Queens’ Play by Dorothy Dunnett- Book review and Discussion

I always forget how much I enjoy reading Queens’ Play, the second book in the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett. Lymond infiltrates King Henri’s French court to protect the Queen Mary of Scots.

#DorothyDunett # Book review

Genre :Historical Fiction

Series : The Lymond Chronicles ( review here)

image form Amazon


“It was one of the occasions when Lymond asleep wrecked the peace of mind of more people than Lymond awake.”

― Dorothy Dunnett, Queens’ Play

The second book in Lymond Chronicles follows the Game of Kings where Lymond has been redeemed. Mary of Guise wants his remarkable mind to work for her and would do anything to have him commit to her cause. Lymond agrees to spy for her in the French court but on his own unique terms and discovers that the Young Queen Mary of Scots life is in danger. Lymond takes on another identity to infiltrate the French court but finds his life in peril from the start yet still charms his way into the inner circle and the bedrooms of the women ( and possibly men) of the Royal Court.

This is an easier read than the Game of Kings but still has a complex plot where Dunnett seamlessly mixes historical figures with fictional ones. I love looking into these historical figures to see if their lives were truly as complicated as the ones Dunnett has given them.

Dunnett’s prose and description bring the action scenes to life, for example, the exhilarating nighttime rooftop scavenger race.


Lymond remains the complicated, mysterious, Macheivillian, a flawed and intensely frustrating hero from the Game of Kings but he grows into the leader he was meant to be by the end of the book but not without personal cost to himself. Dunnett can bring the most mundane scenes to life, infusing Lymond with a sensuality that I rarely see with male characters. We still learn about Lymond through the eyes of the men and women around him who love and want to kill him, but in this book, we get a few brief glimpses from his point of view.

People obsessed with Lymond:

A common thread through the Lymond Chronicles is the men and women who become obsessed with Lymond either romantically, through friendship and sometimes through hate. Francis arouses strong feelings in the men and women around him but he realises the devasting effect his charisma can have on the people who fall for him.

Robin Stewart falls for Lymond’s larger than life personality in the French court and also to some degree Mary of Guise, who must have Lymond on her side.

 The Women in Queens’ Play

As always, Dunnett creates strong female characters that stay true to the limitations of the times they live. My favourite is Margaret Eskine, who describes herself as always sitting by the hearth but is always there when needed by Lymond.

Oonagh, the nominal love interest is passionate in her beliefs and calling but I found it hard to warm to her.

Ongoing arc

Lymond’s age remains unknown but there are hints to relevant youth with Richard calling him just a boy and Oonagh describing him as ten years younger than her.

The Lymond Health count

While I was reading this I was struck at how much damage Dunnett inflicts on her hero and thought it would be interesting to log this by each book. ( How is he still standing!)

In this book Lymond, almost drowns, sustains injury dealing with runaway elephants! survives a near-fatal poisoning with belladonna, sustains serious arm and leg injury, severe cuts to the hand

In the Game of Kings, he sustains a head injury and knife injury to the shoulders.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to dip their toes into this amazing series rather than The Game of Kings

2 thoughts on “Queens’ Play by Dorothy Dunnett- Book review and Discussion

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