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Posts Tagged ‘lymond’

The return of THE GAME OF KINGS

It’s no secret that I love Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles: a historical fiction series set in mid-sixteenth century Europe, starting off with English and Scottish politics, but eventually ranging farther afield to locations like France, the Ottoman Empire, and Russia. I blogged my way through a re-read of the first book, The Game of Kings, some years ago, inviting people who had read the whole series to join in on the analysis and enjoyment; I’ve written two articles for on her work, one a brief squee about a duel in that book, and one about what epic fantasy writers can learn from Dunnett. In Writing Fight Scenes I use the aforementioned duel as a case study in excellent craft. Dunnett, I often tell people, is the one writer who just makes me feel abjectly inferior about my own work: she’s just that good.

The problem is, finding her books has been easier said than done. The editions I have were published in the late ’90s, and they were getting increasingly difficult to acquire.

But sometimes it seems like you can’t throw a rock in publishing without hitting somebody who imprinted on this series hard. So recently I got an email from Anna Kaufman at Vintage Books, who is in charge of re-issuing the entire series in new editions, asking if I’d be interested in a copy of the first book, in exchange for helping spread the word that, hey, they’re coming out again with shiny new covers etc.


cover art for THE GAME OF KINGS by Dorothy Dunnett

So if you’ve ever heard these books recommended, or you read them years ago and don’t have copies but would like some, or you’ve owned them for long enough that pages are starting to fall out, I’m delighted to say that the entire series is out as of today. Six books of amazingly good historical fiction, with some of the most unforgettable characters and events and prose I’ve ever encountered. Dunnett’s writing is not always easy to get into — it takes a little while to get the hang of reading her work, since she has a habit of doing things like describing stuff around the key element in the scene and trusting that the penny will drop for the reader in due course — but it’s amazingly rewarding once you do. And I aspire to someday write both intrigue and interpersonal conflict as well as she does.

Niccolo vs. Lymond

As I said in my booklog post, I’ve now read the first book of the House of Niccolo series by Dorothy Dunnett, and it provoked interesting thoughts about how this series compares to the Lymond Chronicles. My thoughts are mildly spoilery for both books, so they’ll go behind a cut, although I don’t think I’ll be saying anything that’s a massive giveaway. (The comment thread, on the other hand, may give away more.)



(The following post talks about The Avengers on its way to the actual point, but does not give spoilers.)

Interestingly, one of the moments that has stayed with me the most strongly from The Avengers is the speech Loki flings at Black Widow.

He has other Villain Speeches in the movie, of course. But this one stands out for its sheer, unbridled malevolence. He doesn’t say those things out of megalomania or fraternal resentment or any other such understandable motivation; he says them because, quite simply, he wants to hurt her.

I’ve said before that I tend to write antagonists more often than villains. That is, I write characters who think they’re doing the right (or at least the necessary) thing, who happen to be wrong about that. There are exceptions, of course; Nadrett doesn’t give a damn what’s right, only what he can get away with. But I have a harder time writing that sort of thing.

Which means — of course — that I want to study how it’s done. So this is a Recommend Stuff to Me kind of post: what books/movies/TV shows/etc have those moments of pure malevolence, where the character is just trying to hurt somebody? Off the top of my head, there’s Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles (“Stop sidling, my swan. I am going to hurt you, but I am not going to kill you, just yet. You are going to provide me with a deal of merriment still.”), some of Angelus’ moments in Buffy, and pretty much everything the main villains do in Tokyo Babylon and X, but I’m having trouble thinking of more. (Actually, that’s a lie. I can think of plenty of sadistic villains. It’s just that most of them are sadistic in a shallow, uninteresting way, and I want ones that really manage to get the knife between the ribs.)

Where have you seen this done well?

Edited to add: Please to be avoiding spoilers as much as possible. This discussion will necessarily involve a degree of revelation, but if you can use phrases like “the main villain” instead of the name (where the villain is not obvious from the start), etc, that would be much appreciated.

funny line, followed by an update

At dinner tonight, following on a discussion of writers whose work is so densely packed with quotation and allusion that you sometimes feel hopelessly out of the loop:

“Dorothy Dunnett is the Quentin Tarantino of the sixteenth century.”

(And also possibly the fifteenth, but I still haven’t read the Niccolo books.)

Anyway, arkessian and skirmish_of_wit asked recently about the Lymond book-blogging. The answer is that I do intend to return to it, but at the moment that’s pending me setting up a separate WordPress blog for the project. See, the problem with an LJ filter is that you have to be on LJ to read the posts, but I also don’t want to intersperse the Lymond material with everything else I post here; I really feel it needs to be separate, so those who haven’t read the series are less tempted to horribly spoil it for themselves. And I want to experiment with WordPress anyway, so this seems like a good guinea-pig project. But that’s waiting on my webhost migrating to new hardware, ergo it will be a little while yet. Hang in there, though, and I’ll be sure to announce it when I start the project up again.

In the meantime, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, go read this post. And if you’ve both read the whole series and have an LJ account you’d like added to the filter so you can see the posts for The Game of Kings (the only book I’ve really blogged so far), please let me know.

Back on the horse.

Okay, so my previous attempt at book-blogging Queen’s Play failed miserably, helped along by the insanity that was 2008. But I’ve had the book on my desk for a few weeks now in an attempt to get started again, and a friend just tried to sic eclectician (aka “Stone Cold,” from his Assassin days) on me as motivation, so in the interests of not being murdered by a combat librarian, I’m officially announcing a new attempt.

For those of you with no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the original announcement, complete with link to my recommendation for the Lymond Chronicles. So far I’ve made it through the first book of the series; Queen’s Play is the second volume. (It’s also my least favorite, which is part of the reason for the stall. I have trouble remembering I liked it much better the second time I read it. If this were The Disorderly Knights, though, I would have blogged the whole thing a year ago, in record time.)

Anyway, if you or a friend of yours has read the whole series, drop me a line, and I’ll add you to the filter for the posts. Do NOT ask to be added if you haven’t read through the end of Checkmate; there are spoilers like whoa, both in my posts and in the comments, and I don’t want to ruin it for anybody. But otherwise, the more the merrier.

I guess I’ll have to entertain *myself*.

Dang it, Internets, you are suppose to entertain me, and you are failing. One thing I preferred about being on East Coast time: in the wee hours of my morning, the West Coast folks might still be updating their LJs. But alas, I’m sitting here on a Friday night with hardly anybody giving me anything to read.

Well, tonight was supposed to be a night of productivity anyway. And it has been: so far, I’ve gotten 1,007 words on the ongoing story. But I think we’ll need to have another work session tonight, because this story, y’see, it has already passed short story territory and is charging merrily through novelette on its way to a possible novella. (Which is part of last night’s whininess: I keep working on this damn thing and it isn’t done yet. Novellas: the worst of both worlds.) Anyway, while it isn’t absolutely critical that I finish it before the calendar page turns, I would like to, and that means it’s advisable to get through this damn scene tonight.

But first I need to figure out who the characters are going to talk to, and what he knows.

In my non-writing time, I’ve been entertaining myself while doing other downstairsy things by re-watching the first half of Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet. Quibble all you like with his interpretation; I will always love it for being full-length. And this re-watch has made me realize my favorite stretch is from the conclusion of the interior play to the moment Claudius sends Hamlet off to England. Why? Because that’s probably the densest stretch of Hamlet being a smart-ass in the entire play, and I do love him when he’s a smart-ass. I’ve thought for quite a while now that he’s probably one of the literary ancestors of Francis Crawford of Lymond.

Meh. I think it’s time to practice that time-honored writerly technique known as “flopping on the bed and staring at the ceiling until I can bludgeon my brain into working.” I have to get these characters to Coldharbour somehow.