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Queens' Play (The Lymond Chronicles #2)

4.46  ·  Rating Details ·  3,095 Ratings  ·  192 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
ebook, 448 pages
Published August 11th 2010 by Vintage (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
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,
Oct 04, 2013 Algernon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013

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
Kate Sherrod
Second reading June 2016 via audio book, as with TGoK made me love it even more!

original review:

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 r
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
Jan 27, 2008 Stephen rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Mar 20, 2011 Danica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 21, 2009 Mei-Lu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 14, 2016 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Book 2 of the Lymond Chronicles is set almost entirely in France, at the extravagant and cultured court of Henri II.

Seven year old Mary Queen of Scots is betrothed to the Dauphin, and the political situation appears relatively stable. However, a series of peculiar accidents make Mary's mother, the Queen Dowager of Scotland, fear for her daughter's safety. She asks Lymond to infiltrate the French court in disguise, but can offer him no protection if he is caught, as she cannot be seen to distrus
Mar 29, 2015 Jaima rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 11, 2016 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-epic
It's strange, for me, to read a book that I don't completely understand. I think if I immersed myself in the history of Scotland, England, and France during the reign of Henry II of France, I might just get it. As that will not happen, I'm happy to sit back and enjoy the story, even if only on a superficial level.

Dunnett's word choices astound me. Her ability to write, as an individual would have spoken so long ago, is at times difficult to read, but worth it.

Feb 05, 2016 Melanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The joy to read a book by someone who is clever and witty. Yes, the fact that the main characters address each other often in Renaissance quotes, refer to Greek and Latin and that large passages are in untranslated French do not deter me from this book. I also have to look up words which does not happen to me normally. The books bewitch me like hardly any other. Firmly living in the 16th century now.
Sandra Crow
Oct 14, 2015 Sandra Crow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great way to learn history!
Sep 20, 2016 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This series is the most difficult thing I've ever had to read in English, it's definitely not something to be read after a hard day's work - and that is what I love and hate about the book. The complexity of the narration, the characters, the languages and the allusions make it quite a challenge, though after the Game of the Kings this one is easier as I know some of the characters and what to expect of them, at least. Although saying "what to expect" is an exaggeration as the plot and the chara ...more
May 03, 2016 Vivyenne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is inevitable, I think, to read two books one after another and to compare them. This is a vastly different book to the first in the series. It is vastly more accessible; the very dense prose, polyglot quotes and unexplained references are in the main absent; the plot is rather evident; and many of the political minutiae are carefully and thoroughly explained in expository paragraphs, occasionally an explanation from Lymond to someone else, but often in the guise of some character's internal ...more
Jun 24, 2015 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 28, 2010 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 22, 2016 Neyly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why -oh, why - did the book have to end? I made it last as long as I could - rereading sections at random before continuing. Each time I did so I gained insight into characters or "the Queens' play" - something to think about before picking up where I left off. I could read Queens' Play ninety-nine times and still expect to discover something new on the one hundredth time. Lucky me, I guess: I have the remaining four books in The Lymond Chronicles waiting for me.

Recommend: I don't know. I found
Skylar Dorset
Sep 04, 2016 Skylar Dorset rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't think I liked this book quite as much as I liked The Game of Kings. Don't get me wrong, I still loved it and would highly recommend it, but this book felt more like set-up, like the players were getting into position on the board. Lymond spends a lot of time not being Lymond in this book, and it's important for character development purposes, but it was just different than The Game of Kings, which started Lymond's story very in-media-res. To now be caught up and catching everything as it ...more
Nov 02, 2014 Lannister rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 24, 2014 Erica Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 28, 2016 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just as brilliant as the first in the series. This story reveals more of the deeply human flaws in Lymond's character.
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
Venetia Green
Aug 14, 2016 Venetia Green rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
He was pulling on Michel's elephant-drenched taffeta when the lion roared. The mouth of Abernaci, stump-toothed in his sun-blackened face, unclasped in a charming smile of pure pleasure. 'Per Dinci, it's Betsy,' he said. 'Betsy, ma doo! Betsy, ma cabbage! Do you have him, Betsy, love?' (p.404)

No-one else writes like Dorothy Dunnett. Nobody else could get away with it. The writing’s dense, allusive and elusive, and she never condescends to explain the intricacies of the plot to her reader. But it
Alison Dellit
I didn't enjoy this as much as I wanted to. The strengths of Dunnet's writing was still well on display - characterisations which defy their initial stereotypical simplicity, and develop colour and shade and light until you want to spend forever with such a rich view of humanity; the plotting which strains at the edges of your capacity to follow, surprising you while never completely abandoning you; and a narrative that twists along before suddenly bringing everything together in a moving testam ...more
Ash Ryan
Queen's Play begins with Sir Francis Crawford of Lymond traveling incognito to France to investigate a threat to the life of the now eight year old Mary Queen of Scots at the request of her mother the dowager queen. The excesses required of him to maintain his cover inside the French court begin to take their toll on him, but the story really picks up in the second half with the political intrigues of certain Irish and English factions, some of whom were introduced in The Game of Kings, such as ...more
Mar 03, 2015 Carole-Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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.” 21 likes
“It was one of the occasions when Lymond asleep wrecked the peace of mind of more people than Lymond awake.” 20 likes
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