It is two years since the close of The Game of Kings and someone is planning the murder of young Mary Queen of Scots, and Mary of Guise summons Francis Crawford of Lymond to France to stop the murderous plot. Francis comes in disguise as a member of the entourage of a Prince of Ireland, and the game is on. Thady Boy Ballagh nee’ Lymond charms the decadent French court with his wit, sarcasm and music as Dunnett slowly unpeels the layers of her tale with plot twists and surprise turns around every corner. No one is what they appears to be at first glance, even Francis. Is Thady Boy really a drunken sot or is someone trying to poison him? Someone is trying to kill O’LiamRoe but is it because they think he is Lymond in disguise? Does the young Archer Robin Stewart who befriends Thady Boy have another motive than friendship?
While the book is slow at times, this story unfolds amidst the decadence of the French Court, it’s hard drinking, partying courtiers, scheming noblemen, a race atop the roofs and steeples of Paris (brilliant!!), and ending in a nail biting finish as the plot to murder Mary comes full circle and Francis’ efforts to save Mary include some members of the King’s menagerie — a couple of elephants, a roaring lion and even the chimpanzees get in the act.
Throughout, Francis Crawford is a fascinating hero, and is as suave, debonair, flawed and fascinating as only a 16th Century version of James Bond could be. This is a complicated tale, and one that a reader has to pay close attention to, if you let your mind wander you may have to back track occasionally as I did. However, if you enjoy a complicated, action packed, surprise around every corner type of novel ala Dumas, you will probably find this series to be right up your alley. Five stars and now on to book #3 The Disorderly Knights.