The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

The Game of Kings cover

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett was first published in 1962 and it appears in the 100 Top Scottish Books. It’s the first book in a series of six which are described by many as historical romance but I would say that romance keeps a fairly low profile, which is fine by me.

It took me about five days to read this book and it isn’t really one for bedtime reading, you have to concentrate on the storyline which has plenty of twists and turns. Quite early on I thought to myself that Dunnett’s writing reminded me of Sir Walter Scott, very wordy and convoluted. Then it dawned on me that she was writing about Scott’s ancestors, he was apparently very proud of his Border riever antecedents and Will Scott and his father Wat (Walter) feature quite a lot in this book.

The Scottish Border country in the past has been notorious for violence and double dealing, with the land constantly being fought over and changing hands from Scots to English. The upshot of all that is the people living in the Border country tended to be on neither side, except their own, so the Border families were well known for being on neither side and just looking out for themselves.

The year is 1547, it’s a time which is known as The Rough Wooing when Henry VIII was determined to arrange a marriage between his son Edward and the child Mary Queen of Scots and prevent her from marrying the French dauphin and thus forming an alliance with France.

It’s a time of intrigue and Francis Crawford of Lymond is back in Scotland after having been a galley slave on a French boat. He’s still an outlaw in Scotland as the evidence against him points to him being a traitor to his own country. He’s an awkward character and in some ways his own worst enemy but he has great charisma.

I really enjoyed The Game of Kings and I’ll definitely be reading the other books in the series. I especially like books which have a local setting for me and just about every place that was mentioned is known to me, with Dumbarton, especially, being mentioned a lot and that is of course the town I grew up in. I just had to imagine places as they would have been about 500 years ago, very easy when it’s places like Stirling, Linlithgow and Haddington.

8 thoughts on “The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

  1. Katrina,
    This one sounds fascinating. And yes, I wholeheartedly agree, that books that have a setting in our cherished “neighborhoods” resonate deeply. I think that’s an important part of the enjoyment. Sometimes we crave books that are set in climes so foreign to our own, but at other times, those that are close to us claim us, too.

    • Judith,
      I agree, I suppose it just depends on my mood. Sometimes I just love to be able to walk along the streets or places mentioned in books, in my mind. At other times I’m happy to be taken off to a completely different place to soak up an exotic (to me) atmosphere. I used to avoid books set in a hot climate – as I can’t stand heat, but I’ve got over that now.

  2. I picked this up at a thrift store last week. Your review makes me even more eager to read it.

    I would love to visit your part of the world. The photographs you post sometimes of your area are just beautiful.

    • Jennifer,
      I hope you enjoy it when you get around to reading it. It took me a while to get into it but it’s worth persevering with.

      I’m glad you enjoy the photos. I should have plenty more on soon as we’ll be doing more travelling around now that the weather is warming up.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  3. I am glad to hear that you enjoyed this! Lymond is such a fascinating character, and I have never read anything so intensely as I read the Chronicles (three times in the first year). Large parts of the Niccolo series are set in Scotland, and of course there’s the “Macbeth” book, King Hereafter – such a beautiful book.

    I’ve also enjoyed her husband Alastair Dunnett’s books, though I haven’t tried his mysteries yet.

    • Lisa,
      I’m really kicking myself for not buying the rest of the series when I bought this one, they had obviously been handed in to a charity bookshop from someone’s cherished collection. I have a lot of catching up to do, I’ll have to look out for Alastair’s books too.

  4. I’m so pleased you enjoyed this book, Katrina. I read all six of the Lymond Chronicles one after the other a few years ago (and then the Niccolo series shortly after) and it was a great experience. Not all of the books are set in Scotland but there is still a strong Scottish theme running right through both series. I’ll look forward to hearing what you think of the second Lymond book when you get a chance to read it. 🙂

    • Helen,
      I’m going to some second-hand bookshops tomorrow, so fingers crossed I can get some more of her books. Can you believe that they have they only have them in ‘Reserve Stock’ in Fife libraries, and they are all unavailable at the moment due to building work they are doing in Dunfermline?!

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *