Review: Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

Since it may take me awhile to post reviews of the most current HF novels, I will reach back to my reading diary from 2001-forward and post some of the highlights.

Today, I will tackle Dorothy Dunnett’s Game of Kings:

(From 2001) It took three tries and two years to plow my way through this monster of a book. I persevered because I believe one is not fully rounded in the historical fiction genre without having read at least one of Dunnett’s works–she is said to be the master of the genre and quite brilliant.

I did not enjoy this book, however.

First of all, I personally disliked the writing style: dry, unemotional, filled with archaic words and foreign phrases. Even with a dictionary by my side, I would say that I missed at least forty percent of the storyline.

Secondly, I felt that the reader is never properly introduced to the characters, rather the characters are thrust directly, forcefully, and without subtlety, into the reader’s view. It is, therefore, difficult to connect with them and to care about their fate, unlike the characters portrayed in Sharon Kay Penman’s books, with whom the reader is intimately involved from start to finish.

The plot was overly political and too lacking in sufficient character development for my taste–simply not the type of story I am normally drawn to; however, I did find redeeming features: a few breathtaking rescues, a brief enjoyable interplay between brothers near the conclusion of the novel, where the reader is offered a miniscule glimpse into depth of the relationship, as well as an intriguing duel scene.

I consider myself to be fairly well educated and intelligent, and overall, I felt insulted and offended by the pretentiousness displayed here. An a fit of anger and frustration, I told myself that this novel was the essence of academic snobbery. I’ve mellowed quite a bit since then, and have concluded  that Game of Kings was a worthwhile, if painful, read, and I am proud that I managed to complete this monster, for I proved to myself that I still have the patience necessary to read difficult, time-consuming pieces of literature.

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