This afternoon, I indulged in some fun reading. It’s been a hard week, the weather is nice, and I just started rereading my favorite book of all time: The Game of Kings. It was a perfect recipe for an afternoon of leisure.
The Game of Kings, if you haven’t heard about it, is written by Edinburgh native Dorothy Dunnett. I was introduced to it in my mid teens and have read it faithfully once a year ever since. It is the first in a series of six, but I like it better than the subsequent novels.
The book takes place in sixteenth century Scotland during the time of Mary de Guise, mother of the more famous Mary, Queen of Scots. It is a time of conflict and immensely complicated political games.
But the main character is fictitious.
He is also, in my humble opinion, the most awesome person who ever lived in the pages of a novel. Combine the Scarlet Pimpernel, Robin Hood, and awesomeness incarnate and you will have Francis Crawford of Lymond – younger son of a Scottish house, exiled as a traitor, returned to reclaim his good name.
I have always loved this book, but when I started my annual reading of it this past week, I found a new reason to love it: because I’m here in Scotland. I am walking where Lymond walked.
How pathetic am I for being so utterly thrilled by this experience?
When the book opens, it begins with a description of Lymond’s return to Edinburgh with references to the castle and Holyrood Palace and a sense of impending danger as the English approach.
Today, I walked up to Edinburgh castle to read another chapter of my book. Reading the book in that place where so much of its real history has taken place is fantastic enough. But then being able to look over the city from the walls and think, Lymond was here makes it just that much better.
Yes, I know he is fictional, but when I read that book, he becomes quite, quite real. And now I’m here in his country. Does it get any better?
A word of warning: I don’t tend to recommend this book to people because it is the sort of book that only rewards the very, very, very patient reader. And even then, it might not be your cup of tea. It is, I think, a book that improves upon acquaintance. The first reading is dedicated to simply understanding the complex, character-loaded, multi-part story. When you come back to it for a second (and a third, and a fourth, and a fifth…) time, you can more fully savor the brilliance, detail, and wit of the author and her masterful creation.