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Queens' Play
Dorothy Dunnett
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Queens' Play (The Lymond Chronicles #2)

4.47 of 5 stars 4.47  ·  rating details  ·  2,791 ratings  ·  174 reviews
For the first time Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles are available in the United States in quality paperback editions.

Second in the legendary Lymond Chronicles, Queen's Play follows Frances Crawford of Lymond who has been abruptly called into the service of Mary Queen of Scots. Though she is only a little girl, the Queen is already the object of malicious intrigues that extend f
Published (first published 1964)
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Tadiana ✩ Night Owl☽
I'm bumping my initial 4-star rating to 5, since this book is still making me think, and shake my head in wonder, several days after I finished reading it.

Now that this series has well and truly sunk its claws into me, I'm chomping at the bit to start the third book, but I made a deal with myself that I wouldn't do that until I wrote a proper review for Queen's Play. So here I am, with lots of thoughts and feelings and love for this series roiling around in my head, a little frustrated that it's

new word I've learned from this book:
An ollave of the highest grade is professor, singer, poet, all in the one. His songs and tales are of battles and voyages, of tragedies and adventures, of cattle raids and preyings, of forays, hostings, courtships and elopements, hidings and destructions, sieges and feasts and slaughters; and you'd rather listen to a man killing a pig than hear half of them through.

After the epic struggle to clear his name in Scotland, you would think Francis Lymond deserve
Me, after A Game of Kings: “Can I shoot him, preferably with a harquebus, please? Lymond is so insufferable!”
Me, after Queen’s Play: “Can I have him, preferably scantily dressed, please? Lymond is so entertaining!”

That could comprise my whole review of Dunnett’s series in a nutshell, were it not for: a) I am bound to a compromise to review, and b) I’m likely to regret this fangirly statement in a few years, when old and toothless.

I don’t believe I’ve had a sharp turnaround of this sort before,
Kate Sherrod
I still think Francis Crawford of Lymond, the Master of Culter, is basically Lord Flashheart from Blackadder in subtler guise. But now, now he actually seems even more over the top than that.

In Queens' Play, the second of the six Lymond Chronicles, Lymond is amuck in France at the behest of the Scottish Dowager Queen Mother, Mary de Guise, whose seven-year-old daughter Mary, Queen of Scots, is being raised at the French court alongside her intended husband, the Dauphin, supposedly to keep her sa
It is two years since the close of The Game of Kings and someone is planning the murder of young Mary Queen of Scots, and Mary of Guise summons Francis Crawford of Lymond to France to stop the murderous plot. Francis comes in disguise as a member of the entourage of a Prince of Ireland, and the game is on. Thady Boy Ballagh nee' Lymond charms the decadent French court with his wit, sarcasm and music as Dunnett slowly unpeels the layers of her tale with plot twists and surprise turns around every ...more
Full disclosure. I ignored a total of 17 phone calls while reading this book, 6 of them from friends and 11 from my boyfriend, who is still sulking. I stayed up until 4 in the morning for two nights in a row to finish. I literally unplugged and carried the laptop with me into the bathroom (I had an ebook version) so that I could continue, reading unabated, while flossing and brushing my teeth. A third of the way through, I ordered books four and five from, an unprecedented show of con ...more
I read this book while I was studying "court culture" at university and imagine my astonishment when I realized that the over-the-top court events that Dorothy Dunnett describes in such detail actually happened. I literally found only one error in her description of Mary Queen of Scots' wedding which is like one-tenth of the errors I usually find in historical fiction. If you want to know what court life was like in the 16th century and don't want to slog through letters, ambassador's notes and ...more
Jan 27, 2008 Stephen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who liked The Game of Kings
Recommended to Stephen by: Darlene
Queens' Play, in which young Francis Crawford of Lymond continues in a much more visible manner the dramatic self-flagellation which was mostly hidden in the first book, The Game of Kings, is a highly satisfying book. Dorothy Dunnett, through her tortured too-brilliant Lymond, leaves gilded bread crumbs for us to follow through a labyrinthine plot.

Part of the fun of reading Lymond is being as amazed at his language as everyone but his mother is in the book. I do not recommend reading this for th
An excellent read. I have a trove of phrases lodged in my head, examples of Dunnett's extraordinary word-smithing ('the impacted rooftops of Blois. like some dental nightmare..'). I liked this complicated story very much, but not quite as much as the first in the series, which may have been in part because I had no guide. I wish someone would hurry up and publish one, because it was difficult, and annoying, reading along knowing I was missing clever details capable of astonishing me with their c ...more
Having swallowed two of Dunnett's in a matter of weeks, some thoughts following on my review of A Game of Kings.

The world-building remains spectacular, even more so in the second book than in the first. The court of Henri II of France appears as one of the wonders of early early modernity. From the modernity side, it's equipped with a startling array of cosmopolitan beasties (lots of elephant action, and at one crucial juncture, a cheetah) and the beginnings of a reliable explosives culture. Fro
Queens' Play is the second book of The Lymond Chronicles, and it follows the tone of the first book, The Game of Kings, in that it continues to be an attention-demanding read. I found this book less difficult to get into than the first. That may be simply because I'm more used to Ms. Dunnett's writing style, or perhaps there was an easing of the French and Latin quotes and poetry. (But fear not, dear reader, there were still plenty of both to go round!)

This time the story's set in the illustriou
Erica Smith
I feel compelled to confess that this is my second time through this book and I still haven't figured out all the plot elements. It doesn't help that I read it in snatches over a long period of time, and I would recommend it as a plow-through-all-at-once book (ideally one should plow through the entire series all at once in order to keep the great chess game in mind). However, it's still enjoyable for the pageantry, the characters (if you can remember who they all are), the words, and the scenes ...more
Sandra Crow
Great way to learn history!
It took me an entire week to negotiate this installment of the Lymond Chronicles, as I am almost entirely occupied with writing my PhD thesis at the moment. It made a very pleasant respite, though. As with the previous book, Lymond spent a great deal of time disguised, foiled plots, enthralled men, women, children, and exotic animals, and narrowly escaped death (in this case by fire, poison, debauchery, horse-related misadventure, elephant-related misadventure, explosion, and execution by breaki ...more
Attempting to address the darth of pleasure reading in my life by continuing the Lymond reread. Somewhat disturbed, this time around, by how much I'm sympathising with Robin Stewart -- he just wants to work hard! and find the secret of success in life! why is that so difficult! (I am not, I should point out, planning to murder any small children as a result.)

I have to say that QP is probably my least favourite (or least most-favourite) of the Lymond books. I get what it's doing as part of the se
In this second book of The Lymond Chronicles, Francis Crawford is asked to protect a very young Mary Queen of Scots from assassination.
Many of the characters from A Game of Kings are again present in this book along with a new cast of unique and varied characters.
Francis Crawford is again indefatigible as he cuts a swathe through the French Court in his quest to unmask a murderer close to the throne.
A rich tapestry of politics and intrigue with a larger than life, although vulnerable main charac
This book contains a number of memorable scenes (for me) in Lymond's life and development.

Under duress, he is sent to France to maintain the safety of the young Queen Mary at the court of Henri II, but he is disguised as the Ollave, Thady Boy Ballagh, of Phelim O'LaimRoe, Prince of Barrow. Someone is not only trying to kill Mary, but Phelim too (a case of mistaken identity) and their journey is fraught with danger.

The intricateness of the puzzle that is Robin Stewart over-rides the adventures an
Dunnett is brilliant at action and plot, so much so that in my opinion very few authors are able to knock shoulders with her regarding either. However there are some unfortunate aspects to her writing that are frustrating, if not downright annoying.

1-When other languages are used so extensively (in this case French, Gaelic, and Latin) the text requires annotation. Period. The fact that this book is not annotated, in my opinion, is inexcusable. Without it a reader is too often left in the dark. Y
Ray Ziemer
I've been on this Scotland kick lately, since seeing a National Theater of Scotland production at Shakespeare Theater. After reading How the Scots Invented the Modern World, I remembered this Dorothy Dunnett series of historical novels about her fictitious Crawford of Lymond. I'd read the first one of the series, and decided to find Queen's Play at Barnes & Noble. No disappointment with this book, although I find it takes place mostly in France, as Lymond goes under cover as an Irish minstre ...more
Kristi Thompson
Lymond, Lymond, Francis Crawford of Lymond... Eh.

Compelling read for the political machinations, even if I don't quite believe in the protagonist. It's the superhero aspect I can't identify with. Brilliant fencer, wrestler, best musician ever heard, linguist, lover, leader, strategist, charismatic, gorgeous... It's all a bit much, understand? In the first novel there was enough of a temper of error and self-doubt, and his best-at-everythingness wasn't so much on stage.

And yet I suppose there wer
Possibly my least favourite of the six books, all of which I have now read. Why? I read the other five, more or less in sequence, over two years ago and was blown away by the baroque language, the sparkling, resonant dialogue, the intricate, convoluted plots. I loved Dunnett's un-naturalistic evocation of a Europe just about beginning to be recognisably modern: where nationalism and humanism as we continue to know it was taking shape, and where an elite understood poetry and justice just as they ...more
I feel fairly inarticulate and incompetent to review a Dorothy Dunnett book except to say that they are complex, difficult reading, rich, fantastic, funny, sad, lovable and thoroughly worth the effort.

An example of her rich and original prose: It had been a sharp night; but now the early sun, glaring cross grained through the branches, laid fresh black contours, thinly prowling, over the people below.

And a blurb from a book jacket: "Her hero, the enigmatic Lymond, [is] Byron crossed with Lawrenc
Two years after the events of "The Game of Kings", this second book in the Lymond Chronicles moves the action to France. Mary of Guise requests Lymond's presence as she travels to Henri II's court to visit her daughter Mary, Queen of Scots. She fears for Mary's life, as the child is all that stands between the throne of Scotland and the ambitions of a number of powerful people; and Lymond is charged to uncover any plots that he can again the little Queen. Lymond does indeed come to France, but r ...more
A Game of Kings, Ms. Dunnett's first book in the Lymond Chronicles, was a freight train of style and force that easily drove over any novice missteps she made as a first-time author. This time Ms. Dunnett moves more slowly, dancing much like her protagonist through elegant circles of prose as he navigates one of the most prestigious, formal and lethal courts in European history.

Everything, from the dynamic characters, to the diction, to the allusions, to the tension and almost over-the-top high
I cry uncle on this one.

I want to love Dunnett--I really do. She's clearly a brilliant historian, linguist, and storyteller, but she might be above my head. This is the second book of hers I've read (first was King Hereafter and the second that's left me worrying that I'm not smart enough. Her words wash over me, and I'm left with impressions of the characters and plot, but if I try to connect to them on a sentence by sentence level, I simply cannot. Words are slippery and hers can have several
Queens' Play is the second book in the brilliant Lymond Chronicles, a series of Historical Fiction novels noone who takes even half as much pleasure in a good cloak-and-dagger story as myself should miss. This one takes our hero to France, where he works incognito to prevent the assassination of the young Scottish queen. Intrigue, action, endearing and fascinating characters, delightful dialogue, plot twist after plot twist - all deftly woven together by a wonderfully skilled novelist whose writ ...more
"Speak, she said, as you would write: as if your words were letters of lead, graven there for all time, for which you must take the consequences. And take the consequences

Was it ment for us italians?
It's had been a long time since I have committed to read a dense historical fiction book much less become entranced by a whole series of them. Yet, here I sit having finished two books in this series and I have already bought books 3-6 for my e-reader. Yes, these books are full of French, Latin, and other languages that I haven't taken the time to translate. However, I have found you don't need to do that to still get full satisfaction from this series. Others have compared this series to the wo ...more
Hooo, boy. The first book in the Lymond series, although confusing as hell, ended up being very exciting and satisfying. This one was very disappointing. There are dozens of characters, English, Scottish, French and Irish, none of whom can can speak in simple, declarative sentences, and all of whom have dark, mysterious motives and back stories. And then there are paragraphs of densely allusive descriptions that display the author's truly dazzling command of European culture and history. Did I s ...more
I thoroughly enjoyed Queen's Play, even though it's an odd sort of novel because so much of Lymond is submerged in the disguise that he so outrageously perpetrates on the French court. (Still, I love "Queen Margot" so much and this is a glimpse at her father and her mother, Catherine de' Medici, back in the day, as well as the Prince de Conde' and other characters who would become so crucial in the wars of religion. And also, I love seeing side glimpses of Diane de Poitiers, whose beautiful chat ...more
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Dorothy Dunnett OBE was a Scottish historical novelist. She is best known for her six-part series about Francis Crawford of Lymond, The Lymond Chronicles, which she followed with the eight-part prequel The House of Niccolò. She also wrote a novel about the real Macbeth called King Hereafter (1982), and a series of mystery novels centred around Johnson Johnson, a portrait painter/spy.

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Other Books in the Series

The Lymond Chronicles (6 books)
  • The Game of Kings (The Lymond Chronicles, #1)
  • The Disorderly Knights (The Lymond Chronicles, #3)
  • Pawn in Frankincense (The Lymond Chronicles, #4)
  • The Ringed Castle (The Lymond Chronicles, #5)
  • Checkmate (The Lymond Chronicles, #6)

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“[Robin Stewart] was your man. True for you, you had withdrawn the crutch from his sight, but still it should have been there in your hand, ready for him. For you are a leader-don't you know it? I don't, surely, need to tell you?-And that is what leadership means. It means fortifying the fainthearted and giving them the two sides of your tongue while you are at it. It means suffering weak love and schooling it till it matures. It means giving up you privicies, your follies and your leasure. It means you can love nothing and no one too much, or you are no longer a leader, you are led.” 19 likes
“It was one of the occasions when Lymond asleep wrecked the peace of mind of more people than Lymond awake.” 16 likes
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