The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

The first half of this book was a slog.

Ostensibly in English the book is sprinkled with so much Latin, French, Spanish, Old English (“..And as the chekker schawis us yis forne…”) and 16th century Scottish colloquialisms (“I never saw so many weel-kent faces all in the one place; the most of them chowed off and in no state to give the sort of snash you get from half of them when they’re upright.”) that I started to wonder if I was fluent in any language, particularly English. It took awhile, a long while, before I caught the rhythm of the language enough that I didn’t have to re-read it, learned to skim the other languages for words I knew, and just keep moving through it.  By the time I had the language in hand I had pretty much learned all of the names of the important characters (everyone seems to have at least two) and their titles so I knew who was who and then…

And then the second half of the book flew by in a whirl of spying, dying and lying mixed with jokes (I thoroughly enjoyed the ones in English) and general sixteenth century drama.  And I didn’t want to put it down.

Would I recommend it? It is not a book for the faint of heart, a week ago I would have told you maybe not.  But now that I’ve made it through I’m thinking about getting the next one in the series… or re-reading the first half again.. or both.

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