Sherry H's Reviews > The Game of Kings

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
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's review
May 09, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: hist-fiction-europe-royalty
Read from January 17 to 31, 2012

Have you read the reviews for this book? It is almost universally loved. So I'm taking a different approach.

Five reasons NOT to read The Game Of Kings:

1) The author is clearly looking for intelligent readers who are willing to invest a little sweat for the big payoff. If you don't like to work for your entertainment, DON'T READ THIS. If you don't mind a little elbow grease, however, you will be well rewarded for your effort. Note: Even if you arm yourself with a decent dictionary (like the one that my Nook uses) you won't find all the words Ms. Dunnett knows. If, on the other hand you are (or wish you were) a teacher of language skills, this book is the fulfillment of the assignment "use this word in a sentence". Wow, what skill this author has with vocabulary!

2) Because of the similar title, you think this will be like Game of Thrones (see the similarity there?) by George R. R. Martin. This is not high fantasy. If that's what you're looking for, DON'T READ THIS. Game of Thrones has fantasy elements, plus political double-crossing, epic war scenes, spies and intrigue, non-stop questions about who's good and who's bad, incredible settings, medieval castles, violence, honor, love, hate, death, and direwolves. The Game of Kings doesn't have fantasy elements. Or direwolves. The rest, it has in spades.

3) You hate when authors throw in phrases and/or poetry in Olde English, French, Latin, Spanish, or other mysterious languages (how would I know?). This one does that. A lot. If that throws you off, DON'T READ THIS. Of course, you can ignore it and still move right along. Or you can slog through looking it all up and find something even more clever. I might just slog on my next reading; this time through, I mostly ignored the foreign language bits (and felt smart when I could figure them out without looking them up). They do tell you something about the characters, though - about their education, their experience, their intelligence.

4) You don't like woven story lines, where details from the early pages come back and surprise you later. If you don't like to pay close attention, DON'T READ THIS. There are no superfluous facts here; everything is relevant. While that makes for slow reading (for me), it's rich and satisfying.

5) You like your fiction strictly black-and-white. If you want your good guys good and your bad guys bad, and only happy outcomes for likable, innocent characters, DON'T READ THIS. This one is all about shades of gray. Characters are deep. Some do good things for selfish motives and bad things for noble causes. Bad guys win battles, innocents are hurt, unlikable people have happy endings, traitors get the best of two worlds. Nothing here is predictable.

In summary: engaging, but challenging. Funny, but sometimes with a just-beyond-my-grasp intelligence. I know some of my Goodreads friends would thrive in that environment. You know who you are. To you, I say READ THIS!

As to whether I'll read more in Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles, I think I will. But I need a break first.

10/15/2015: Rereading this one and LOVING it!
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10/16/2015 marked as: currently-reading
10/28/2015 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Bobbi (new)

Bobbi What a unique approach for a review. Thanks for giving us some food for thought.

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