskine, much the younger, pink, stocky and vehement, was a son of Lord Erskine, who was head of one of the families nearest the throne, and captain of the Queen's fortress of Stirling.
"Just wait," Buccleuch was roaring. "Just wait, man. Protector Somerset will get his damned English rabble together and march into Scotland up the east coast. And he'll tell off his commander, Lord Wharton, to get his Cumberland English together and invade us at the same time up the west coast. And half the west coast landowners are pensioners of the English already and won't resist 'em. And all the rest of us'll be over here at Edinburgh fighting Ned Somerset-"
"Not all of us," said Erskine neatly.
Buccleuch's whiskers promenaded. "Who'll stay in the west that's worth a docken?"
"Andrew Hunter of Ballaggan?"
"Christ. Andrew's a nice, gentlemanly lad, but his estate's been bled dry; and as for the ill-armed crew he calls followers- Man, they'd lay on a battlefield like dandruff."
"The third Baron Culter?" suggested Tom Erskine, and Buccleuch got the derisive note and turned red at the wattle.
"I know fine the cheeky clack of the court," shouted Buccleuch. "They say Culter's not to be trusted."
Tom Erskine lifted the broad, brocade shoulders. "They say his younger brother's not to be trusted."
"Lymond! We know all about Lymond. Rieving and ruttery and all manner of vice-"
"And treason. But treason's not Lord Culter's dish. There are those that want to take time and men to hunt down Lymond and his band of murderers; and those that demand that Culter should lead them as proof of his loyalty. But if Richard Crawford of Culter won't interfere; says he has better business to attend to and refuses flatly to hound down his brother baying like the Wild Jagd, that still doesn't make him a traitor." And inflating the great chasms of his cheeks, Buccleuch added, "Anyway, Culter's just got married. D'ye blame him for keeping his shield on the hook and his family blunders all tied up at the back of the armory?"
"Damn it," said Tom Erskine, annoyed, "I don't blame him for anything. It isn't my fault. And if it's that black Irish beauty he married, I don't expect he'd notice if the Protector knocked on the front gate at Midculter and asked for a drink of water. But-"
The large red face had calmed down. "You're dead right, of course," said Buccleuch cordially. "In fact you've given me a wee notion or two I can use to the fellow himself. If Culter's going to be in credit at court at all, he'll need to bring himself to capture that honey-faced de'il."
Mungo Tennant, the silent and flattered host, was able to make respectful comment at last. "Crawford of Lymond, Sir Wat?" he said. "Now, he's not in this country, as I heard. He's in the Low Countries, I believe. And when he'll be back, if ever, God knows. . . . Bless us, what's that?"
It was only a sneeze; but a sneeze outside the door of their chamber, which dislimned every shade of their privacy. Tom Erskine got there first, the other two at his heels. The room beyond was empty, but the door of Mungo's bedroom was ajar. Taking a candle like a banner in his fist, Erskine rushed in.
His hair soft as a nestling's, his eyes graceless with malice, Lymond was watching him in a silver mirror. Before Erskine could call, Buccleuch and Mungo Tennant had piled in beside him and Lymond had taken two steps to the far door, there to linger, hand on latch and the blade of his sword held twinkling at breast level as they jumped, weaponless, to face him, and then fell back.
"As my lady of Suffolk saith," said Lymond gently, "God is a marvellous man." Eyes of cornflower blue rested thoughtfully on Sir Wat. "I had fallen behind with the gossip. . . . Nouvelle amour, nouvelle affection; nouvelles fleurs parmi l'herbe nouvelle. Tell Richard his bride has yet to meet her brother-in-law, her Sea-Catte, her Sea-Scorpion, beautiful in the breeding season. What a pity you didn't wear your swords."
Rage mottled Buccleuch's face. "Ye murdering cur. . . . You'll end this night-"
"I know. Flensed, basted and flayed, and off to hang on a six-shilling gibbet-keep your distance-but not tonight. The city is not full great, but it hath good baths within him. And tonight the frogs and mice fight, eh, Mungo?"
"Man's mad," said Buccleuch positively. He had managed to pick up a firedog.
"Mungo doesn't think so," said Lymond. "His mind is on fleshly lusts and his treasure." And certainly, the jennet fur at his neck warped with sweat, Mungo Tennant was gaping at the intruder.
Lymond smiled back. "Be careful," he said. "Pits are yawning publicly at your feet. O mea cella, vale, you know . . ." And suddenly, it came to Mungo what he was threatening.
"Don't linger, I pray you, cuckoo, while you run away," said the sage. Mungo Tennant said nothing. He rushed toward Lymond, collided with Tom Erskine on the way, and falling, sat on the candle. There was a moment's indescribable hubbub while the three men and the firedog blundered cursing into each other in the dark; then they got to the far door and wrenched it open. The corridor as far as the stairhead was quite empty, and the light feet running downward were already some distance away. They hurled themselves after him.
They were three floors above the ground, and the staircase was spiral. The spilth of Buccleuch's bellow rattled the pewter in the kitchens; Tom Erskine shouted and Mungo piped like a hen-whistle. The servants on their pallets heard and started up; tallows flared and a patter of bare feet began on the rushes below.
Mungo's sow heard it too. Drunk as a bishop, she hurtled stairward as the first of the servants arrived. Great blanket ears flapping and rump arched like a Druid at sunrise, she hurled herself at them as Lymond and his pursuers fled down. She bounced once off the newel post, scrabbled once on the flags, trotters smoking, then shot Mungo Tennant backward, squealing thickly in a liberated passion of ham-handed adoration. Mungo sat down, Buccleuch fell on top of him and Tom Erskine swooped headfirst over them both, landing on the pack of unkempt heads jamming the stair foot like stooks at a threshing. Winnowing through them, utterly unremarked in the uproar, was Lymond.
Screaming, squealing and grunting, the impacted cluster swayed on the stairs, torn and surging like rack where the pig unseen hooked the bare feet from under them. Buccleuch was the first to get free, grey whiskers overhanging the swarm like a Chinese kite at a carnival. "Lymond!" he shrieked. "Where's he got to?"
They scoured the house in the end without a trace of him, although they found Mungo's steward mute and bound in the pighouse. "Damn it!" said Buccleuch furiously. "The windows were barred and the door lockit-he must be here. Where's your cellar?"
Mungo's face was spotty under the pig-spit. "I've looked there. It's empty."
"Well, let's look again," snapped Buccleuch, and, was there before Tennant could stop him. "What's that?"
It was, undoubtedly, a trap door. In bitterest necessity, Mungo Tennant held them up for ten minutes protesting: he claimed it was sealed; it was ornamental; it was locked and unused. In the end Buccleuch stopped listening and went for a crowbar.
It opened with a hissing, fairly oiled ease.
Mungo need not have worried. The lower cellar, the cavern and the long underground tunnel to the Nor' Loch contained no contraband at all. But, because tuns of Bordeaux wine make hard rowing, all the wells of Edinburgh ran with claret next day; and on this, the eve of the English invasion, the commonality of the High Street were for an hour or two as blithe as the Gosford Close sow.
Late, the laminated sheet of the Nor' Loch held a faint chord of laughter.
"There was a lady lov'd a hogge
Honey, quoth she
Won't thou lie with me tonight
Hoogh, quoth he."
And, long since ashore with his men and his booty, Crawford of Lymond, man of wit and crooked felicities, bred to luxury and heir to a fortune, rode off serenely to Midculter to break into his new sister-in-law's castle.
"Won't thou lie with me tonight
Hoogh, quoth he."
Reading Group Guide
The questions, discussion topics, book descriptions, and author biography are designed to enhance your group's reading and discussion of Dorothy Dunnett's six bestselling novels in the Lymond Chronicles. We hope they will enrich your experience of these imaginative and adventuresome works of historical fiction.
First set in sixteenth-century Scotland following a disastrous war with England, the Lymond novels have as their hero Francis Crawford of Lymond, a nobleman and soldier of fortune possessed of a scholar's erudition, an elastic sense of morals, and the tongue of a poet. The six novels take this compellingly charismatic figure on a perilous and colorful tour through the glittering courts and power centers of sixteenth-century Europe.
To these novels, Dorothy Dunnett brings an effortless narrative mastery, in-depth human portraiture, and an uncanny ability to reanimate the past. The Lymond novels are works of marvelous intelligence and pure enchantment, adventures for both the heart and mind.
1. For discussion of The Game of Kings
The Game of Kings is the first of six books in the Lymond series based on the imagery of chess. Who would you say are the gamesters in this novel? Do the kings "play" the game or are they pieces in the game? Given the way suspense is created and information hidden, how is the novelist at some level engaged in a chess game with the reader?
2. The brothers Francis Crawford of Lymond and Richard Crawford of Culter appear to be rivals in every field: love, war, politics, family. Which scenes make you feel you've seen the heart of this relationship? Has Dorothy Dunnett managed to create in Richard a character with a fullness of his own, aside from his function as "foil" to Lymond? Is Richard as "romantic" a character as his brother? More romantic?
3. Lymond's Spanish disguise at Hume Castle is only the most theatrical and public of the flamboyant hero's many masquerades; what are some of the others? Besides the multiple political or military purposes, what do you think are some of the deeper psychological reasons for Lymond's brilliance at, or even addiction to, "acting"?
4. Lymond likens sixteenth-century Scotland to a wren caught between crocodiles. How do the character and choices of Wat Scott of Buccleuch mirror, and affect, what's happening in Scotland? What about Andrew Hunter of Ballaggan? Would you call Agnes Herries, later Maxwell, such a "wren"?
5. Perhaps the most poignant relationship in the novel is that between the protagonist, Lymond, and young Will Scott, the heir to the lordship of Buccleuch. What are some of the lessons Will must learn during his "apprenticeship" with Lymond?
6. Startlingly enough, in the course of this novel the glamorous and dangerous protagonist has no lovers and no sex, delivers only one kiss, and ends up in the embrace of his mother. What are some of the ironies here? What does the romantic triangle created between Richard Crawford, his wife Mariotta, and Francis Crawford seem to be saying about "romance"? About love?
7. Why does Lymond put himself in the hands of his enemies to redeem Christian Stewart, held hostage in England? How is this relationship, as Lymond says, "made possible" by her blindness? How does the blind girl help the reader more truly "see" Lymond?
8. The scene at the climax of the novel cuts back and forth between a legal hearing and a game of tarot cardsa game associated with the mystic, occult, and fateful. How do the contesting parties in the legal game and in the card game mirror one another? What might Dorothy Dunnett be suggesting by this pairing of the legal and the occult worlds?
9. A good popular novel should, arguably, have some strong villains: Who qualifies for this role in The Game of Kings? Is it easy to distinguish treason from patriotismor patriotism from egoismin the world of the novel?
For discussion of the Lymond Chronicles
1. The hero of a long series of historical novels, like the hero of a crime or detective series, lives properly in a milieu of struggle and physical violence and is likely to be the object of this violence over and over. Yet, of course, he must survive it if the series is to continue: "Popular resurrections are a tedious pastime of Francis'," says Lady Lennox in Queens' Play, trying to recover from yet another reappearance by the handsome nemesis she had thought was dead. What are the most interesting or important examples of the deaths and resurrections of Francis Crawford in the series? How and for what purpose do such scenes play with the feelings of the reader?
2. In its various travels and stories, the Lymond Chronicles encompass several religious systemsRoman Catholic, Protestant, and Russian Orthodox Christianity, as well as several forms of the Islamism of the Ottoman Empire. What is the series' attitude toward religion, religious institutions, and authentic spirituality? What do figures like the Dame de Doubtance, John Dee, and Michel de Nostradamusastrologers and scientists, mystics and psychologistsrepresent in this respect?
3. Over the length of the Lymond Chronicles the protagonist must withstand the attacks of three powerful antagonistsMargaret Lennox, Graham Malett, and Leonard Bailey. How do these figures of evil differ in their reasons for wanting to possess or destroy Francis Crawford? Does the manner of their deaths or downfalls seem particularly appropriate to their characters?
4. As the secrets of the Crawford family structure surface one by one, through the very last few pages of the last novel, the questions raised in the first novel about Francis Crawford's relationship with his father, his brother, and his sister acquire disconcerting new dimensions. What new father, brother, sister does he need to integrate into his understanding of his family? One thing never changes, howeverthe centrality of his relationship to his mother for his psyche, his sexuality, even his politics. What by the end do we think of Sybilla Semple Crawford?
5. The essence of a good historical novel is its capacity to create colorful scenes for pure entertainment value, while also offering shrewd characterization, complex plot evolution, and acute political and social insight. Is the comedy of a scene like the feast and fight at the Ostrich Inn in Part II of The Game of Kings, for instance, a good balance for the pure thrill of the swordfight and chase into Hexham in Part IV? How do these scenes illuminate character, plot, and relationships?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
What fun! Its 1547, Henry VIII is dead and his young son Edward VII sits on the throne, as does a very young Mary sit on the throne of Scotland. Negotiations were made and broken to betroth young Mary to Edward and cement the two countries - or will the Scots marry her off to the dauphin of France instead? Francis Crawford of Lymond, a disgraced nobleman accused of treason sneaks back into Scotland and thus the game begins (to clear his name? is he working for the English as a spy? to murder his brother so that Lymond can inherit the Culter estates?). Francis and his band of "merry men" immediately begin to wreak havoc, including setting fire to his brother's estate after stealing the silver and holding the ladies (including his mother) at knife point for their jewelry. Throughout, Francis' brilliant wit, sarcasm and heroism keep the reader enthralled and at times laughing out loud. Lymond's escapades take him up and down the breadth of Scotland as Dunnett slowly peels back the layers of her story and keeps the reader guessing until the very end, finishing in a trial of ups and downs, twists and turns ala Perry Mason. This is not an easy tale to get into, especially if you have no passing knowledge of the Tudor/Stuart courts and noblemen during the 16C. Dunnett also liberally sprinkles her text with quotes from Latin, French and Olde English, you can purchase her companion book if you must know every word and nuance but I did just fine without it -- just skip the Latin you won't miss it. However, it's well worth the effort to stick with it until you "get it" as you will be well rewarded with a jolly good yarn, with as much action, excitement and swashbuckling good sword play as you would find in any Dumas novel -- for me that is the highest compliment I can give any author. A solid five stars, and I am now starting book two in the series, Queens' Play (Lymond Chronicles, 2).
This is my favorite series of books. Set aside plenty of time so that you can submerge yourself in the time and the characters. Photocopy the list of characters so that, as you read, you can glance at the list to remind you, without losing the plot. It is not a quick-read, but for those who love historical fiction at its best, this series is unbeatable. Dorothy Dunnett sets high standards. Is Lymond a hero or a villain? It is hard to know, but you have to keep reading!
I am still in the process of reading this book, but already I absolutely love it. The language is amazing, though sometimes difficult as the author has chosen to use some archaic words. I can't wait to read more of her work. This came highly recommended to me, and I would highly recommend it to anyone else.
Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles are a stylish mix of high romance and high camp. The six historical novels are set in sixteenth century Scotland and Europe and tell the story of Francis Crawford, Master of Lymond, a Scot who is caught up in the battle for control of Scotland. The Game of Kings, the first in the series, is set in 1547 Scotland: The English have successfully invaded Scotland, five-year-old Mary sits on a precarious throne, and Francis Crawford stands accused of treason. At this point I no longer am sure what to say about Dunnett's book. I, personally, loved it and have ordered the remaining five books in the series. However, getting through the first hundred or so pages was an act of faith. I've spent the past few years reading a lot of easy, read-while-watching-TV books. This is not one of those. Dunnett's style demands complete concentration and attention. Francis Crawford is a wonderful, charasmatic character. He's been compared to Byron, Lawrence of Arabia, James Bond, and Lord Peter Wimsey. The historical accuracy, wit, suspense, invention, and sheer excitement in Dunnett's books are undisputable. Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles are the yardstick by which other historical novels are measured. They are a great treasure, but they are not for the faint of heart.
A truly beautiful book.I found it a bit hard to get into at the start maybe, on account of the oldish english, and the almost cryptically way it's written (which reminds me a lot of the way i write sometimes). But i have Chronic Fatigue which i am sure made it a lot harder. But once i got started...Lymond is a wonderful character - A real rogue - and one that you find works his way into your heart - despite the destruction he causes. Lymond is trying to rebuild his reputation and take away the price on his head. A wonderful start to a series of well-renown books. The Game Of Kings has managed to make me cry, and then laugh at the same time.A book that is a beautiful masterpiece!
Supposed to be a book for clever people, interesting read, etc. It's The Game of Kings, the first book in the "legendary Lymond Chronicles" by Dorothy Dunnett.I found it pretty much completely unreadable.It's a combination of Renaissance Scottish along with erudite Latin, German, and references to things I know nothing about.This is a sample of witty banter: There was a pause. The examinee, dazed by mental gymnastics at top speed, was first boggled. Then he had a pleasing idea. Lowering his lashes over a malicious sparkle he recited obligingly. "Volavit volucer sine plumis Sedit in arbore sine foliis Venit homo absque manibus..." ... There was an uneasy and deferential pause. Then Lymond gave a short laugh and capped him in German: ... un freet den Vogel fedderlos Van den Boem blattlos...This is another typical passage: "So we did. I never saw so many weel-kent faces in all the one place: the most of them chowed off and in no state to give the sort of snash you get from half of them when they're upright. It was better," said Matthew, "than a front seat at the Widdy-Hill the day after the Assizes."Um yeah, ok. I can more or less get the gist of that. But if you think I'm going to wade through another 500 pages of it, you're a dafty.
Ah Francis Crawford of Lymond...The first of the Lymond Books--a bit hard to get into it, but if you can get through the first 50 pages, you'll be hooked. For life. Lymond is charming, malicious, inscrutable, witty, perverse, and did I mention charming? Ayah, Dunnett is fond of throwing out obscure Latin epigrams and there's quite a bit of Scottish dialect, so you'll have to work a bit for your entertainment, but it's worth it, oh boyo is it worth it. Ignore the Latin and 16th century French, and enjoy the gorgeously written action scenes, the twisty plot, and gorgeous insufferable Francis Crawford.
One of the very best authors of historical fiction, of all time. The most unusual hero, all at once loathsome and likable.
Simply my favourite historical series. Complicated fictional characters intersect with historical ones (4 year old Mary, Queen of Scots, for instance), playing out a rich and convoluted plot line across 16th century Scotland, England, Europe and beyond. Full of Latin, German, French etc quotations and poetry - translate them or ignore, just remember that in this world, they use words and swords as weapons.
I took TGOK with me on a trip and couldn't finish. I tried, I really tried, but I found the writing overly elaborate and the plot confusing. I read 120 pages and still had no handle on the main character. I was bored. I then took up "Queen's Play" thinking that a second book might be better written than a first. Sorry, after 20 pages it seemed no different in style from the first book, so I gave up. I understand Dunnett is one of those Love Her or Hate Her authors. I guess I fall into the latter group. I'll try to get this to someone who falls in the former.
The Game of Kings is the first book in The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett. It is the story of Francis Crawford of Lymond and is set in Scotland in 1547. Lymond has just returned to his home of Scotland and is trying to clear his name from a charge of treason. He sets himself up as the leader of a group of outlaws and goes about trying to find the proof he needs to redeem his reputation while fighting the English and keeping them out of Scotland and away from their young Queen, who they want to kidnap and take to England. While doing all of this he also must deal with his family, especially his brother, Richard, who wants him dead. This book was a very difficult read for me. It had lots of references to things that I did not understand and so many characters to keep track of, I sometimes got confused over who was on which side. Despite these drawbacks, I really enjoyed this book. Lymond was an incredibly entertaining character to read about and I found myself liking him more and more as I read. The tension between him and his brother and how it was resolved were some of the best parts of the book, very well written. Of course there is lots of adventure, mystery, and political intrigue with a little romance thrown in. The other characters in the book were given lots of time to develop, especially the rest of Lymond's family. This is the first in the series and I am sure I will be checking out the other books to see what other adventures are had by Francis Crawford.
It took me a while to warm to this novel of 16th Century Scotland, the first in a series, but one that could stand alone. I wouldn't call it a slog exactly--it's never dull, but it is at times difficult. It's written in omniscient with a lot of archaic vocabulary and spelling, Scottish dialect, snatches of foreign phrases in several languages and classical allusion and kept me looking up words in a dictionary every few pages--and in almost all novels I never have to look up even one: chumbling, lum, anent, clack, corybantic, douce, miniken, caesura, sfumato, chatoyant, campanile, ogee... There are a lot of characters to keep track of and an intricate plot of politics and intrigue. So a challenging read rather than an easy one, but worth it, and I found it easier as I went along and got absorbed into the story. At first its protagonist, Francis Crawford of Lymond, struck me as too thoroughly odious--but he did have style from the beginning and there were soon hints there was more to him than first appeared. There were several characters that became favorites--male and females both such as Lymond's mother Sybilla, his brother Richard, the blind but brave Christian Stewart--and the intriguing, and historical--Margaret Douglas. This isn't the usual quasi-romance novel you often find in historical fiction. It's an adventure novel and more, that reminds me of Cornwall's Sharpe or Forester's Hornblower. Daring do, espionage, mystery, family feud, duels to the death, gypsies and alchemy and wit and humor and romance. What more could a girl want? And at the last line by eyes pricked with tears. And I'm not easy.
fabulous! Cant wait to read the next volume.
Wow! This book gave my mind quite a workout. I have seldom come across a novel that is so erudite and so much fun at the same time. Light reading it is not, but it is fantastic literary, historical fiction. Set in the 16th century with Scotland and England at each other¿s throats, Dunnett masterfully interweaves her characters with historical ones. Lymond is one of those great complex characters. In this novel, he is trying to find proof that he is innocent of the charges of treason that have been leveled against him, but he goes about it in the most unorthodox ways. I spent the majority of the novel trying to figure out what he was after and why he did what he did, all the while admiring his incredible wit and style. Included in his verbal sparring, with friends and enemies alike, are many quotations in Latin, French, Spanish, and some German which may prove irritating for some readers although you can follow the plot perfectly well without understanding them. It can also be difficult to keep track of all of the characters, who is related to whom, and which side they¿re on, so it might be a good idea to start a list if your edition of the book doesn¿t provide one.With a constantly twisting plot rife with intrigue, this is definitely not a book where you catch everything the first time around. It definitely warrants a second reading. I must admit, however, that it did take me awhile to really get into the story, but once I did I was hooked! I now look forward to reading the rest of this series.
Dunnett is impossibly steeped in the classics but writes a page turning historical yarn based on historical events in Scotland during the days of the young Mary, Queen of Scots. With a rogueish but irresistible hero, of course!
The start of it all. Once again any summation of the plot would give away too much. But if you like historical fiction, can suspend belief enough to read high drama, enjoy meticulous research served with a beautiful leavening of a complex plot, great writing and can live with the confusion that untranslated quotes bring, then these books are for you! Set in 16th century Scotland and many other ports of call. Sit back and enjoy the ride. All of us fanatics are jealous of those reading the series for the first time.When reading this first book in the series try to remember that it's really a mystery and no is expected to understand half let alone all that is going on. Leave your pride behind and get swept away by the plot and the characters whatever you can decipher. Expect to reread these books, believe me you will want to. It is very difficult to find any satisfying books after finishing the six books in the Lymond Chronicle. I gave up looking and just reread them right away.These are my favorite books with 41 yrs of reading behind me. There are no other books that come even close.
Without question the "best" series of historical novels ever published. (except for a few caveats for the final book.)
This is a difficult book to get into, but anyone who makes it past the first 100 pages is usually hooked into the series. I literally could not put the book down. This is the first book written by the author, Dorothy Dunnett, and in my opinion has a little too much historical research showing, but that is the only negative thing I can say about it. If you like historical fiction that engages your mind and your emotions throughout, you will love this book.
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