5.0 out of 5 stars 

“Not to every young girl is it given to enter the harem of the Sultan of Turkey and return to her homeland a virgin.”

Now that’s what I call an attention getting opening! The Ringed Castle begins book #5 in the series as Philippa returns home to England a very self assured young woman and Francis has hitched his wagon to the mysterious Guzel and heads to Russia to bring Tsar Ivan and his army out of the dark ages with the aid of Francis’ highly trained mercenary corps.

As Francis treads the treacherous waters of the Russian court and political intrigues, there is a traitor amongst his troop who has been hired to kill him. At the same time, Philippa is called to court to serve as lady in waiting to Mary Tudor and the delightfully evil Countess Margaret Lennox continues her intrigues against Francis and Philippa. Eventually Francis is ordered by the Tsar to leave Russia, and after a harrowing sail through the dangerous waters of the northern seas Francis comes to London as part of Russia’s trade embassy. There he is reunited with his wife, Philippa, who has stumbled across a long hidden mystery regarding Francis’ paternity.

As with the first four books in the series, 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. While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I didn’t find it as fast paced as the previous four, particularly the time spent in Russia, although necessary to set up the rest of the story. What I very much enjoyed was the maturation of Philippa and she has become the perfect foil for Lymond, she matched word for word in all their verbal battles and was the highlight of the book. I am dying to read the last book in the series, Checkmate: Sixth in the Legendary Lymond Chronicles and anxiously await the answers to just who fathered Francis Crawford of Lymond. Five stars.