Skip to Main Content (Press Enter)

Pawn in Frankincense Reader’s Guide

By Dorothy Dunnett

Pawn in Frankincense by Dorothy Dunnett


The questions, discussion topics, book descriptions, and author biography are designed to enhance your group’s reading and discussion of Dorothy Dunnett’s six bestselling novels in the Lymond Chronicles. We hope they will enrich your experience of these imaginative and adventuresome works of historical fiction.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. In Pawn in Frankincense Lymond searches the Mediterranean for the child of Oonagh O’Dwyer, using as his cover the delivery of a special “gift” from the king of France to Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. In Chapter Two we see the gift described (among other things) as “grisly . . . sickening . . . revolting.” What is the gift? How does it figure in the plot? Does it also serve as a symbolic representation of Lymond himself?

2. This is in some ways the most exotic of the six novels, giving us silkworms, giraffes and leopards, opium, pearls, and “qahveh” (coffee), Algiers, Thessalonika, and Stamboul. What is the novel’s general attitude toward the East? For what covert purposes does the mysterious Kiaya Khátún engineer Philippa’s journey through Greece and into Topkapi? What are the equally mysterious Marthe’s covert purposes in her journey? In what sense, or senses, is the exotic but certainly Western-born Marthe “at home” in the East?

3. Lymond and Gabriel have been opposing “knights”: how does it amplify, complete, or even critique their long contention to see them also as chess masters in the novel’s climactic human chess game? What are the implications of Lymond’s tragic last move? How does this moment recall some of the Dame de Doubtance’s statements and prophecies to Lymond in Chapter Two? 

Back to Top