Thursday, November 18, 2010

THURSDAY- GOLDEN OLDIES: The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

"Lymond is back."
It was known soon after the Sea-Catte reached Scotland from Campvere with an illicit cargo and a man she should not have carried.


Thus opens The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett. I read those words years ago, and was lured across the threshold of one of the greatest reading adventures I’ve ever had. After a few thousand pages, innumerable battles, a couple of continents, and several fictional years, I reached what I still consider to be the most—the most—romantic moment in literature. I still smile to remember it. Sigh.

(Any Dunnett fans out there? Can anyone guess the scene I’m thinking of? Or alternatively, what do you consider to be the most romantic scene you’ve ever read?)

Anyway, to reach the moment, you have to be willing to invest in the Lymond Chronicles series- a worthwhile investment for historical fiction lovers. Dorothy Dunnett is not an easy read. Her protagonist is brilliant and likes to show off his learning. It’s hard to keep up. The plot twists and turns are not always entirely plausible, but everything moves so fast, there’s no time for doubt.

The first book in the series begins in 1547 Scotland, a country threatened by England most immediately and by political machinations just about everywhere else. No one can be trusted. Even inside Scotland traitors abound. One of these (the man who should not be back in Scotland) is Francis Crawford Lymond. He is back to redeem his reputation, but goes about it in a way that seems designed to condemn himself further. He will either be the savior of his country or help bring about its ruin. Even those closest to him doubt his intentions. But as we watch Lymond at work, the reader can’t help but root for a man of such savage cleverness. A man who pretends so hard not to care must care a great deal.

This book, this series, is not to be missed.