Dunnett, Dorothy. Checkmate. New York: Vintage Books, 1975.
Reason read: I started the Lymond Chronicles in August to celebrate Dorothy Dunnett’s birth month.
If you have been keeping track, by the end of The Ringed Castle Francis Crawford of Lymond had returned to Scotland from Russia and it had been revealed he might have killed his own son. Also at the end of Ringed Castle Lymond was trying to return to Russia while still married to Philippa, but by the end of Ringed Castle it was obvious (at least to me) the relationship between them was changing. There were even hints of romance blossoming for Philippa. Maybe that was a spoiler alert for Checkmate?
Anyway, when we begin Checkmate the year is 1557. Francis Crawford of Lymond is back in France, now as the M. comte de Sevigny, leading an army against England. Despite his best efforts to divorce Philippa, their marriage continues to used as political leverage and controls his inability to return to Russia. He is ordered to fight for the French for one year before his marriage can be annulled. Imagine if we lived in that kind of society today! Philippa’s feelings for her husband continue to evolve slowly as she is still insistent on learning the truth of his parentage and lineage. It’s this dark secret that introduces the character of astrologer (“yon pisse-pot prophet”) Nostradamus to the plot. Note: Each chapter starts with a prophesy of Nostradamus in old French. It isn’t necessary to have them translated to enjoy the story. Because this is the last book in the series, Dunnett tries to put a bow on the conclusion to Checkmate. I don’t think it is giving too much away to say that one can leave the Lymond series feeling good about Francis’s future.
One detail that carried through the Lymond series was the issue of Francis’s come and go headaches and resulting blindness. I never could wrap my brain around the real cause of these debilitating migraines, especially when his mother says he doesn’t “need” them anymore.
Quotes I liked, “But the days are evil: iniquity aboundeth, and charity waxeth cold” (p 146), “The session ended when Mr. Pigault, full of his own beer, slid comfortably under the table” (p 153), and “Realization drew from him the power of movement” (p 158).
Author fact: Dunnett is also the author of the House of Niccolo series, also on my Challenge list; probably to be started a year from this August.
Book trivia: This is the sixth and final book in the Lymond Chronicles. I have to admit, I will miss Francis!
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter “Digging Up the Past Through History” (p 80).