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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first of a wonderful historical series
I have just finished the last of the six - Checkmate. I was gripped from the first - Game of Kings. The writing is stunning, the plots complex and very exciting and the hero, Francis Crawford, is mesmerising. I highly recommend all six to anyone who is fond of historical fiction. The stories are all set in amongst genuine characters and events over a period of 10...
Published on 28 Nov. 2005 by CJ

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24 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hands up all those who couldn't read this ........ Just me, then
I love a huge and complex historical saga (one that's usually described as 'sweeping') with a family tree, a complicated list of characters and a map to pore over before you even start on the narrative proper.
It's not just the romance, I enjoy the politics and the warfare too, though some of the best battle scenes I've ever read have been in 'romantic' novels by...
Published on 19 Feb. 2012 by Bookwoman


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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first of a wonderful historical series, 28 Nov. 2005
By 
CJ (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Game Of Kings: The Lymond Chronicles (Paperback)
I have just finished the last of the six - Checkmate. I was gripped from the first - Game of Kings. The writing is stunning, the plots complex and very exciting and the hero, Francis Crawford, is mesmerising. I highly recommend all six to anyone who is fond of historical fiction. The stories are all set in amongst genuine characters and events over a period of 10 years in the middle of the 16th C starting in Scotland with the young Mary Queen of Scots but taking in history and politics during that same period in England, Russia, Malta, Turkey and France. The personal stories of Francis, his family and friends/enemies are twisted through the whole in a wonderfully witty, moving and fascinating manner. To start with I was slightly daunted by the detail but persist - the rewards are great.
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77 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lymond Series No 1: Brilliant but not for every taste, 21 April 2006
By 
Marshall Lord (Whitehaven, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Game Of Kings: The Lymond Chronicles (Paperback)
This is the first book in a series which you will either love or hate. It is also one of those multi-book series which must if at all possible be read in the right order, which is

1) The Game of Kings
2) Queen's Play
3) The Disorderly Knights
4) Pawn in Frankincense
5) The Ringed Castle
6) Checkmate

There are two reasons why this series, and indeed the author's similar "Niccolo" series, should be read in chronological order. The first is that the plots are incredibly complicated and if you read them out of sequence you have no chance of understanding what is going on. The second is that many of the characters meet their deaths in ways which are particularly nasty both for themselves and for the characters who survive them. I know from experience having made the mistake of reading one of the later books first, that advance knowledge of when someone is going to die, and of the horrible shock Lymond will experience when he finds out about it, can spoil the pleasure that the reader might otherwise have had when meeting that character for the first time.

Like the books the central character, Francis Crawford of Lymond, is brilliant, violent, and extremely complicated. Unlike the books he is very flawed. Lymond is a mercenary with particular interests in Scotland and France, and gets involved in nefarious deeds all over the world as 16th century Europeans knew it. Dunnett brings the splendour, cultural ferment, and violent cruelty of the Renaissance world splendidly to life.

If you are at all squeamish, or do not like having to make your brain work overtime to follow a book, leave this series alone. This story is neither "chewing gum for the brain" nor a comfortable read. And even if you prefer flawed heroes to knights in shining armour, Lymond may infuriate you from time to time. But if you can put up with these features, these books will richly reward the effort you make in reading them.

There is no middle ground: you will either hate the Lymond series or recognise these books as one of the greatest works of historical fiction ever written. Or very possibly both !
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62 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First book in greatest series ever written, 16 Feb. 2002
By A Customer
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This review is from: The Game Of Kings: The Lymond Chronicles (Paperback)
Game of Kings is the first in a series of six books: Queens' Play, Disorderly Knights, Pawn in Frankincense, Ringed Castle and finally Checkmate are the other books in the series. They centre on Francis Crawford of Lymond, 16th century Scottish mercenary soldier, spy, wit, lover... think of the most dazzling hero you've ever read about and then multiply it by a few thousand. Whilst this book takes place solely in Scotland and Northern England, the other books will take you to Russia, North Africa, France, Germany, Mala and Istanbul. You'll encounter the young Mary Queen of Scots, Mary of Guise, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, Ivan the Terrible, Bloody Mary and the young Princess Elizabeth, to name but a few. Dunnett's sense of period is impeccable and with a few words she can conjure up the sixteenth century so well you feel you are there in person. Did I mention wit? There is that in plenty, any high drama is always tempered with irony or laugh out loud farce. She is simply brilliant.
Above all there is Lymond, the most tortured of all heroes. If you can get past the first couple of chapters and get used to Dorothy Dunnett's style of writing (she never insults the intelligence of her readers, quite the opposite), her books are the sort you'll read and re-read until they fall apart. This is the first in the series, so enjoy!
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The beginning of a life long addiction!, 22 Oct. 2000
This review is from: The Game Of Kings: The Lymond Chronicles (Paperback)
I read this book for the first time in 1966,just after I graduated from university. I can still remember the effect it had upon me and how I wanted everyone of my acquaintance to read it too. Alas, this didn't happen as everyone I lent it to found it too difficult. It is certainly not everyone's cup of tea, but once you start this series and get hooked, you are hooked for life.
The hero, Francis Crawford, is the epitome of the romantic hero, young, handsome, rich, misunderstood, loved or loathed by everyone he meets and in the course of this book and the other five in the series, a long involved love story is played out against a background of rich detail of the 16th century.
If you have a serious interest in history, then this book and series are definitely for you.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Triumphant beginning to the series, 12 Oct. 2004
By 
N. Clarke (Lancs, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Game Of Kings: The Lymond Chronicles (Paperback)
I'd heard that the Lymond Chronicles were good. I'd heard that Dunnett's writing and world-building were dauntingly clever, and that Lymond himself was dazzling. I'd heard that I wouldn't be able to put the book down.
All of which turned out to be true, and more. From captivating opening to satisfying conclusion, _The Game of Kings_ never attempts to hide the fact that it's a novel for those who like their historical fiction authentic and serious. For all the outpourings of devotion readers have lavished over Lymond down the years, this is no romantic fluff; it's densely packed, desperately clever, and richer in tone and texture than any book has a right to be. Simultaneously - and despite the great array of characters (both historical and purely fictional), intricate political machinations, and multi-lingual literary allusions - Lymond's first outing is pacy and gripping enough to make any activity that delays reaching its end seem like a waste of valuable time.
Lymond himself, renegade and outcast Francis Crawford, is quite simply one of the finest epic heroes I've encountered in fiction: brilliant, learned, witty, accomplished - and tormented. Not that this is immediately obvious; the novel opens with Lymond as a bitter, brutal, silver-tongued bully with an outlaw band in tow, burning down his mother's home and stealing the family valuables. Dunnett keeps his complex motives shadowed, as befits a man who has learned at cost what it is to have his trust comprehensively betrayed. It is only as he becomes closer to people (Lady Christian, Will Scott, and eventually his brother) that we begin to see beneath his glittering, casually-malicious facade. As a result, the reader (this reader, at least) grows into a more gradual, but much deeper and well-rounded, understanding of the character than if he'd been superficially likeable from the start.
Accomplished and utterly compelling historical fiction, which kept me guessing right to the end. Throughly recommended.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A complex, rewarding read, 29 Mar. 2008
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I read this book on the recommendation of a friend and had no real idea what to expect. After the first few pages I felt quite bewildered, rather like the only player in a game who has not fully understood the rules. The action moves at a tremendous pace and Dunnett gives no quarter to those who have no knowledge of the history and politics of 16th-century Scotland. But even if you are a little confused, stick with it - it all comes together beautifully. And please read it slowly and carefully. I didn't and that's partly where I went wrong to start with - I always read too fast and that's something you can't afford to do with this book with all its twists and turns. It is very well written and very well researched. I will definitely re-read The Game of Kings, because I enjoyed it immensely and because I know I will appreciate all that I missed first time around. (But before I do that I'm going to see if I can find a copy of Queen's Play!)
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant beginning to a brilliant series, 7 Jan. 2007
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Game Of Kings: The Lymond Chronicles (Paperback)
Shockingly I didn't discover Dunnett till about 10 years ago, but since them I have read both her huge series of books innumerable times and still return to them for the amazing story-telling, beautiful writing, and sheer compelling-ness of her charcters.

Francis Crawford of Lymond just has to be the ultimate literary hero: brilliant, flawed, haunted and haunting; I think he was the first written man I ever truly fell in love with and it's a relationship that hasn't palled.

But these are not 'romantic' novels in any kind of reductive Mills-and-Boon or Georgette Heyer way: they are incredibly robust, violent at times, and amazingly rewarding. As other reviewers have rightly said, DD never writes down to her readers, and if that means quoting lightly in Latin, medieval French or Arabic, then she goes right on ahead to do it, because that's the way the character would speak.

Not that these are over-intellectualised, 'novels of ideas' either - they are simply the most stunning evocation of 16th century Europe, brought to us with true charcters who walk off the pages and live their lives as they choose.

In 'Kings', Lymond returns to his home in Scotland, pursued by his bad reputation and an aura of evil. Called traitor, murderer and, potentially, fratricide, he plays out the game amongst the Scottish families closest to the throne of Mary of Guise and her young child, Mary Queen of Scots.

I don't want to give anything about the plot, because it is so intricate and every small comment fits in later, but just try it for yourself and I defy you not to be enthralled!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Francis Crawford of Lymond, 16C's James Bond?, 27 Jan. 2008
By 
Misfit (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Game of Kings (Paperback)
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.

Side note, the other two reviews for this book, giving it poor ratings are for the audio book and seem to be complaining about the quality of the audio, and not the book/author itself. I'm not quite sure why they show up here.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In a class of its own!, 21 Dec. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Game Of Kings: The Lymond Chronicles (Paperback)
After reading Dorothy Dunnett, it is difficult to content oneself with mere "historical fiction". The sheer range of historical knowledge and research is breathtaking. I would rate Francis Lymond as one of the great fictional heroes - Peter Whimsy in cloth of gold! The Lymond Chronicles unpeel like an onion, with the reader retracing his steps to discover new depths and truths in almost forgotten scenes. The only books I return to again and again for pure pleasure.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant series for an intelligent read, 22 May 2009
By 
S. Crispin (England) - See all my reviews
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If you want to learn more of 16th century people and places - Scotland, France, Malta ....., then this series of superbly written novels is for you. In particular the character of Francis Crawford of Lymond. A master tactician of supreme intelligence, he will make you fret and keep you guessing. It might be useful to understand that he is a young man at the start of Game of Kings but it is a very good idea never to probe further than the author allows you to go and never read the end of the book first. For us readers who are not as clever as Dorothy Dunnett there are two 'Companion' Books to help us with translating Lymond's frequent moments of French, Spanish or other language, in particular the quotes and some of the most beautiful poetry. I don't agree with another reader that you can get by without understanding at least some of the sentences or poems. In some cases they are critical to what is going on. This has a stupendous love story of heart breaking proportions in the final couple of books so you should read these books in the correct order, take your time and enjoy. These are books to cherish and return to time and again, when you will discover more at each read. Dunnett's writing of her hero Lymond takes him to the top alongside others such as Joffrey de Peyrac.
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The Game Of Kings: The Lymond Chronicles
The Game Of Kings: The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett (Paperback - 25 Feb. 1999)
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