The Ringed Castle, Lymond Book 5

I have just finished the fifth Lymond book by Dorothy Dunnett. I don’t know whether this makes it a good or a bad time to write about it, as it is still rattling rather noisily around inside my head. Perhaps I should let it settle a bit and write a proper review, but I don’t know.

Ivan IV of Russia ("Ivan the Terrible&quo...

Ivan IV of Russia (“Ivan the Terrible”) demonstrates his treasures to the ambassador of Queen Elizabeth I of England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This installment in the saga is set largely between the courts of Ivan the Terrible in Moscow and Bloody Mary in London, which should give you some idea of the turbulence of the era just from the monarchs’ nicknames. Lymond, recovered from the ravages of events in Pawn in Frankincense, has travelled to Moscow with Güzel, or Kiaya Khátún, as his mistress, become the Voevoda Bolshoia, the Tsar’s chief general, and is attempting against the odds to create a stable army in Russia with his merceneries from St Mary’s. Meanwhile Phillipa Somerville is now a lady in waiting at court in London, with equally treacherous political waters to navigate. I found the balance of familiarity with the Tudor court and complete ignorance of Russian history quite satisfying as it meant that things were not quite as bewildering as they have been in some of the books but I also learnt something new.

Lymond himself is at his least sympathetic for most of the book. He has cut himself off from his family and sworn never to return to Scotland, retreated into cold formality with his men and seems determined to alienate everyone around him. Meanwhile Philippa seems equally determined to become involved in his family affairs, stirring up passions and old wounds possibly better left alone. Or are they? Philippa believes that the past should be faced and modern psychology would probably agree with her. The questions of parentage are of paramount importance in that world and that time so is Lymond cutting himself off from his family because of the taint of illegitimacy or in reponse to events? A little of both, probably. Mixed with a prophecy hanging over him. And he certainly seems drawn to Russia for reasons of more than just money and power. There is the chance for a new start for himself and to be in on the birth of a great nation, a place in history. His relationship with Philippa is growing in an intriguing way too. She seems to see more depths within him than anyone else, and he is starting to take her seriously, to admire her for her own sake rather than just seeing her as a nuisance or appreciating her as Kate and Gideon’s daughter.

There’s an awful lot to wrap up in the next, final book. Where have Marthe and Jerrott got to? What will become of Kazúm? How will things stand between Philippa and Lymond at the end of it? I want to know, I’ve got the next book ready. Unfortunately, I also have a huge pile of other things that need reading too. I may have to enjoy the suspense a little longer.

About forwardtranslations

I'm a freelance literary translator from German and French to English. The title of my blog comes from Mary Schmich's description of reading: it struck home with me, and seems especially apt for translated fiction. Here are some of my musings on what I'm reading, re-reading, reading to my children, and translating.
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6 Responses to The Ringed Castle, Lymond Book 5

  1. Palma says:

    I really envy you that you still have Checkmate to read for the first time, you have a real treat in store! Dorothy Dunnett wraps everything up beautifully – if I were you, I’d put everything else on hold and read it NOW!

  2. Michael Brain says:

    The ‘song of baida’ was reprised by The Edinburgh Renaissance band at a DD gathering in the 1990’s, did you like slata baba, and have you had the chance to use the word YUNITSA on a russian girl?

  3. Pingback: The Disorderly Knights – Lymond, Part Three | a discount ticket to everywhere

  4. Pingback: Pawn in Frankincense (Lymond, Book 4) | a discount ticket to everywhere

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