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Queens' Play: Book Two in the Legendary…

Queens' Play: Book Two in the Legendary Lymond Chronicles (original 1964; edition 1997)

by Dorothy Dunnett (Author)

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1,2572210,091 (4.32)82
The second book in the world-famous Lymond Chronicles, which bring to life sixteenth-century history through the eyes of one man: Francis Crawford of Lymond. Menaced by England and riven by internal discord, Scotland in 1548 clung to a single hope of survival as a nation - an alliance with France to be sealed by the betrothal of the five-year-old Mary, Queen of Scots, to the Dauphin. But once in France, Mary suffers a series of ominous 'accidents'. The one man Mary's mother, the Dowager Queen, feels she can trust to procter her daughter, now seven, is Francis Crawford. Lymond is dispatched to France and embarks upon a nightmare game of hide-and-seek at the very heart of the glittering, decadent court of Henri II.… (more)
Title:Queens' Play: Book Two in the Legendary Lymond Chronicles
Authors:Dorothy Dunnett (Author)
Info:Vintage (1997), 432 pages
Collections:To read, Imported From GR
Tags:to-read, gr import

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Queens' Play by Dorothy Dunnett (1964)



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Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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 |
Set in one of my favorite eras, this second installment of the Lymond Chronicles involves a plot to kill the young Mary Queen of Scots when she is a child in France. Of course, the sardonic Francis Crawford of Lymond comes to her rescue, along with a colorful cast of characters who plot and scheme in sixteenth-century Scotland, England, and France. This is great reading for those familiar with the era, but I think a more casual reader would struggle with keeping the characters and their schemes straight as the plot twists and turns throughout the book. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Jul 4, 2018 |
“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.”

O’LiamRoe, an Irish minor noble, is speaking here, paraphrasing to the protagonist, Francis Coulter (Lymond) the words of Margaret Erskine (nee Fleming), a member of the Dowager Queen of Scotland’s train. That message struck home so hard I had to stop reading and think about it for several minutes. What does it say in the modern age, that a book written 50 or more years ago, about a time frame more than 400 years ago, should be so applicable to our leaders today?

This novel, the second of the Lymond Chronicles, was set in the French court of Henri II (mostly – there are parts that take place in England as well). The court travels around the country, which provides natural sections to the book named after the locations – Rouen, St. Germaine, Bloix, Aubigny, Chateaubriant. (There is also a section in the middle where Lymond and O'LiamRoe spend some time in London.)

In a way, this book was much easier for me than the first book in the series (which is set almost entirely in Scotland), as the court was familiar to me - this is the court chronicled in the first French novel, The Princess of Cleves, by Mme de Lafayette, which was also one of the first non-abridged works I ever read in the French language, right before college. The amount of ceremony and the many factions (“partis” - of the Queen, the King’s mistress the Duchess de Valentinois, the King’s own loyalists who he rewarded or released upon his accession, the De Guises, and many others) are realistically drawn, engaging and fascinating.

There is a hunting scene that I think an epic poem could be based on. Descriptions just to die for! "Earth and animals wore the same livery. Jazerained in its berries, the oak tree matched their pearls, and paired their brilliant-sewn housings with low mosses underfoot, freshets winking half-ice in the pile."

Each chapter starts with an epigram from the ancient Irish Brehon laws. I found these epigrams really added a lot to my enjoyment of the novel. They usually had a tangential but clear application to the theme of their chapter (as a single example, a chapter centered on the Irish beauty Oonaugh O’Dwyer had an epigram about the medieval assumptions about women’s consent).

Lymond grows a great deal in this book, and O’LiamRoe is one of my favorite characters of any book I've read in the past ten years or more. Other characters were memorable as well. If you enjoy intricate, ever-changing characters, you should read this book, and probably the entire series, on the strength of the character development alone. But more than that, this series is a truly great way to get an idea of how dynamic statecraft during the Renaissance really was.

Very highly recommended. ( )
6 vote anna_in_pdx | Apr 17, 2018 |
The second book in the Lymond Chronicles will cause a great deal of nail-biting. Lymond is in France to protect eight-year-old Mary, Queen of Scots, who is in France with her mother as part of negotiations to betroth Mary to the Dauphin and link Scotland and France against England. The threats to Mary’s safety, and Lymond’s attempts to thwart the assassins, propel the reader forward through another meaty historical novel. Lymond himself faces greater peril than in the first book (or at least that’s how it seemed from my hazy recollection), and in some places it was only the knowledge that there were four more books in the series that assured me that Lymond would survive.

This book also reminded me that I have yet to read Antonia Fraser’s biography of Mary, Queen of Scots. Someone with a deeper knowledge of the period would get even more out of it than I did (and I did get quite a lot out of it). Recommended for those interested in Scottish history. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Aug 29, 2017 |
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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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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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