Welcome to the Historical Fiction Online forums: a friendly place to discuss, review and discover historical fiction.
If this is your first visit, please be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above.
You will have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.
To start viewing posts, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

Post Reply
User avatar
Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 9581
Joined: August 2008
Location: Seattle, WA

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

Post by Misfit » Fri September 12th, 2008, 7:01 pm

Francis Crawford of Lymond, 16C's James Bond?. What fun! Its 1547, Henry VIII is dead and his young son Edward VII sits on the throne, as does a very young Mary sit on the throne of Scotland. Negotiations were made and broken to betroth young Mary to Edward and cement the two countries - or will the Scots marry her off to the dauphin of France instead? Francis Crawford of Lymond, a disgraced nobleman accused of treason sneaks back into Scotland and thus the game begins (to clear his name? is he working for the English as a spy? to murder his brother so that Lymond can inherit the Culter estates?).

Francis and his band of "merry men" immediately begin to wreak havoc, including setting fire to his brother's estate after stealing the silver and holding the ladies (including his mother) at knife point for their jewelry. Throughout, Francis' brilliant wit, sarcasm and heroism keep the reader enthralled and at times laughing out loud. Lymond's escapades take him up and down the breadth of Scotland as Dunnett slowly peels back the layers of her story and keeps the reader guessing until the very end, finishing in a trial of ups and downs, twists and turns ala Perry Mason.

This is not an easy tale to get into, especially if you have no passing knowledge of the Tudor/Stuart courts and noblemen during the 16C. Dunnett also liberally sprinkles her text with quotes from Latin, French and Olde English, you can purchase her companion book if you must know every word and nuance but I did just fine without it -- just skip the Latin you won't miss it. However, it's well worth the effort to stick with it until you "get it" as you will be well rewarded with a jolly good yarn, with as much action, excitement and swashbuckling good sword play as you would find in any Dumas novel -- for me that is the highest compliment I can give any author. A solid five stars, and I am now starting book two in the series, Queens' Play.

User avatar
EC2
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3661
Joined: August 2008
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Post by EC2 » Fri September 12th, 2008, 10:13 pm

Wasn't that sword fight towards the closing stages of the novel electrifying? It's one of those Dunnett set pieces to hang in the hall of fame!
Great review!
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

User avatar
Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 9581
Joined: August 2008
Location: Seattle, WA

Post by Misfit » Sat September 13th, 2008, 12:29 am

EC, Dunnett can just knock my socks off with her scenes. That one, or the steeple chase race or the chess game. Decisions. I'll eventually post reviews on the entire series but we're so inundated with new reviews I thought I'd wait awhile.

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3564
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sat September 13th, 2008, 3:02 am

After GoK, I read through the whole set, but I must confess it took me a looong time to get into this first one, with many stops and starts. Truth is, if I hadn't had an ulterior motive, I think I might have given up entirely!

I like the way DD works animals into her plot twists. She started with a drinken pig, and Lymond's ruse with the wild stallions was especially clever. The sheep wearing helmets in book 3, the elephants, lions, and the rest of the menagerie in book 2, the eagle in book 5, loved all those parts.

(Although in the first Niccolo book, her ostrich was about half again as big as any real ostrich ever gets.)

User avatar
Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 9581
Joined: August 2008
Location: Seattle, WA

Post by Misfit » Sat September 13th, 2008, 1:28 pm

I have to confess that if I wasn't a huge fan of Dumas I would have had a difficult time getting into this as well. Their styles are very similar so by the time he was robbing his mother and their friends I was well into the story.

User avatar
Ludmilla
Bibliophile
Posts: 1346
Joined: September 2008
Location: Georgia USA

Post by Ludmilla » Mon September 15th, 2008, 1:00 pm

I remember thinking, did what I think happened, just happen, during the first half of this book. Then, slowly, the 2nd half starts revealing what's really going on and it was so wonderfully exciting. Ah, and that sword fight... one of the best I've ever read, I think. So much dramatic tension went into that duel.

tsjmom
Reader
Posts: 227
Joined: August 2008

Post by tsjmom » Fri January 7th, 2011, 2:47 am

I'm only on pg 40 and having a supremely difficult time getting into this book. I'm finding the varied, somewhat choppy sentence structure (compared to today's) hard to follow and understand what's happening. The only reason I'm chugging along is due to the overwhelming great reviews by hundreds of people.

I'm planning on giving it to pg 100 - is that going to be enough? When Misfit compares her style to Dumas, whom I also don't "enjoy' reading even though I love all the French topics, I wonder if it's worth it.

User avatar
Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 9581
Joined: August 2008
Location: Seattle, WA

Post by Misfit » Fri January 7th, 2011, 3:02 am

[quote=""tsjmom""]I'm only on pg 40 and having a supremely difficult time getting into this book. I'm finding the varied, somewhat choppy sentence structure (compared to today's) hard to follow and understand what's happening. The only reason I'm chugging along is due to the overwhelming great reviews by hundreds of people.

I'm planning on giving it to pg 100 - is that going to be enough? When Misfit compares her style to Dumas, whom I also don't "enjoy' reading even though I love all the French topics, I wonder if it's worth it.[/quote]

If it doesn't work for you, don't force it. Dunnett isn't going to work for every reader (nor would any given author), so if you're not enjoying yourself I recommend moving on. Life's too short.
At home with a good book and the cat...
...is the only place I want to be

User avatar
Michy
Bibliophile
Posts: 1649
Joined: May 2010
Location: California

Post by Michy » Fri January 7th, 2011, 3:30 am

[quote=""tsjmom""]I'm only on pg 40 and having a supremely difficult time getting into this book. I'm finding the varied, somewhat choppy sentence structure (compared to today's) hard to follow and understand what's happening. The only reason I'm chugging along is due to the overwhelming great reviews by hundreds of people.

I'm planning on giving it to pg 100 - is that going to be enough? When Misfit compares her style to Dumas, whom I also don't "enjoy' reading even though I love all the French topics, I wonder if it's worth it.[/quote] I am currently reading this book -- am about 60 pages from the end -- and I can tell you that the first 100 pages or so are the most difficult. It eases up a bit after that. In places, I was actually able to catch Dunnett's subtle, sardonic wit (although I'm sure much more went over my head!).

I think everyone -- even those who love Dunnett -- will agree that her writing can be difficult; the attitudes and dialogue among the many characters is opaque, even cryptic at times. However, there are scenes where her writing sparkles. Unfortunately, for me it hasn't been enough and this will probably be my last Dunnett. Although, Ludmilla did mention that King Hereafter is a good book to start on Dunnett with, since her writing seems to be clearer. I should have picked that one. :o Maybe I will give it a try....

Coincidentally, just yesterday there was some dialogue about this book over under the "What are you reading now January 2011" thread. However, it was mostly those of us who don't care for Dunnett, so reading it might not inspire you to continue the book.

tsjmom
Reader
Posts: 227
Joined: August 2008

Post by tsjmom » Tue January 11th, 2011, 1:55 pm

I decided to give up on this one. One of my NY's resolutions around books is to get my ratio of really good vs so-so reads higher. So if I'm not loving it I'm not reading it LOL!

Post Reply

Return to “By Author's Last Name A-F”