yati: An open book lying on a green grassy field. (grasp the horizons)
I've never been much of a reader of historical fiction. Most of the problem came from the fact that I didn't have much grounding in world history; it seemed like my education began with the ancient civilisations and skipped straight to World War II. (Well, the Renaissance was in there somewhere, I vaguely recall the pictures in the textbooks, but it went by very fast and didn't grab me much.)

Then came Dorothy Dunnett. I read her Lymond Chronicles and loved the books, and The Game of Kings, the first book in the series, is one of my favourite books ever. But that story (or the retelling of it) is for another time.

I started her House of Niccolò series this year. The series is a prequel to the Lymond Chronicles, following the adventures of one Nicholas de Fleury, an ancestor of Lymond in mid-fifteenth century Europe, who started as a lowly apprentice and rose to become a merchant trusted by kings. I spent almost ten months, on and off, reading these books. )

What can I say? The lady was a magnificent writer.

Below are some thoughts about the series, and some knee-jerk reactions especially to the last book, Gemini, since it's fresh in mind and I am somewhat boggled about a number of things. They are not in any particular sequence. None of them are very coherent.

spoilers for both House of Niccolò and the Lymond Chronicles )
yati: Ichigo, Ishida, Orihime, Chad and Yoruichi from the Bleach manga, looking exaggeratedly shocked. (we have no words)
I think I'm having an allergic reaction to the book I'm reading.

No, seriously. I got it from a used book store and it's dusty and looks slightly icky and if the microwave still worked I would've considered putting it in to kill germs and stuff, but it isn't so I can't, so now I am stuck reading a slightly icky looking book. I started sneezing the moment I started reading it -- you would've thought that the dust of centuries were upon it.

Now I have a sore throat and an itchy nose.

Dangerous hobby, reading. Who knew.

(For the curious, the book is Caprice and Rondo by Dorothy Dunnett, in which I spend a lot of time feeling like I'd like to throttle the main character, despite him being fascinating and clever and all. I have been doing this for six books, people! Someone should come join me.)
yati: (new journey)
I am tempted to just keyboard smash instead of trying to say anything coherent about this book.

The Game of Kings is the first book in a six-book series, collectively known as The Lymond Chronicles. The first book is set in 1540s Scotland, a time period and place that I'm not familiar with, along with actual historical figures that are, at most, terribly vague to my memory. Mary Queen of Scots is a four-year-old child, and tensions are high between Scotland and England.

Let's get these two facts straight: I love this book, and I love the whole series. How accessible it is to everyone, I have no idea. Most (all?) of my attempts at recommending this book have fallen flat, and I don't blame anyone who gives up after the first few pages (though I have to restrain myself from begging them to try again, ha). I started the book some time in mid-January and only finished it at the end of February and probably gave up about four or five times myself before I actually got past that first chapter.

That doesn't sound like a glowing recommendation, does it? Somehow I feel obligated to warn people before they start this book -- like I said in a comment to [livejournal.com profile] bottle_of_shine earlier, most people are used to me recommending YA and SF/F titles, and this is nothing like I've recced before, I guess. (I can't name the last book I read that was set in a similar time period. In fact, I don't think I've ever read anything set in a similar time period. I can't recall what prompted me to start the series in the first place. It must have been a rec, but I can't remember who it was from.) And Dorothy Dunnett certainly doesn't coddle her readers -- this book was hard. The prose is dense, but it's not dense just for the sake of it; there's a point for giving all that information. You want a challenging read -- here, have this book. Background information from the author is almost non-existent, and when she gives it, she gives it in trickles, and there are quotes in Latin and French scattered all around, and there are literary references everywhere. I wondered if I was supposed to get any of these -- my French is poor and my knowledge of the Classics pretty much amounted to nothing, but I plunged on, and somewhere around page 100 I realised that it didn't matter -- I was enjoying the book way too much to worry about all that and the rest of the book practically flew by.

So I guess my advice is this: if you start this book (why not? it's AWESOME), please try to get to the end of Part One, VI: Forced Move for a Minor Piece. If you're not hooked yet, I forgive you for abandoning the book, XD.

asdkkhkl;k I don't know how else to describe this book. I love it and feel like tearing my hair out in frustration at the same time. Francis Crawford of Lymond, Master of Culter, is possibly the most interesting character in fiction ever, historical or not. He's not real, by the way. When I first started the book I couldn't even tell who the author was talking about. She -- and the rest of the cast -- calls him Lymond, or the Master, or Crawford of Lymond, or someone at some instance will call him Mr Crawford, though rarely would anyone call him Francis. It made my head ache when I realised that when people were talking about "Lord Culter" they were actually talking about Lymond's elder brother Richard, who's the third Baron Culter. (God help the English and the Scots and whoever else and their peerage system. I don't think I'll ever get it straight.) And everyone seems to have multiple titles, and I ended up scratching my head trying to sort them out.

But never mind that. Back to Lymond. Here's your anti-hero if you ever wanted one. For one thing, he's an outlaw. Even his mother says so. (His mother is one formidable lady.) His constant efforts to antagonise his brother Richard makes you wonder if he's quite sane. But still. The intelligence! The good looks! The incessant witty banter! Well, most times it's just Lymond being witty with the other party sort of just gaping at him in horror because he's Lymond. You never quite know what Lymond wants -- he covers everything with sarcasm and his sharp wit and his damnable quotes.

And there are other characters, many of them. And they are real, fully realised characters: the fictional ones, the historical figures. Everyone is praising on how historically accurate the books are, so I'll just believe that. Dunnett's descriptions are lavish, and her action sequences are top notch, and her dialogue just kills me at times. She's funny. The plot -- goodness. I don't even know how to go about with that -- I realised very late what Lymond was trying to accomplish, even if I didn't quite understand then why he refused to ask for help.

This is very good writing, people! But if I still can't convince you, here's what else the book has:

  • a lot of people quoting stuff, most times in languages I don't know, but don't let that get to you, since there is the Companion, if you insist on knowing!

  • a lot of words I don't know, but there's always the dictionary!

  • very eloquent characters!

  • historical references, especially those I don't get, but there's always Wikipedia!

  • shenanigans, sometimes involving stolen cattle and the Spanish!

  • impersonations!

  • surprisingly funny dialogue at appropriate times!

  • court intrigue!

  • sibling rivalries of the deadliest kinds: ie the type you go after your brother with a sword and swear you'd kill him! Most exciting.

I am also quite amazed that the book is being categorised at certain places as historical romance. There's history, of course, and there is some romance (very little, really, at this point), but some of the old covers sent me rolling with laughter. This one for example, from this page (beware of spoilers in the text in the second link), or this one posted at the LJ community (beware of spoilers in comments). Oh man. I wouldn't have been caught dead reading anything with those covers, so thank goodness for the new editions, XD.
yati: Sora from the Kingdom Hearts manga, wandering around looking lost with a keyblade in one hand. (are you sure this is the way?)
asdjflhfgkf;. Has anyone else read Dorothy Dunnett's The Lymond Chronicles? The first book is titled The Game of Kings, if it helps.

Reading the books is making me incoherent (in a good way! . . . I hope!) and I have no one to flail about helplessly at. Help?


yati: Flonne squishing Laharl (Disgaea) while waving one arm (Default)

September 2013


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