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Queens' Play (The Lymond Chronicles #2)

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  3,371 Ratings  ·  216 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
Kindle Edition, 454 pages
Published August 10th 2010 by Vintage (first published 1964)
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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
I bumped my initial 4-star rating to 5, since this book was still making me think, and shake my head in wonder, several days after I finished reading it.

Francis Crawford of Lymond has been summoned by the Dowager Queen of Scotland, who is temporarily living in France with the 7 year old Mary Queen of Scots, to come to France to protect the young queen from an unknown person who is trying to assassinate her. The Dowager Queen, an experienced and canny old politician, thinks she knows exactly how
Alex Farrand
It is funny that I know that there are four more books left, and I know some history about Scotland, but I am still chewing my finger nails off anticipating the worst outcome possible. Ahhh, it must be a great a book. Dorothy Dunnet, you have an amazing writing style.
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,
Jul 30, 2013 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
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I said on twitter that I am smart enough to read Dunnett, but just barely. She layers intrigue and action with some beautiful language but I was often forced to go back and reread several pages because i missed something vital; she doesn't hold your hand and warn you when something major is coming up.

I still can't help but seeing Lymond as a historical Bugs Bunny with more at stake. He is in and out of every situation, changes personas like hats, and is good at everything. More importantly, he n
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
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Frustrating, absorbing and intensely emotional, I can't stop thinking about this book

Lymond is back, this time in France, hanging out in disguise in the most extravagant and decadent court in 16 c Europe, trying to protect the young Mary queen of scots. The story starts with a bang, there are many twists and turns and Dorothy Dunnett had me wrong footed right form the start. Fans of the main character may be a little disappointed with the first half of the book as Lymond is deep in disguise and
Renee M
Oct 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't need to swallow this whole... It was a reread, for Pete's sake. I could have taken my time and savored every delicious, brilliant word. But there's a point in every book of this series where I feel like I'm strapped to the saddle of a runaway horse, hurtling helplessly toward the conclusion, with no chance of stopping or slowing until I've arrived, breathless, bleary-eyed, and shaking, at the last page. This series is like nothing else I've ever read (which is saying something). Thank G ...more
May 14, 2007 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 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 20, 2009 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 03, 2016 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
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction

Hero worship....It's the only oozing emotion I seem able to inspire.

Lymond certainly does inspire for all his many talents, his swashbuckling and his wit. Yet, essentially, we find Lymond physically and mentally wreaked many times, reduced to self-loathing. It's stated by one female character that Lymond has no capacity to love but Dunnett skillfully shows in little snatches that perhaps Lymond loves too hard. He certainly loves his seven year old queen Mary of Scots. Hence to France, in disguis
Feb 20, 2015 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 03, 2016 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.

Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reading-scotland
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great way to learn history!
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
readathon17: A book that takes place before 1800

Aug 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another reading 15-19 July 2016

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 Stewa
Jul 13, 2010 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
Sep 01, 2015 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
May 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, tudors
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
Sep 10, 2016 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
Mar 22, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
I'm afraid I slogged through this one. Francis Crawford of Lymond is still driving me crazy, and the setting of this particular adventure (the royal French court) included a bit to much depravity for me (although most of it is very subtle). Will I keep reading? Maybe. The swashbuckling is all very exciting, and I like historical intrigue. But please tell me that Lymond gets more humble and less infuriating in books 3 through 6.
Mar 28, 2016 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.
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is, perhaps, somewhat more uneven than The Game of Kings, but I love it regardless. Crawford of Lymond is just so fascinating. I can't wait to see what he'll do next.
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think Dunnett's triumph is in how clearly and painstakingly she portrays the psychological pressure Lymond exists under without ever directly referencing anything like it.
This installment was chock full of action, the assassination plots were inventive to the point of ludicrous and would have all been very jolly if the cost wasn't all too evident.
The O'LiamRoe was a fabulous character and a great foil for Lymond. And I enjoyed being at the French court very much. Now off to Malta for the thi
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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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More about Dorothy Dunnett...

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)
“[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.” 23 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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