Jacey's Reviews > The Game of Kings

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
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's review
Mar 10, 12

bookshelves: fiction, historical-fiction
Read in January, 2009

Francis Crawford of Lymond, scholar, soldier, musician, minor nobleman and accused outlaw - returns to 16th century Scotland after five years exile. He assembles a band of rough mercenaries and proceeds to hire out his services whilst pursuing his own agenda - an agenda largely kept hidden from the reader. It's a very slow reveal - almost too slow at times. Dunnett keeps Lymond's intentions hidden from her readers - at times with little subtlety - avoiding showing us too much of Lymond's point of view and instead having us rely in unreliable witnesses, Will Scott and Lymond's brother amongst others. We see his emotions secondhand, but we don't live through them with him.

We gradually come to realise that Lymond's actions are not random, though we are kept guessing as to whether he's actually guilty of the treason and murder he's accused of. Dunnett doesn't present Lymond as very likeable. He may be charismatic but he’s often his own worst enemy, stubborn (sometimes to the point of stupidity). He has an appalling habit of communicating in quotations from classical literature - often in French or Latin. Occasionally he lapses into Spanish or broad Scots. The prose is convoluted and chewy and had this not been highly recommended to me I might not have continued beyond the first few pages. I’m glad I did but at the moment I’m ambivalent about tackling the rest of the (six book) Lymond saga.

This is a novel of politics and the action ranges across the border between Scotland and Engand as - following Henry VIII's death England has a boy king and a regent as - indeed - Scotland has a four year old girl as queen. As with many historical novels, there's a good range of real people and real politics, but Lymond and his family are completely fictional.
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