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The Game of Kings

(The Lymond Chronicles #1)

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  9,058 ratings  ·  1,249 reviews
Dunnett introduces her irresistible hero Francis Crawford of Lymond, a scapegrace nobleman of elastic morals and dangerous talents whose tongue is as sharp as his rapier. In 1547 Lymond is returning to his native Scotland, which is threatened by an English invasion. Accused of treason, Lymond leads a band of outlaws in a desperate race to redeem his reputation and save his ...more
Paperback, 543 pages
Published April 29th 1997 by Vintage (first published 1961)
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Bryn Clegg This is not a romance in the bodice-ripper sense of the word. In literature, “romance is a narrative genre ... that involves a mysterious, adventurous…moreThis is not a romance in the bodice-ripper sense of the word. In literature, “romance is a narrative genre ... that involves a mysterious, adventurous, or spiritual story line where the focus is on a quest that involves bravery and strong values, not always a love interest.” Therefore, no graphic sex scenes. I am also someone who stays away from books with too much content of a certain type, and that was not this one. I can’t speak for the rest of the series, but I found this one fantastic. (less)
Melanti This wikia page says that they're passages from William Caxton's 1477 book Game and Playe of the Chesse.

Makes sense, since chess is occasionally call…more
This wikia page says that they're passages from William Caxton's 1477 book Game and Playe of the Chesse.

Makes sense, since chess is occasionally called the game of kings.

You can see the full text here:
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Average rating 4.15  · 
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 ·  9,058 ratings  ·  1,249 reviews

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Jan 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Attention: Please ignore the word romance in the goodreads description. I would argue that classification.

I spent years trying to get anyone I knew to read this book just so I could talk about it with someone other than myself. I've even given it as a gift half a dozen times or so. Useless. They all whine it’s too hard to follow with the classical references, obscure poetry, and French quotes. I say the story stands on its own without the reader being as well-read as dear Dorothy. Or you could l
Jeffrey Keeten
Apr 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
“I despised men who accepted their fate. I shaped mine twenty times and had it broken twenty times in my hands.”

Bold words from a bold man.

Francis Crawford of Lymond has been accused of the most nefarious things: deceit, treachery, rape, drunkenness, murder,and just so he will for sure hang...treason. He has the same problem as Prince Harry of Wales does today. He is the spare son, the second son. The one that will have to make his own way while the grand Crawford estate goes to his older broth
Well then. I must say Dorothy Dunnett has Dunnett done it. “It” being a seemingly impossible feat of taking a book that I was physically restraining myself from throwing at the wall for the first 70 pages or so and making me love it by the end.

At the beginning I was reduced to angrily typing this* as I was seething from not understanding any accolades this book received from all my bookish friends:
* “I wish to God,” said Gideon, with mild exasperation, “that you’d talk – just once – in prose l
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
$1.99 Kindle sale, June 23, 2019. If you ever feel like you need a REALLY mentally challenging novel, I have the solution right here.

Game of Kings, first published in 1961, is an intricate, well-plotted tale of the conflict between England and Scotland in 1547, when Mary Queen of Scots is a very young child, and the machinations of the various players in that conflict, especially Francis Crawford, called Lymond. Lymond is a young man, exiled from Scotland for treason, who has now snuck back into
Dec 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, lgbt, historical
This book, and how I feeeeeel about this book. They demand flights of eloquence and rhetorical brilliance that I just don’t have right now. Or probably ever, if I’m honest, not for this.

It’s only the second time I’ve read this cover-to-cover. But pieces of this book are graven into me. Particular turns of phrase from scenes I’ve read over again – “I despised men who accepted their fate. I shaped mine twenty times and had it broken twenty times in my hands.” And more fundamental things. I remembe
Jun 29, 2014 rated it liked it

In the hands of a less-skilled writer, this could have been a real page-turner

The Game of Kings has all the ingredients to make it an irresistible read: a romantic, handsome, complex hero, an exciting historical setting and era, family drama and politics, well-researched details and vivid descriptions, intrigue and mystery.

But like the hero, Lymond, the novel itself is in turns brilliant and frustrating.

Scotland, 1547. Diplomacy having failed, England has used force to bring Scotland into a
Katherine Arden
Apr 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Being a fan of Game of Kings—of any Dunnett novel—is a strange experience. The fandom is passionate, but of plenty of folks, understandably, don’t get what the fuss is about. Dunnett makes no concessions to readers. You have to think about what you are reading. With Dunnett, it’s important to consider the possibilities and implications of each interaction—which can take you out of the story.

Plus, Dunnett is given to quotations in Renaissance French, Spanish, and Latin without the benefit of tran
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Six stars out of five for Dorothy Dunnett. She's in class of her own when it comes to historical fiction and, while I continue to enjoy the epics told by Bernard Cornwell or Patrick O'Brian (the ones I'm currently in the middle of), I have to admit that in a celebrity deathmatch they would come second place to the Lymond / Niccolo series. Fans of the author tend towards unbridled enthusiasm (witness the 4,42 median rating here on Goodreads - the highest I've come across so far, and the internati ...more
Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘

In order to clarify the situation with regard to said novel, let me first rehash what the two sides of the discussion have been saying :

Side 'What the fuck is this' : It's obscure. Every time Lymond opens his mouth, I want to smack his face and make him eat his weird ancient references.

Side 'This book is brilliant' : Well if you were less lazy, now. That's classics for you, lads. You have to work a little to discover the gem.

Me : *chokes*

Now let's deconstruct something together, okay? No 'cl
I’ve never liked those books—and TV shows—in which the writers felt that the readers need to have it all spelt out for them for a variety of reasons, mainly the assumption that they will miss it otherwise…

And then I found Dorothy Dunnett and met the other extreme of the “dumbing it down for the masses” spectrum. That I didn’t like it either is evident, but my issue isn’t that she employs language that most of humanity won’t get. It’s what it does to the narrative.

I won’t include here a summary o
Jun 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First reread 3 months later (I know, I know...)
So ok, it's obviously 5 stars, duh. This time I enjoyed it even more, knowing all the characters and noticing Dunnett's carefully planted clues. And every emotional scene hit me like a ton of bricks.
Just absolutely incredible!
(I promised myself I would read very slowly this time, failed and read the last 200 pages in one day. Argh!)

Mary Queen of Scots is just a young child, the coveted prize-bride for young king Edward of E
A massive BR with Alex, Amanda and great people in fab group for reading Dorothy Dunnett books :)

*Sigh* IDK what happened for sure. "The Game of Kings" has all I need for the historical treat, interesting historical spices, naughty and evil main character, some action, peculiar writing. Hmm...as long as I read Riyria Revelations alongside - it was ok, but when I ended up with Lymond and Lord Idiot (Dragon Actually) only, I felt that it was going to be a downfall for my reads. After finishing Ri
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Doubleday/Vintage Anchor has reprinted the Lymond Chronicles series. with gorgeous new covers in paperback form. I loved my first adventures with Lymond! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Francis Crawford of Lymond stands accused of many crimes, including deceit, drunkenness, murder, and treason. It’s 1547 when he returns to his native Scotland, just as it is threatened by an English invasion.

Lymond leads a group of outlaws and dissidents to defend his land, as well as his name. Lymond is the second son, and second
Ever love a series of books so much that it is hard to describe just why you love them?

I love Lymond. He is my all-time favorite hero. He’s a 16th century polyglot scholar, soldier-for-hire, poet, musician, nobleman, and treasonous outlaw. He’s trying to clear his name (as a traitor to Scotland – his homeland), and yet his methods are so convoluted and often counter-productive that everything he does is a muddle. He is fascinating.

I love the language that Dunnett uses to make Lymond and the rest
Mar 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
My best effort at a response to this great read is to cheat and direct you to the fine reviews of Algernon and
Jeffry Keeten. They covers so well its themes of betrayal and loss, love and loyalty, its stimulating mix of humor and adventure, and richness in characters and language.

As a brief orientation, we are treated to the capers, conflicts, and liaisons of a mysterious outlaw in Scotland in the 1540’s, a time when the British and French are competing to eventually take over Scotland by settin
Apr 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Listen. I'm not going to say much here and I'm going to refer the other books in the series to this review. This is my all time favorite series of books (it goes with the Niccolo series) and I don't think anything will ever even come close to topping it. It's historical fiction at its best--accurate, well drawn, witty, intelligent, perfectly researched, and intricately designed. If you have ever wanted to live in a different time period, this is as close as you're going to get. These are not bea ...more
Why fans of the Captive Prince should read Game of Kings.

On numerous occasions, the author of the Captive Prince has cited Dorothy Dunnett as a major influence on her work. In particular, Pacat has modeled her character Laurent on the hero of this book, Francis Crawford of Lymond.

For me, (for Damen), and I think for many fans, Laurent is the center of our attention. He captivates us, and though told through Damen’s perspective, the story truly revolves around him.

The similarities between Lymon
Laura Tenfingers
Even more fabulous than my first read. Thanks mostly to understanding more of what was going on in this most incomprehensible yet equally enchanting novel.

Your mind is put to work here, this is not a beach read. And it is so gratifying to feel the cogs moving upstairs even if you're glossing over all the Classical references, like I was. You're still disentangling a complex story and gobbling up the most beautiful prose while you're at it.

Our main character Lymond, is a legend. I can't wait to
Francis Crawford of Lymond, 16C's James Bond? What fun! Its 1547, Henry VIII is dead and his young son Edward VII sits on the throne, as does a very young Mary sit on the throne of Scotland. Negotiations were made and broken to betroth young Mary to Edward and cement the two countries - or will the Scots marry her off to the dauphin of France instead? Francis Crawford of Lymond, a disgraced nobleman accused of treason sneaks back into Scotland and thus the game begins (to clear his name? is he w ...more
Jan 17, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*** 4.65 ***

“I wish to God,” said Gideon with mild exasperation, “that you’d talk—just once—in prose like other people.”

What a storyteller! In my eyes, Dorothy Dunnett can do no wrong, but I am not blind to certain elements of her story construction which are not very desirable. She is a wordsmith, a great historical researcher, a creator of characters who are larger than life and walk the gray area between good and evil to a degree you are never sure where they stand, are smart, devious, and p
Sarah Mac
Star Trek, deleted scene #674:

McCoy: "He's dead, Jim."
Kirk: "Hey, what's that stuck in his belly?"
McCoy: "The Game of Kings: The Lymond Chronicles, Book 1. Poor bastard. He must've eaten the damn thing to end his suffering."
Kirk: "...You're not gonna like what I brought along to read."
McCoy: "What is it with you?"

Seriously, though -- this book is boring, choppy, overwritten, wooden, & self-congratulatory. The flood of high ratings has me baffled. DNF & good riddance.

[Edit: Shout-out to Robert M
Feb 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Ok, I don't say this lightly but if one can make it through these books it will change your life. I won't try to explain a series of 6 books with this review. It is an amazing historical fiction set during the 14th-15th century. What I can say is the effect it had on me.
The build up and release with the sixth book broke my heart. I am not a cryier. I don't cry very much, and if a movie or book brings a tear to my eye I consider it pretty moving. When I finished the last book, I lost it. I mean c
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Do you have a book – or a series of books – that you keep in a box marked ‘ I want to read, it, I know I’ll love it, but I have to wait for the perfect moment’ ?

I did – I still do.

And I say that because Dorothy Dunnett’s books used to live in that box, but they don’t live there any more.

I began to collect those books when they were out of print in this country; because I have always loved historical novels, and because the author of these historical novels was so lauded. I have come across many
Feb 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Back in the late 1950's (the book was published in 1961!!!!) Dorothy Dunnett confided to her husband that she could find nothing to read. Said husband suggested that she write a book that she herself would like to read. (Because that's what husband do - haha!)But, THANK YOU - THANK YOU!!!! Sir Alastair Dunnett, because without your suggestion there might never have been written The Game of Kings; the first book in a series of 6 books jointly referred to as the Lymond Chronicles. In my opinion TH ...more
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Top quality historical fiction. I can honestly say that this book had me enthralled from beginning to end, both times I’ve read it now. In fact it’s probably even better the second time around.

Usually with a book of this size and calibre I find myself finished within a day or two. With Lymond however it’s serves you better to take it slow. I’ve mentioned in other reviews that I am dyslexic. Well this book is set in 1540’s Scotland and speech is mostly written in the way that it is spoken, accen

I hadn't done that in a while. Staying up all night with a book is a pleasure when you have the morning to sleep in, not when your alarm rings before you've read the last page and you still haven't gone to bed. Last time I stayed up with a book - to the last page of a book - was in March, with (who'd have guessed?) Captive Prince: Volume One and Captive Prince: Volume Two.

June is a busy month I should not be spending reading fiction, which is one reason I was keeping a moderate pace with th
I knew absolutely nothing about the period of history this book is set in, the 1540s in Scotland, when I first started and I was quite lost even when I was enjoying myself reading it very much. The wit! The intrigue! The utter perfectness of Lymond! (Though sometimes I felt like strangling him.)

I'll admit to struggling with this book at the start. It's not an easy book to get into, I guess, with all the literary references (in many languages!) and the history and language in general. This book
Mar 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, historical
I haven't quite finished, but feel the need to write some thoughts down. Will finish later. At first, I didn't quite know what to make of this book. It's written in a sort of antique English brogue with frequent French and old English spellings that are hard to read. I have mostly skimmed the parts I don't understand, being basically lazy, but when something was necessary for me to understand what was being said, I used Google, the ubiquitous explainer without which I could not live. I frequentl ...more
May 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book, after many delays (two months' worth!), on Saturday. And you know what? I'm going right back in for a reread. I underestimated this book or, at least, I was focusing on the wrong things. There were layers I wasn't even aware of and now I'm heading back in to catch all the clues I missed. I'll rate this when I'm done with my reread. :-)

ETA: Finished third reading 1/28/2022.

"Such a man is Crawford of Lymond: such a man this land may pray never to see again in the difficult wa
Linda ~ they got the mustard out! ~
Prerequisites for this book: an extensive knowledge of 16th-century history, focusing on France, England and Scotland; a passible knowledge of French, Spanish, Latin and some Italian, or a good online translator; solid idea of chess strategies, beyond just knowing what the pieces are called; the ability to read olde tymey speling wythote going madde; and lots and lots of patience. And a notebook. Seriously. I really should've used one myself.

You know when you eat something new for the first time
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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 and a series of mystery novels centered on Johnson Johnson, a portrait painter/spy.

Her New York times obitua

Other books in the series

The Lymond Chronicles (6 books)
  • Queens' Play (The Lymond Chronicles, #2)
  • 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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