The Ringed Castle (The Lymond Chronicles #5) by Dorothy Dunnett

‘Not to every young girl is it given to enter the harem of the Sultan of Turkey and return to her homeland a virgin.’

Sixteen-year-old Philippa Somerville, wife in name only to Francis Crawford of Lymond and Sevigny, returns to England. While awaiting a divorce from Lymond, she is keen to find answers to some of the mysteries about his past. Meanwhile, Lymond himself is in Russia, with Güzel. His mission? To help Tsar Ivan create a modern army.

Now an accomplished young lady, Philippa is summoned to the English Court, to serve as a lady in waiting to Queen Mary. She is surrounded by both friends, (a couple of whom would compete to marry her once she is freed from marriage to Lymond) and foes (including Margaret Lennox).

Lymond and his highly skilled band of mercenaries have their own challenges in Russia. Self-interested factions compete for Ivan’s attention in a volatile court. Lymond has no intention of returning to England but does so at the Tsar’s command.

Philippa’s investigations into Lymond’s past reveal mystery about his parentage. And, once he is in England and the Tsar’s envoy, he is bound to cross paths with Philippa.

This is the fifth instalment in the Lymond Chronicles. It is also where I started my Lymond journey after my failed attempt to read ‘Game of Kings’ in 1974. This novel caught and held my attention from beginning to end, especially the descriptions of the Russian Court and the Tsar we have come to know as Ivan the Terrible. I enjoyed the history, the drama, the wonderful descriptions of people and place. Once I finished ‘The Ringed Castle’, I went back to the beginning and read my way through the series. I am now on (I think) my third re-read of the series and still enjoying the journey.

Dorothy Dunnett remains my favourite historical novelist. I continue to enjoy (and to learn from) these novels.

Highly recommended.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith