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Pawn in Frankincense (1969)

by Dorothy Dunnett

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Lymond Chronicles (4)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,0791915,044 (4.62)63
For the first time Dunnett's "Lymond Chronicles" are available in the United States in quality paperback editions. Pawn in Frankincense is the fourth in the legendary "Lymond Chronicles," Somewhere within the bejeweled labyrinth of the Ottoman empire, a child is hidden. Now his father, Francis Crawford of Lymond, soldier of fortune and the exiled heir of Scottish nobility, is searching for him while ostensibly engaged on a mission to the Turkish Sultan. At stake is a pawn in a cutthroat game whose gambits include treason, enslavement, and murder. With a Foreword by the author.… (more)
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» See also 63 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
Lymond can only save one boy, is it his son or not?
  ritaer | Jun 26, 2021 |
I read this in February and have been procrastinating from reviewing it because this was a lot to process and I wanted to say more than “Well, that was devastating!”

In the aftermath of revelations made at the end of The Disorderly Knights, Francis Crawford of Lymond embarks on a journey through the Mediterranean. Officially he is an emissary of France, delivering a gift to the Sultan of Turkey; unofficially, Lymond has people he is desperate to find.

This is more sombre, more stressful and less surprising than its predecessors, because, after The Disorderly Knights, one has a clearer sense of Lymond’s goals and of what he is up against, and because there are children to worry about.

And it is, at times, utterly devastating.

… oh, this is such a difficult book to discuss without spoilers! There’s a hauntingly unforgettable scene and I am impressed by how it fits this story, and moreover that it didn’t make me want to throw the book across the room and shout “DUNNETT, CLEARLY YOU CANNOT BE TRUSTED WITH FICTIONAL CHARACTERS EVER AGAIN! OR CHESS!”

I think it’s because it doesn’t feel like Dunnett is just trying to traumatise her characters and her readers because she can mwahahaha, or like she’s just following through on things already set in motion. She’s using this moment to reveal things of significant importance. And, while things end badly, it’s not as bad as I feared. As if Dunnett knows she can throw a devastating punch but chooses to employ that move sparingly.

Anyway, this is also brilliant and captivating. And still surprising. And I would have liked this a lot less if Philippa Somerville, now in her mid teens, hadn’t had such a large part. She’s delightfully determined and resourceful -- by force of logic [...] and the doggedness of a flower-pecker attacking a strangling fig -- and acquits herself admirably in the face of difficulties. She’s certainly not immune from things not going to plan, but I am very glad that she survives certain situations unscathed.

I think if I reread this, I would have a better understanding of Marthe; I ended up liking her more than I expected to.

I’m sure I will be signing up for further devastating developments, er I mean, the sequel, eventually.

“ [...] As I have said before, and am now saying for the last time, I cannot tell you with what awe my family and friends, not to mention yours, would receive the idea that I should ship a twelve-year-old girl along the Barbary coast --”
“Fifteen-year-old,” said Philippa, furiously, for the third time.
“Or a fifty-year-old: what’s the difference?” said Lymond. “The coast's a jungle of Moors, Turks, Jews, renegades from all over Europe, sitting in palaces built from the sale of Christian slaves. There are twenty thousand men, women and children in the bagnios of Algiers alone. I am not going to make it twenty thousand and one because your mother didn't allow you to keep rabbits, or whatever is at the root of your unshakable fixation."
“I had weasels instead,” said Philippa shortly.
“Good God,” said Lymond, looking at her. “That explains a lot. [...]”
( )
  Herenya | Apr 13, 2021 |
Pawn in Frankincense is the fourth book in the six-volume Lymond Chronicles, set in mid-16th century Scotland and Europe. Francis Lymond is a mercenary, serving first the Scots and then the French. I nearly gave up on the series after the third book, in which Lymond joined an order of knights on Malta, and engaged in overly complicated battles culminating in a showdown with his nemesis, Graham Reid Mallet aka Gabriel. But I had the fourth book on my Kindle and, after a year-long hiatus I thought why not try again. I’m glad I did.

In Pawn in Frankincense, Lymond seeks vengeance against Gabriel even as he knows Gabriel has laid a series of traps for him. Chief among these traps is the search for Lymond’s illegitimate son, now about two years old. Gabriel has decreed the boy will die if Gabriel is killed. The action takes Lymond and his allies all over the Mediterranean, from Algiers to Constantinople, and ultimately into the palace of Suleiman the Magnificant, ruler of the Ottoman Empire. Lymond and Gabriel are well matched in their intellect and ability to deceive the other, and when new characters are introduced it’s often unclear whose side they are on. The reader quickly learns to suspect everyone, even characters who have been with Lymond in previous books. The showdown between Lymond and Gabriel culminates in a game of “live chess,” with devastating consequences that were quite upsetting to read. In the denouement, Lymond dispenses with a few more enemies and disloyal followers and sets his friends and allies up for safety.

In addition to its solid storyline, Pawn in Frankincense further developed some of the characters surrounding Lymond, particularly the ex-knight Jerrott, young Philippa Somerville, and a somewhat mysterious young woman named Marthe, who I am sure will figure more prominently in the remaining two books. And now, of course, I’m hooked again. ( )
  lauralkeet | Mar 7, 2021 |
Francis Crawford of Lymond has discovered that he has a son. That son has been taken somewhere in the Ottoman Empire, and Lymond needs to find him while trying to outwit his nemesis from the previous book, Gabriel.

To be honest, I found this book a real slog. Perhaps it really didn’t work as a bus book, or I had too much else going on in my life while trying to read. Perhaps the less-familiar-to-me setting had something to do with it. Perhaps Gabriel is just the Worst. Human. Ever. and I didn’t enjoy reading about him (especially when there were scenes set in harems or seraglios — I was skipping pages to make sure I didn’t inadvertently read anything horrifying). That said, the last third really picked up, and any scenes with Philippa were great, because she is a highly resourceful, determined character. And Archie Abernethy is always a welcome visitor on these pages. But overall, this is certainly my least favourite book in the series. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Oct 10, 2019 |
After my reservations about The Disorderly Knights, I felt some anxiety as I embarked on Pawn in Frankincense, the fourth book in the Lymond Chronicles. However, there is very little to find fault with here: it is a magnificent novel, richer and more powerful than any of its predecessors in the series. I found it interesting to compare it to Queens’ Play, which I also enjoyed, for very different reasons. While Queens’ Play takes place in a small area of France, Pawn in Frankincense unfurls across the breadth of Europe and North Africa, embracing Switzerland, France, Algiers, Djerba and then Constantinople, the greatest and most dazzling city of all. At the time I thought that Queens’ Play had raised the stakes, placing the focus on the struggle between nations rather than individuals; here, though, faith pits itself against faith and empire against empire. It’s truly epic, in every sense. And, while Queens’ Play had plenty of comedic moments, sparkling with youthful mischief, Pawn in Frankincense subjects its characters and readers to a greater dose of bitterness and tragedy. One thread of the story closes; another begins...

For the full review, please see my blog:
https://theidlewoman.net/2012/07/17/pawn-in-frankincense-dorothy-dunnett/ ( )
  TheIdleWoman | Aug 6, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dorothy Dunnettprimary authorall editionscalculated
Monteath, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Napier, AndrewNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The bathers of Baden in summer were few and fat.
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For the first time Dunnett's "Lymond Chronicles" are available in the United States in quality paperback editions. Pawn in Frankincense is the fourth in the legendary "Lymond Chronicles," Somewhere within the bejeweled labyrinth of the Ottoman empire, a child is hidden. Now his father, Francis Crawford of Lymond, soldier of fortune and the exiled heir of Scottish nobility, is searching for him while ostensibly engaged on a mission to the Turkish Sultan. At stake is a pawn in a cutthroat game whose gambits include treason, enslavement, and murder. With a Foreword by the author.

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