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The Game of Kings (1961)

by Dorothy Dunnett

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Lymond Chronicles (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,350734,430 (4.28)212
In 1547 Scotland has been humiliated by an English invasion and is threatened by machinations elsewhere beyond its borders, but it is still free. Paradoxically, her freedom may depend on a man who stands accused of treason. He is Francis Crawford of Lymond, a scapegoat nobleman of crooked felicities and murderous talents, possessed of scholar's erudition and a tongue as wicked as a rapier. In The Game of Kings this extraordinary antihero returns to the country that has outlawed him - to redeem his reputation even at the risk of his life.… (more)

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» See also 212 mentions

English (72)  German (1)  All languages (73)
Showing 1-5 of 72 (next | show all)
It's been almost ten years since I last read this, but so much of it is, after at least 3 reading prior to that, still fresh. Re-reading is such a different experience than the original whiplash impact of the story and it characters, but no less satisfying as the richness and depth of a 16th century world is rolled out before us. It may not be the real 16th century world, but it has a real, immediate feel, with real stakes and unmistakable dangers. Most of the historical persons brought on as characters seem truly capable of the actions recorded and the invented ones worthy to move among them, and often vibrantly interesting. Dunnett was unparalleled in her presentation a believable Renaissance world in which adventure seems natural if not inevitably romantic. ( )
1 vote quondame | Jan 30, 2020 |
It’s 1547, and as the first line states, Francis Crawford, Master of Lymond, “is back.” He’s been in prison for reasons not immediately revealed, and is now living the life of a swashbuckling outlaw, appearing unannounced and often in disguise to influence political events between Scotland and England. The English are keen to arrange a marriage between two child monarchs: Edward VI (son of the notorious King Henry VIII), and Mary Queen of Scots. The Scots aren’t having it, which has led to repeated armed conflict at the border. Lymond’s role and motives are unclear: whose side is he on, anyway? Can we, the readers, trust him? Would he be the hero of this story if we couldn’t? Well, maybe.

The Game of Kings is the first of Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, and Dunnett expects a lot from her readers. First, there’s the history, which is clearly well-researched but not provided as background. And then, there are characters. So. many. characters. Lymond is clearly fictional, as is his family and many of his cronies, but plenty of historic figures play important roles in the story. And finally, through Lymond, a well-read polyglot, Dunnett infuses the story with literary references, songs, and sayings, often in French or Latin.

But don’t be put off by these complexities. Readers who are willing to invest effort into understanding these elements will be rewarded with a rollicking story, filled with so many twists and turns that I often had to re-read passages to figure out what just happened. But it was fun! Just trust me, and start reading this series. ( )
1 vote lauralkeet | Jan 9, 2020 |
Well I don't even know where to begin except to say, "Bring on the next five books in the series." First of all, it took me a long time to get into this book. I think it finally started to click for me after more than 100 pages because #1. this is dense text; #2. there are a lot of French and Latin phrases strewn liberally throughout the narrative; #3. the Scotch. Lots of it.

That said, Dunnett created a wonderful world, filled it with complex characters, developed a plot with dozens of twists and turns and managed to have me furiously turning pages to find that next "aha!" moment. Brilliant!

Francis Lymond, the eponymous man of the Chronicles, arrives on the first page when it's announced, "Lymond is back." He's been away for five years and for good reason: he's wanted for treason. For the next 500+ pages we are treated to Political intrigue and bloody battles, laced with humor and historical facts, as this cunning, erudite brave man tries to put in place a plan that will clear his name and reunite him with his family. Or is he? That's the thing. You just don't know which end is up. Dunnett keeps you guessing right up until nearly the end. Just when I thought I had it figured out---boom----there goes that idea. Twist, turn, spin around. Start over. For 500 pages. Bring on book 2. ( )
1 vote brenzi | Jan 9, 2020 |
This book is one of the best books I have ever read, and is the beginning of my favorite series. It is the first book of the Lymond Chronicles, which span six historical fiction novels following the life of Francis Crawford of Lymond across Europe and North Africa. The Game of Kings takes place primarily in Scotland in the late 1540s as Lymond returns to his homeland in a whirl of violence, intrigue, and charm after being gone for five years. He is accused of high treason against Scotland and leads a band of mercenaries from conflict to conflict. The fascinating twisting and turning puzzle-piece plot aside, it is a brocade of characters and relationships that hasn't been equaled on this grand scale.

It's a dense read and takes a few pages to get into, but once you have a foothold in Lymond's world, you won't want to let it go. I first read the series in the Peace Corps (thanks, Mom!), and having read through the first book for a second time, I have discovered even more of the rich world Dunnett has recreated and am greatly looking forward to re-reading the other five books.

I have never been really excited about historical fiction, but Dunnett turned me completely around; characters like hers are nearly impossible to find. I also enjoy history, and know a (very) little bit about English and Scottish history, which helped make it very real and poignant. This first book stands on its own and may be read as an individual work. But why would you when there are five more tasty morsels?

Um, and I love it. ( )
1 vote barrettlucero | Aug 23, 2019 |
What a wonderful book! The story is not only exciting but manages to keep its secrets until the end. It was a bit rough at first getting used to all the Latin used by the author, but worth sticking with it. ( )
  a1stitcher | Jun 22, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 72 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dorothy Dunnettprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gillies, SamuelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Monteath, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Average: (4.28)
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