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Queens’ Play Reader’s Guide

By Dorothy Dunnett

Queens' Play 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 some respects Queens’ Play is a sixteenth-century spy story, its hero a Scottish “mole” at the French court. How comfortable is Lymond as a state “operative”? Why is the state uncomfortable with him? Does he safely complete his mission, to save a child from an assassin? How does the tragic failure of his relationship with Robin Stewart qualify this?

2. Though Queens’ Play does not travel to Ireland, the politics and plight of that small, proud, conflicted nation are crucial to the novel. Why does Dorothy Dunnett choose to tell the story of Ireland largely through the figure of the emphatically anti-political Phelim O’Liam Roe? What qualities of ancient Ireland, sixteenth-century Ireland, perhaps even contemporary Ireland, does O’Liam Roe display?

3. In an important scene toward the end of the novel, Lymond attempts to “show the French court to itself in a new light: not as his companions, his victims, in some deliberate essay in decadence, but as ministers to his art.” Is this a ruse or is it true to some extent? Is Lymond just “using” his art or is he a true artist? 

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