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Monday, May 24, 2010

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

Title- The Game of Kings

Author- Dorothy Dunnett

Publisher- Vintage Books

Genre- Historical Fiction

Publishing Date- April 29, 1997

Rating 3.5 Crowns

The Game of Kings, the first in the six book Lymond Chronicles, takes us back to Scotland in 1547 and introduces us to the roguish and swashbuckling Francis Crawford of Lymond. The country is in the throes of a battle with England who wishes to conquer Scotland politically via a marriage between five year old Mary Queen of Scots and nine year old Edward VI of England . Francis Crawford (or Lymond as he is referred to most often), once thought to be firmly on his country’s side is now accused of treason for spying for the English. He returns to Scotland and forms a band of mercenaries who spend their time harassing their fellow Scotsman and avoiding capture. Lymond insists that he did not betray the Scottish government and makes it his mission to track down the man who can prove his innocence and restore his name. Further complicating matters is Lymond’s older brother Robert who has a list of grievous wrongs done to him by his brother and is determined to find him and bring him to justice. With his band of ruffians including a gypsy king and a fellow nobleman’s son, Lymond scours Scotland and northern England to find the man he seeks, makes many enemies, and has several adventures and narrow escapes along the way.

The Game of Kings is full of lively characters, political intrigue, and many complex plots and subplots. Lymond is the kind of “hero” I love to meet-fundamentally good when you get right down to it but with a streak of bad that makes him just plain fun. Throughout the book he appears to be of questionable morals but his reasons for his actions when finally revealed prove otherwise. The book is an interesting look at this period of time in Scotland . This is by no means an easy read however. The language is a bit complex as are the plots. There is a lot going on at any given time and I found myself getting lost and having to reread passages if I wasn’t fully concentrating. Also, Dunnett likes to throw in bits of French, Latin, and Spanish throughout the book with no indication of what is being said. I did realize about halfway through the book that I could still follow the story fairly well without knowing the translation. The story starts off rather slow and took me a bit to get into but I am glad I stuck with it. Francis Crawford is one of the liveliest characters I have encountered in awhile. I found myself enormously entertained as we follow him from Edinburgh to Dumbarton, and through the moors and borderlands of Scotland . I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a rich, complex and involved read-quite a commitment but well worth it in the end.

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Daphne said...

I tried to read her other series (starts with Niccolo Rising) and had a hard time with the first book and an even worse time with the second - I quit after about 100 pages. At some point maybe I might give this one a try...

Jenny Girl said...

The different languages would work a nerve even though you can figure out what they are saying. Sounds interesting though. Thanks for the review :)

Stacy said...

Great review...I'm not a big fan of the historical fiction but your review rocks!!!

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

I've agree this is not an easy read. I'm afraid I gave up on the series, I read the first 4 books and I just have to be in the right mood to pick this up again - it takes so much thinking because there were so many sublots and undertones of what was really happening and sometimes I like to just have some mindless reading time - you know? I do like Lymond and find him intriguing (in that Peter O'Toole Lawrence of Arabia kind of way) and wonder what he'd be like to meet - certainly a man of mystery and many secrets and subplots. Good review!

Marg said...

Dorothy Dunnett is one of the authors on my "I really need to get to this author one day" but I must confess that everything I have heard about the density of her books and the language are part of the reason I keep on deferring reading her!

Cat said...

I've read this but admit I struggled most of the way with the language and the writing style.

Nice review. :-)

Renee said...

Thanks Holly,

Dorthy Dunnit is a bit hard to read, although the end result is well worth it. I believe that she is becoming one of my favorite authors of Scottish fiction.

(Queen of the Quill)