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Queens' Play (1964)

by Dorothy Dunnett

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Lymond Chronicles (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,3712711,695 (4.33)89
This second book in the legendary Lymond Chronicles follows Francis 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 from her native country to the court of France. It is to France that Lymond must travel, exercising his sword hand and his agile wit while also undertaking the most unlikely of masquerades, all to make sure that his charge's royal person stays intact.… (more)

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English (24)  German (1)  All languages (25)
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
Lymond poses as an Irish olave to protect young Mary at the French court
  ritaer | Jun 26, 2021 |
In 1550, Francis Crawford of Lymond arrives in France, incognito, to protect Scotland’s queen, seven-year-old Mary.

I enjoyed this, even though I am not very interested in the antics of the French court and I thought that The Game of Kings benefited from having more characters who I found wholly likeable and/or who matter, personally, to Lymond.

Dunnett is an impressive storyteller -- vivid descriptions, lively dialogue, nuanced characters and twists that take me by surprise. Moreover, those satisfying puzzle pieces explain the plots and intrigue, give insight into personalities and develop the narrative’s themes (here, the consequences of power).

“What, in the event, did Margaret Erskine say? Now, if ever, seems the time to tell me.”
O’LiamRoe looked up, sweat spilled in the soft cup of his throat. “Ah,
dhia... Have I not attacked you enough? It was a piece of advice only, and aimed at myself as much, I suppose, as at you.—For those of easy tongues, she said. Remember, some live all their lives without discovering this truth; that the noblest and most terrible power we possess is the power we have, each of us, over the chance-met, the stranger, the passer-by outside your life and your kin. Speak, she said, as you would write: as if your words were letters of lead, graven there for all time, for which you must take the consequences. And take the consequences. ( )
  Herenya | Feb 18, 2021 |
The best James Bond story I've ever read. (Yes, I'm talking about the right book.) ( )
  RJ_Stevenson | Aug 19, 2020 |
In 1550, Mary Queen of Scots was just 8 years old and living with the Queen Mother at the court of France’s King Henri II. She was betrothed to the the King’s eldest son Francis to unite France and Scotland under Henri. However, the political landscape was quite volatile. Scotland and England had been at cross purposes for some time, and England was actively seeking to control Ireland. France had a similar desire to expand their realm; in 1550 France and England were in the midst of negotiating peace. In the midst of all this political maneuvering, there were factions who wanted to remove Mary from the Scottish throne.

Concerned for Mary’s safety, her mother engages Francis Lymond to come to the French court specifically to protect Mary. Lymond, disguised as the secretary to an Irish prince, uncovers a plot to poison Mary. His efforts to foil the plot and bring the perpetrators to justice unfold over more than 500 pages. As with the previous book, there’s a huge cast of characters, and enough plot twists to make your head spin. And just when you think you’re figuring things out, the good guys turn out to be bad guys or vice versa.

I enjoyed this book, but found it dragged a bit compared to the first novel. Lymond identified the man behind the poison plot pretty quickly, and the chase took too long, with a diversion to go after his accomplice. But I’m enjoying the history, and the way Dunnett places her characters in the middle of actual events, so I’ll be reading the third book soon. ( )
  lauralkeet | Feb 17, 2020 |
This second book of the Lymond Saga opens in 1550, two years after the events described in ‘The Game of Kings’.

Mary of Guise, queen dowager and regent of Scotland is planning a journey to France; to visit her eight-year-old daughter Mary, Queen of Scots, who is being brought up at Henri II’s court as the affianced bride of the Dauphin. She knows that the fate of Scotland is tied up with the fate of its young queen, and her she has been given reason to believe that her child is in danger.

She is right to be concerned.

She knows that there are some very unscrupulous people in and around the French Court and that the English and the Irish in particular would seize any chance to break the alliance between France and Scotland. Queen Mary of England is struggling to contain the Protestant movement and keep her land as a strong Catholic power, and she knows that the alliance will make that more difficult to achieve. The Irish want to end of the English occupation of their country, they need France to help them and they are ready to use any means necessary ….

Francis Crawford of Lymond, newly restored to favour, is the man that the queen dowager wants to accompany her to France, and to uncover any plots against the little Queen. Her advisers counsel against that, they warn her that he would not agree, that he was not biddable, that he would too recognizable to the French; but she is quite certain that he is the best man for the job and she agrees to his terms – that he may carry out the job as he sees fit.

Given such a charge, most men would travel discreetly, live quietly, and observe the court from the sidelines; but that is not Lymond’s way. He sets about winning a place at the very centre of the court, hiding in plain sight, and putting himself in a position influence people and events – and to reveal the machinations of all of the interested parties. It was intriguing to watch as Lymond stepped into and between fraught political alliances and schemes, knowing that any one of them could pose a threat to Queen Mary’s life – and that the slightest misstep could herald the end of his own life.

I found the difference in scale and perspective interesting when I compared this book with ‘The Game of Kings.’ On one hand this book was concerned with greater matters – affairs of state and the future of countries rather than one man’s future – but on the other hand it felt smaller and more enclosed, in the confines of the court rather than moving freely and at will.

That gave a different perspective on Lymond, a different view of his many accomplishments, his skill at managing people and situations, his resourcefulness and the resources he had to draw upon …. but because he was playing a role for most of this book I can’t say that I understand too much more at the end than I did at the beginning, or that I am at all sure where the performance ends and the person behind it begins.

That plot is complex, multi-stranded, and so cleverly constructed. I couldn’t say that I had a good grasp of what was going on, but I was captivated by wonderfully rich and detailed writing; by a wealth of scenes that had different tones and different tempos but were all quite perfectly painted; and the set pieces were dazzling. There’s a near disaster at sea, a stampede of elephants, a wrestling match and – best of all – a moonlit roof-top race that I could quite happily re-read and re-live time and time again.

The court of Henry II was so well evoked; and I loved the cinematic sweep as well as perfectly framed close-ups. There is such a wealth of detail that makes up the bigger picture, I’m sure that I missed things, that a second read will reveal more, but this book lived and breathed and I know that I have to read on, to find out what happens next and understand where this series of books is going.

I was unsettled at first by the loss of so many characters from the first book who I thought would be of continuing importance, and I am not sure that this book – caught up with one particular quest – moved things forward too much and that means that I have to say that I couldn’t love this book as much as I loved ‘The Game of Kings.’

I’m sure that it has a purpose – I think saw seeds being sown – I think I met characters who will move forward, beyond this story- and it might be that I will appreciate it more when I see its place in the series as a whole. ( )
  BeyondEdenRock | Nov 29, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dorothy Dunnettprimary authorall editionscalculated
Monteath, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Napier, AndrewNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedicated, for their passing entertainment, to the Dunnetts, who are stuck with reading it, anyway: George Sinclair Dunnett, Alastair Mactavish Dunnett, Doris Macnicol Dunnett Paterson
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She wanted Crawford of Lymond.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This second book in the legendary Lymond Chronicles follows Francis 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 from her native country to the court of France. It is to France that Lymond must travel, exercising his sword hand and his agile wit while also undertaking the most unlikely of masquerades, all to make sure that his charge's royal person stays intact.

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Once an accused traitor, now a valued, if reluctant, agent of Scottish diplomacy, Lymond is sent to France, to protect a very young Queen Mary Stuart, who is being groomed for marriage to the dauphin. Disguised as a disreputable Irish scholar, Lymond insinuates himself into the glittering labyrinth of the French court, where every courtier is a would-be conspirator.
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