Checkmate (The Lymond Chronicles #6) by Dorothy Dunnett

‘What the celebration at the castle had been, Austin Grey never discovered.’

1547 finds Francis Crawford of Lymond back in France. He wants to return to Russia but has been promised an annulment of his marriage to Philippa Somerville if he serves King Henri for a period of twelve months. And so, we find Lymond leading the French, against the Spanish and against the English at Calais. Philippa is also in France, serving Mary Queen of Scots. But in her spare time, she is investigating Lymond and Marthe’s parentage.

Others are also interested in Lymond’s parentage, including Margaret Lennox, and the utterly despicable man who holds the information is likely to sell it to the highest bidder.

This, the finale to the Lymond Chronicles, takes readers on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Philippa, no longer a child, is a fitting partner for Lymond but almost everything and everyone is intent on separating them. Lymond’s health suffers under the immense strain, and both Sybilla and Richard are in danger. I cannot write more without introducing spoilers.

Dorothy Dunnett wove her novels around the history of the period: the wars between France and Spain, the alliance between France and Scotland, the changing politics in England. I finish the novel, satisfied, but imagining life beyond the pages for my favourite characters.

If you enjoy well written historical fiction and you have not yet read Dorothy Dunnett’s six-book Lymond Chronicles, you are in for a treat. But do read them in order. I have read this series three or four times in the past thirty-five years, and I am sure I will read it again.

‘We have reached the open sea, with some charts; and the firmament.’

Jennifer Cameron-Smith