The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett

The Disorderly Knights is the third of Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. In this instalment, Francis Crawford of Lymond goes to Malta to help the Knights Hospitallers of St John protect the island from invasion. It soon becomes obvious that not only is Malta under threat from the Turks, but the Order of St John itself is in danger of being torn apart by feuding factions among the knights. And as the action moves first to Tripoli and then back home to Scotland Lymond himself becomes entangled in the schemes of a very clever and subtle enemy.

I loved the first two books in this series, The Game of Kings and Queens’ Play, but this one is my favourite so far. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so completely immersed in a book – I had to tear myself away from it to go to work or to sleep and still couldn’t stop thinking about the story or the characters even when I wasn’t reading.

As with the first two books I found I had to keep turning back to remind myself of what had happened in earlier sections and was constantly changing my mind about what I thought was going on. Although I knew who the villain was (even if most of the characters in the book didn’t) I wasn’t sure what his motives were, what he was hoping to achieve or how long ago he had started to put his plans into motion, so there was still plenty of mystery to keep me guessing throughout the story.

I have never read anything set in either Malta or Tripoli, but both locations were brought to life for me through the vivid descriptions we were given. After I’d finished the book I looked up some of the historical events covered in the story such as the Siege of Tripoli and I was so impressed at how cleverly Dorothy Dunnett had woven fact and fiction together. The same applies to some of the novel’s later events set in Scotland – the feud between the Scotts and the Kerrs, for example, and even the deaths of some of the characters.

This was such an emotional book too – there were various points in the story where my blood was boiling, my heart was pounding or I had tears in my eyes – yet I think the fact that it caused such strong emotions proves what a powerful book this was. And I appreciated the moments of humour that the author injected into what would otherwise have been a very dark story. The scene with the eight hundred sheep was one of my favourites!

I couldn’t put this book down throughout the last 100 pages and was so glad I had Pawn in Frankincense ready to pick up as soon as I finished! You can expect to see my thoughts on that one soon.

9 thoughts on “The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett

  1. Lisa says:

    Yes, one book does lead irresistably to the next, doesn’t it? And Pawn features my two favorite characters after Lymond, Archie & Philippa. I’m already looking forward to your review.

    • Helen says:

      I’m nearly halfway through Pawn now and I’m enjoying the parts of the book with Philippa and Archie. I think they could turn out to be two of my favourites too.

  2. aartichapati says:

    Ooh, I hope you read Pawn soon so that you can read The Ringed Castle soon after that and finally get to the “anvil moment” that so many of us hold dear and read over and over again 🙂

    These reviews are making me want to reread the series. I admit that the first time, I read them so quickly that I often had very little idea what was going on in the plot, but just wanted to get through and see what would happen next. Now I also own the Dorothy Dunnett Companions (there are two volumes), so I think if I went through them again, it would be at a more leisurely pace with the companions alongside.

    • Helen says:

      You’ve got me intrigued now…I’ll have to start reading faster so I can find out what moment you’re referring to!

      I know I’ve been missing a lot of things too, so I’ll probably buy the Companions eventually and read the series again.

    • Alex says:

      Aarti, we should organize a join re-reading at some point, like a year-long project. I also keep thinking about going back to them at some point!

  3. Greylin says:

    I’ve been following your progress with the Lymond Chronicles and I can’t tell you how exciting it is to read your reviews and hear about your reactions – almost as good as reading them myself for the first time. I hope you’re enjoying Pawn in Frankincense. Are you sleeping?

  4. Alex says:

    This is also one of my favorites (nothing like a couple of worthy villains to spice things up!).

    That feeling you describe of your mind keeping coming back to the books, you’ll have it for a long time after finishing the series.

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