Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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*****= An all-time favorite
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****The Game of Kings

by Dorothy Dunnett

Reviewed September 13, 2005.
Vintage Books (Random House), New York, 1997.  First published in 1961.

A big thank you to some of my brothers for giving this book to me for Christmas a couple of years ago, with high recommendations from more siblings.

The Game of Kings is a historical novel set in a Scotland struggling against England, when Mary, Queen of Scots, was only four years old.  The book begins with the news that Lymond is back—Francis Crawford of Lymond.  He is a wanted man for something that happened years ago, and now most believe that he is working for the English against Scotland.  But perhaps he is not what he seems.  He has a loyal band of men, and they seem to be troubling the English.  But why is he looking for one man in particular?

This book includes swashbuckling and swordplay, as well as acts of cleverness and daring.  It’s a long book, and I didn’t want to get bogged down on one book for weeks at a time, so I made the mistake of reading it slowly.  This was a mistake, because with all the historical details, and all the different characters, I lost track of who was who and what was going on.  Alas!  I didn’t notice until I had almost reached the end that there was a handy list of characters at the front of the book which would have told me who the Scots were and who the English were.

However, as I continued on, I got more and more involved in the story and understood better what was at stake.  Peppered with untranslated quotations in numerous foreign languages (showing Lymond’s amazing breadth of knowledge), and including many historical details, this book is not light reading.  It is, however, masterfully crafted.  We wonder all the way to the end how Lymond could possibly be innocent of the charges against him, and, if so, how he could possibly be cleared.

My brother Jeff enclosed a note with this book:  “Assuming you’re fluent in German—and also French, Latin, Italian, and Spanish—this book will be slightly over your head.  Oh well, it’s fun anyway.”  Jeff sums it up well!

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund. All rights reserved.

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