The Disorderly Knights

The Disorderly Knights

The third volume in The Lymond Chronicles, the highly renowned series of historical novels by Dorothy Dunnett, Disorderly Knights takes place in 1551, when Francis Crawford of Lymond is dispatched to embattled Malta, to assist the Knights of Hospitallers in defending the island against the Turks. But shortly the swordsman and scholar discovers that the greatest threat to t...

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Title:The Disorderly Knights
Author:Dorothy Dunnett
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Edition Language:English

The Disorderly Knights Reviews

  • Sandra

    Oh my god! What a book! There's only one problem! Now I've gotta read Pawn in Frankincense! And I'm already dreading it all being over!

    Dunnett spins a wonderful, intricate, suspenseful plot. Sometimes she makes me laugh, sometimes she makes me look up words, but always she entertains me. What rewards a little work can bring. :)

    This series has made me fall in love with the characters over time. The depth of character building is phenomenal. The plotting is sine qua non. The world building is impe

    Oh my god! What a book! There's only one problem! Now I've gotta read Pawn in Frankincense! And I'm already dreading it all being over!

    Dunnett spins a wonderful, intricate, suspenseful plot. Sometimes she makes me laugh, sometimes she makes me look up words, but always she entertains me. What rewards a little work can bring. :)

    This series has made me fall in love with the characters over time. The depth of character building is phenomenal. The plotting is sine qua non. The world building is impeccable. What else can I say? Just read them. It's worth it.

    The

    is very helpful to those of us who can't just identify quotes and French off the top of our heads.

  • xebec

    ok here is my review for this book

    in helpful illustrated form

  • Stephanie Ricker

    I think the Dunnett obsession grows very slowly, but once it’s upon you, you don’t have a hope of escape. This book was bloody brilliant. Dunnett’s writing is so intelligent, I feel somewhat like a little kid sitting at the adults’ table, only understanding about half of the conversation. She uses words that even I’ve never heard of--that sounds terribly arrogant of me, I realize, but it’s a fact that I rarely run across a word I don’t know. “Corymb,” “calyx,” “firlot”…I had to look all of them

    I think the Dunnett obsession grows very slowly, but once it’s upon you, you don’t have a hope of escape. This book was bloody brilliant. Dunnett’s writing is so intelligent, I feel somewhat like a little kid sitting at the adults’ table, only understanding about half of the conversation. She uses words that even I’ve never heard of--that sounds terribly arrogant of me, I realize, but it’s a fact that I rarely run across a word I don’t know. “Corymb,” “calyx,” “firlot”…I had to look all of them up. Her books are so full; this one was just over 500 pages of tiny print, and each line is so filled with meaning that it takes considerable digesting. I liked this third book the best so far, probably because I found it the easiest to follow in terms of the history and politics of the time. I still gave myself whiplash several times as I sat up in shock as I got a hint of certain twists. “She wouldn’t…surely…would she?” Oh, she did. Dunnett is a sadistic genius. In every book, she manages to make you absolutely hate the hero, and that takes some doing: we’re conditioned to like the protagonist. But in every book, she still manages to make me despise the hero and love him all over again by the end. She takes characters I thought I loved and turns them into villains. She delights in killing off lovable characters, but she somehow always ends up having such good reasons for doing so. I haven’t run across a writer who can so consistently break my brain in the best of ways in a long time. In summation, I cannot recommend her work highly enough. If you don’t like it at first, please stick with it and give it a good, long chance; it’s worth it!

  • Kate Sherrod

    Oh, Lymond, Lymond, how I do want to love thee. And every book you almost, almost talk me out of it. Every book you look guilty as hell of whatever crimes most have all of Scotland/France/Malta/Wherever up in arms, and every book you turn out to be, well, I'm trying not to spoil anything here, but there are three more books in this series, so certain truths are probably pretty evident, even to the kinds of people you're so very, very good at fooling...

    The Disorderly Knights, the third in the gre

    Oh, Lymond, Lymond, how I do want to love thee. And every book you almost, almost talk me out of it. Every book you look guilty as hell of whatever crimes most have all of Scotland/France/Malta/Wherever up in arms, and every book you turn out to be, well, I'm trying not to spoil anything here, but there are three more books in this series, so certain truths are probably pretty evident, even to the kinds of people you're so very, very good at fooling...

    The Disorderly Knights, the third in the great Dorothy Dunnet's great Lymond Chronicles, broadens the geographic, political and moral scope of our favorite Renaissance bad boy considerably. The Knights of the title are none other than the famous Hospitallers, aka the Knights of Malta -- though an argument could be made for that title also applying to a mercenary company our man forms when he finally gets back to Scotland about halfway through the novel -- and they're in a bit of a pickle, one that the King of France seems to think Lymond might be able to help them out of, or at least bear honest witness to. The King of France being something of a Lymond fanboy after Lymond's exploits last novel in defense of the six-year-old Mary, Queen of Scots, who is engaged to marry the King's son. Ah, dynastic politics!

    The problem the Hospitallers face is the same one they were formed to face, namely the Turk, whom they've helped to protect Europe and bits of North Africa from for a good 400 years. But as of the late 16th century, though, well, the Knights have gone a bit to seed. The Grand Master is a bit of a jerk, and a Spanish jerk at that, and the Holy Roman Emperor being Spanish as well, unseating the GM and putting an effective leader in charge is tricky, especially when the good candidates for that job are all either French or Scottish...

    Really there's only one Scottish candidate, though, a man in whom our Lymond has definitely met his match. Sir Graham Reid Mallett, nicknamed Gabriel, is everything Lymond is but turned up a notch: a great big gorgeous blue-eyed blonde who is also a genius, a brilliant leader of men, a great strategist, fighter and tactician, but also a holy man, because like the more famous Templars, the Hospitallers are all warrior monks, in the service of God and the Roman Catholic Church, priests with swords. When he and Lymond meet up, the whole world seems fixed to change. Gabriel becomes obsessed with winning Lymond over for Jeebus and won't take no for an answer; Lymond, of course, is loyal only to Scotland and his family and finds religion profoundly unnecessary, if not actually detrimental to a well-lived life. But like I said, Gabriel won't take no for an answer, and soon insinuates himself into every possible aspect of Lymond's life as the duo and a small contingent of Hospitallers first fail to defend various tiny Mediterranean islands from the Turkish onslaught and then, for an encore, lose the famous stronghold city of Tripoli to the Turks. Oops.

    Covered in glory like that, what can they do but return to Scotland, where Gabriel has stashed his drop-dead gorgeous sister, Joleta, whom he has already intimated is his ace in the hole (umm) as far as winning Lymond's soul for Christ is concerned, because of course Lymond will convert for the privilege of maybe getting to schtup her. Really, kind of a Lymond thing to hope to do, as Lymond has, more than once, proven that he's not above seducing the odd strategically important round-heeled woman to achieve his goals. Did I mention Lymond has met his match here? Except that now we find there are two of them!

    Of course by about two thirds of the way through the novel, the reader discovers she's misread pretty much everything, because the only person better at deception and red herringry than Lymond is his creator, Ms. Dunnett. But when it's artistes like these, it's a pleasure so to be fooled.

    Meanwhile, there is everything one would turn to some good historical fiction like this in order to enjoy: more amazing sword fights, sieges, battles of all sorts, border reivers and the Hot Trodd law (and lots of other weird Renaissance English/Scottish border law), sexual politics and oh, about the sexual politics...

    I've not yet mentioned the women of The Disorderly Knights, apart from the sex bomb Joleta, who is really the least interesting figure in the book. Most of my old favorites are back and getting good page time, with Lymond's mother Sybilla stealing scenes as usual, but also of note are two others, who come to the fore in this novel after kind of making me yawn in The Game of Kings and Queens Play: Oonagh O'Dwyer -- former mistress of a would-be king of Ireland, who spent most of Queens Play trying to abet her man in his plots to conspire with the French and Scots to throw the English out of Ireland (we all know how well that worked), only to have an encounter with Lymond that looks to turn out to be way more important than it seemed at the time -- and Philippa Somerville, twelve or thirteen-year-old daughter of an English lord who was friendly with Lymond back in the day but who herself hates Lymond like poison and spends a lot of The Disorderly Knights just entertainingly gnashing her teeth at him until circumstances and her own sense of fair play cause her to woman up and kick about 20 kinds of ass all over northern England and southern Scotland and become my new favorite Dorothy Dunnett lady.*

    So I find myself so eager to tear into the next book, Pawn in Frankincense, that I don't see any reason not to, even though lots of other good stuff beckons from my to-be-read pile. I was warned that this might happen.

    *Though her presence reminds me that my other favorite bratty Dunnett tween, Lady Agnes, has disappeared completely from this narrative, and that makes me a little sad. Agnes does not hold a candle to Philippa in the awesomeness department, but she was terribly amusing in The Game of Kings and I miss her a lot.

  • Algernon (Darth Anyan)

    The third outing of Francis Crawford of Lymond takes him to Malta, last refuge of the once powerful Order of the Knights Hospitaliers, now torn apart by internal struggles mirroring the larger conflict in Europe between the powerful monarchs of Spain, France, England, Germany (Heir to the holy Roman Empire), the Italian city-states and the Papacy. Instead of pulling together in one direction, the knights are separated into factions formed around their national origins. From this situation the big winner is the Ottoman Empire who steadily gains ground in the Mediterranean and along the North African coast, with the aid of Barbary corsairs.

    The metaphor of the chess game is still the foundation on which the plot is built, with a new game starting, introducing new pieces ready to be sacrificed, raising the stakes to higher levels of complexity and danger. Another returning element is the murder mystery angle, as Francis Lymond is sabotaged every step of the way by a secret opponent. The identiy of this adversary is not as skillfully veiled as in the previous two books, but that's OK because for once we are dealing with an enemy as intelligent, as strongly motivated, as driven and as ruthless as our nominal hero. It is a duel of titans that starts rather innocuously with heated philosophical, religious and moral debates and finishes with barred steel clashes in earnest, as entertaining as an Errol Flynn classic movie but a lot more disturbing in terms of emotional torment

    .

    This is an example of the kind of verbal skirmishing Lymond engages in as he tries to remain a free agent while his loyalty is courted insistently by the Knights of St. John, the Queen Regent of Scotland, the King of France and the Turks. Sir Graham Reid Malett, better knows as Gabriel, a Grand Cross of Grace in the Order, is the most persuasive and articulate of them all, and he is not above using his own sister, the breathtakingly beautiful Joleta, as an instrument of temptation. The passage is also an apt illustration of the underlying humanist nature of Francis, who puts his trust easier in human nature rather than in some abstract Divine Force.

    Speaking of Francis, he is both a chameleon, presenting a new aspect of his personality in each novel, and consistent in his proficiency at everything he sets up to do. In the first book he was the young, tempestuous second son fighting to clear his name of slander, a fun loving, raucous, exuberant and morally flexible rascal. In the second book he was the gallant knight defending the life of his infant Queen, putting his own life on the line while also being the soul and inspiration of wild parties and wicked pranks. In this third guise he is a lot more tempered, keeping the wilder part of his nature under strict control, cold blooded and grim, abandoning laughter, music, drinking, wenching in order to become a leader of armies at a still very young age. He starts by leading the defense of Malta, Gozo and Tripoli against the Ottoman fleet, with mixed succes, and in the second half of the novel he moves back to Scotland in order to establish his own mercenary company at St. Mary : an elite trupe of soldiers led by a core group of talented Renaissance men, not only warriors, but architects, lawyers, poetsmerchants, etc..

    The St. Mary captains provided me with the first small grumble about the series: they were introduced too abruptly, out of thin air, already familiar with Francis and apparently with background stories I should recognize easily. Instead I struggled for a long time to differentiate between them and to keep track of what is the particular talent of each one of them. They are: Jeroth Blyth, Graham Reid Malett, Lancelot Plummer, Fergie Hoddim, Randy Bell, Alec Guthrie, Hercules Tait, Adam Blacklock, Salablanca the Moor, Archie Abernethy. For what is worth, it gets easier as the story progresses, especially when you get to the fourth and fifth volume in the series. (yes, I read them already, I'm behind in reviewing the books)

    ---

    The intention behind the formation of the company is a noble one, as seen in the quotes above. The political spectrum in the XVI Century Europe is still primarily feudal, with kings often having less actual power than their nominal vassals, without standing armies (with the exception of the Turks, which might be one explanation of their succesful campaigns). Soldiers were amateurs, farmers called up by their landlords in times of trouble, or knights more interested in personal feuds than in defence of the nation. Lymond sets up to remedy the situation and his boot camp recruits are so brilliantly succesful in policing the troubled border between Scotland and England that the higher powers decide they cannot allow an unaffiliated private army to roam their lands. Both the Queen Dowager and the Knights of Malta plot to remove Lymond from the command of the company and to appropriate the men for their own interests.

    In this way the novel weaves together the personal struggle between Lymond and his archenemy with the larger issues of Europe in its moment of transition from small barons to centralized power. I will direct my final remarks at the personal level instead of the grander picture, as I find my fascination for Lymond unabated at he end of these three books. Dunnett prefers to let the image of her hero develop indirectly, through the eyes of his anturage and through the results of his actions instead of letting him explain his reasons and motivations plainly.

    - this exclamation comes from Jeroth Blyth, a young Knight in the order and the third incarnation of the innocent accolite that falls under Lymond's spell.

    - this from the Chevalier de Villegagnon, another Captain from Malta impressed by Lymond frantic energy and reckless abandon to the moment of action.

    - this from Kate Sommerville, a rare disinterested friend of Lymond, painfully watching as he destroys his health and his peace of mind in trying to bring down a ruthless adversary.

    I said in a previous review that Francis likes to keep the cards very close to his chest and to hide behind a confusing barrage of obscure poetry and misdirecting classical quotes. The instants where he lets the mask drop and bares his soul are rare as diamonds and come unfortunately in moments of great stress and pain:

    He had become a soldier not out of passion for fighting, but out of necessity. He covers his hearts with the heaviest plate armour after seeing his best friends hurt as a result of his actions. He remains romantically unattached, despite the powerful women gravitating around him: Ooonagh, Joleta, Phillipa. He is a 'philocalist' by his own admission (new word I learned here), a man whose greatest passion is to be found in books and music, avenues mostly denied him by outside circumstances and self-imposed loyalties. His exuberant nature escapes from time to time from his rigid control, providing yet again some of the funniest and most memorable set pieces in the book: a flock of sheep chasing the English raiders away (

    ) ; a night chase to defuse a bomb in the citadel of Tripoli, an irreverent Border trial of Scottish lairds, etc. - a remainder that the series is also a ton of fun, a rollercoaster ride, an irreverent look at historical figures.

    conclusion: no sign of slowing down or fading interest in the continuing saga of Francis Crawford of Lymond. Best historical novel since sliced bread or whatever. Book four, here I come!

  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    It took me over a month to work my way through this third novel in Dorothy Dunnett's challenging

    series. It's lengthy and complex historical fiction novel, and there were more than a few detours for me along the way (I was easily distracted by other books in the early stages, but that was my fault as much as this book's). But once again, as the story started moving toward its climactic scenes, and events got more and more exciting and gripping, and the pieces started to fall into place an

    It took me over a month to work my way through this third novel in Dorothy Dunnett's challenging

    series. It's lengthy and complex historical fiction novel, and there were more than a few detours for me along the way (I was easily distracted by other books in the early stages, but that was my fault as much as this book's). But once again, as the story started moving toward its climactic scenes, and events got more and more exciting and gripping, and the pieces started to fall into place and answers to surface, I was totally sucked in.

    It's the 1560's, and Francis Lymond, who is too talented and observant for his own good, is sent by the King of France to the island of Malta, which is in the control of the religious order of the Knights of Malta. Immediately he's surrounded by political and religious intriguing for power, which takes a break (or does it?) when the island is attacked by a Turkish force. From there the action moves to Tripoli (more battles and intrigue, and a truly nail-biting scene with attempting to defuse a bomb) and then back to Scotland, where Lymond forms a private army and continues his life-or-death battle with an opponent who is subtle beyond belief.

    The sometimes excessive flowery language and use of random and obscure quotations (more often than not in a foreign language, untranslated of course; Dunnett isn't one for coddling her readers), which was a major issue for me in the first book and somewhat less in the second, has been toned down

    , making this book much more readable. This is still a challenging read, however, with lots of different personalities to keep track of, political and family conflicts to understand, and layers of complexity and deception to unravel. It challenged my brain, and occasionally frustrated me, but in the end I can only say that this was incredibly awesome.

    ETA: Huge spoilers in the discussion thread below, mostly unmarked. Read at your own risk.

  • Alex

    Now, I fall into a book hang-over. Scene.

    is the third book in the series the

    . Lymond after his french court insanity in

    leaves to help the Knights of Malta defend their home from the upcoming evasion of

    Now, I fall into a book hang-over. Scene.

    is the third book in the series the

    . Lymond after his french court insanity in

    leaves to help the Knights of Malta defend their home from the upcoming evasion of their mortal enemy, the Turks. Lymond's life is a struggle to survive, but he faces a new enemy who is willing to move pawns more deliberately.

    is still my number one favorite within the series so far, but

    came very close to the top spot. Here are a few reasons why:

    1. This novel took place partly in Malta. I am part Maltese. Anyone wouldn't be able to tell, because I do not have the maltese look. I did not get my mother's beautiful olive skin color out of the genetic gene pool. It is unfortunate, I know. I have the eight pointed star or Maltese cross tattooed to represent my heritage. I have never once read a book that mentioned Malta. It is a very beautiful island, and I would love to go back.

    2. This book incorporates the Knights of Malta. Awesome, I never read a book with them either.

    Those reasons alone made me quite excited to read this book from the beginning.

    Unfortunately, the timing of this book didn't sit well. It looks like it took me a month to read this book, and I am pretty sure I didn't read every day, because I am swamped with real life issues. Currently, my family and I are trying to move to our new home, which has been extremely stressful. I am never moving again. If you didn't know all of Dorothy Dunnett's novels need commitment, and the time to really imagine what is happening. She definitely did not write for a lazy reader. Therefore, reading was very slow going for me. So far, all her novels are really hard to start, but eventually Lymond just grabs you by the hair and never lets go until you finish. You are absolutely exhausted by the end and your hair is a mess, but it is totally worth it.

    In this novel, we see a surprising turn of events. We see Lymond start to mature from the boy to a responsible young man, which is lovely to see. In

    I felt so awkward reading about him acting like a lunatic. Sometimes, there were moments were I would want to put the book down, because I didn't want to associate with him any longer. Isn't that funny? It was like having a crazy drunk friend who just acts wild, and I just wanted to walk away from the situation, because that friend was embarrassing me. That is how amazing of a writer Dorothy Dunnett is, and she must of been exhausted writing about Lymond and his adventures. I am super impressed and inspired to write like she does. I need a bigger vocabulary.

    It was a build up, but like I said totally worth it, and those last few chapters were phenomenal. Crush my heart into pieces Dorothy. It wasn't your fault, I know. But did you have to write the truth! Just a great end, and cliff hanger. I am very excited to move on to

    and see what Lymond does next.

    Recommended series. I wish everyone to love it. Happy reading.

  • Jamie Collins

    This was amazing. Just when I think I’ve read all the really good stuff out there, I discover a series like this one. Crawford is my favorite type of dark, inscrutable hero - dangerously misunderstood and undermined by his friends to the great satisfaction of his enemies.

    In the first part of the book, Crawford goes to help defend the island of Malta from the Turks in 1551. Admittedly I was only mildly entertained by this early part of the story set in Malta and Tripoli. It’s exquisitely written,

    This was amazing. Just when I think I’ve read all the really good stuff out there, I discover a series like this one. Crawford is my favorite type of dark, inscrutable hero - dangerously misunderstood and undermined by his friends to the great satisfaction of his enemies.

    In the first part of the book, Crawford goes to help defend the island of Malta from the Turks in 1551. Admittedly I was only mildly entertained by this early part of the story set in Malta and Tripoli. It’s exquisitely written, and there are some great moments, but I wasn’t terribly invested in the story.

    However, the second half the book is absolutely riveting. Crawford is back in Scotland training a mercenary army with the goal of providing military support on behalf of Scotland - particularly with the aim of breaking the ruinous cycle of clan warfare. Among the men being trained are a group of refugee Knights of Malta, led by Sir Graham Malett, whose openly stated goal is to recruit the humanist Crawford into his religious order.

    I won’t even attempt to describe the plot because the slightest spoiler would be ruinous to the intense suspense. I will re-read this one day, however, and examine each twist and turn with the benefit of hindsight.

  • Jane

    I loved the first two books of the Lymond Chronicles, but when I began to read this book I couldn’t help thinking that those books were laying foundations and that this book would be where she really hit her stride.

    It was wonderful to be back in Scotland with familiar characters from the first book who I had rather missed in the second. The opening sequence moved from Will Scott’s wedding to a skirmish with English border raiders and then back to the wedding party again. It and it was vibrant, i

    I loved the first two books of the Lymond Chronicles, but when I began to read this book I couldn’t help thinking that those books were laying foundations and that this book would be where she really hit her stride.

    It was wonderful to be back in Scotland with familiar characters from the first book who I had rather missed in the second. The opening sequence moved from Will Scott’s wedding to a skirmish with English border raiders and then back to the wedding party again. It and it was vibrant, it was colourful and it was a joy to read.

    That set the scene perfectly.

    In the first part of the book, Lymond was drawn into the cause of the Knights of Malta, as they struggled to defend their island home from the Turks. There was intrigue, because it was clear that there were more than the stated reasons the invitation extended to Lymond, and for his accepting that invitation. This early part of the story set in Malta and Tripoli, evoked those places wonderfully well. It was perfectly executed, it was immaculately written; there were some wonderful moments, there were some significant plot developments; and yet it was only setting the stage for events that would unfold back in Scotland.

    Lymond was charged with creating a new military force for Scotland; its objective to break the cycle of clan warfare so that all of Scotland’s forces could be set against the English. Among the company is a group of refugee Knights of Malta, led by Sir Graham Malett, known as Gabriel, who is set on creating a religious force and making Lymond part of that force.

    That’s as much as I want to say about specifics of the plot; because there is such clever and effective sleight of hand, because my understanding of events shifted, and because if you have read this book you will know and if you have you should read and you shouldn’t know too much before you do.

    The depth and the complexity of the characterisation is extraordinary; and a cast populated by fictional characters and historical figures lived and breathed. I have come to love many of them – Janet Beaton and Kate Somerville are particular favourites – and the death of one early in the story made me realise how very real this world and the people who moved through it have become to me.

    There would be other deaths and some of them broke my heart. Most were dictated by the real history that is missed so effectively with fiction, and others I understood served the unfolding plot.

    I reacted more emotionally to this book than others; and fortunately there were scenes to inspire laughter, anger and joy as well as grief.

    Two new characters – a man and a woman – became central to the story. They were both quite unlike anyone else in the story, they were psychologically complicated and interesting, and they brought much colour and drama.

    The success or failure of this book though, rested firmly on the shoulders of its central character. I am still drawn right in with his charisma, his manifold talents, and the evolution of his character and his story.

    There were times when he seemed to have matured, but there were times when he seemed childishly, foolishly reckless. I would come to understand his reasons, that there were times when he had to position himself and play a part, but there was something there that came from character rather than pure necessity.

    Certain things within the Crawford family that I had observed before were emphasised in this book, and I am very curious to find out more.

    There were not as many set pieces as I expected in this book, but I didn’t miss them because there was so much that was rooted in character and history, and because I saw that much of what had happened before was building the story arc that would grow through this book.

    I loved one scene that I haven’t seen mentioned much; an extended scene that had echoes of something the happened at the very beginning of the first book.

    The finale was a tour de force, an extended set piece rich with colour, drama and emotion that set things up perfectly for the next book and the books to come after that.

    I love that the thee books in this series have been distinctive but they have also been worked together to reveal different aspects of a character and to move his story forward.

    I know that I will come back to them again and see things that I missed reading them for the first time, but now I have to get back to ‘Pawn in Frankincense – the fourth book – and find out what happens next.

  • Danica

    MUCH TOO LENGTHY THOUGHTS:

    Well, I seem to have been properly sideswiped by this one. or perhaps the more accurate verb would be trounced. trammeled. shebanged. My sleeping habits these past few days have been nothing short of atrocious. Even as I type this I am thinking of throwing aside my laptop and making a dive for Pawn in Frankincense, lying but a few feet to the right of my itchy fingers. (I suppose I should be grateful there is no title in this series called The Fianchettoed Bishop, becau

    MUCH TOO LENGTHY THOUGHTS:

    Well, I seem to have been properly sideswiped by this one. or perhaps the more accurate verb would be trounced. trammeled. shebanged. My sleeping habits these past few days have been nothing short of atrocious. Even as I type this I am thinking of throwing aside my laptop and making a dive for Pawn in Frankincense, lying but a few feet to the right of my itchy fingers. (I suppose I should be grateful there is no title in this series called The Fianchettoed Bishop, because book 3 has enough of the religious zealotry and evilly cunning dudes scheming death and warfare and spit-roasted babies to last for the rest of the series. And I do hope it does.) I think I prize the earlier books more for their depictions of character interactions, which feel slower and deeper and more mysterious than the relationship development you get in DK, because rather than sitting the characters down and setting them to brooding and Having Feelings (cf. nol), Dunnett effectively hands everyone guns and fires the beginning volley. To great effect: the need to know what happens next becomes something like a physical compulsion. I HAD to keep reading through the last 100 pages. During the whipping scene I was sitting at the Korean restaurant during lunchtime with my mouth slightly open and a piece of seaweed hanging out of it. I'm not kidding, I even got a piece of tofu stuck in my craw.

    My earlier complaints are put to rest, at least for the duration of this book. Mostly I couldn't predict what would happen next, although sometimes I did (e.g. totally called the reason for Joleta's surprise appearance in Lymond's room). And it was epic. Oh, was it epic. And some scenes, like the aforementioned one, scorchingly intense.

    Still, the effect is strangely two-parted. On one hand, I am amazed that Dunnett is able to so completely enthrall a jaded reader such as myself; and yes, pretentious though that may sound, I feel qualified to say so because I've read so many damn books, and it gets harder and harder to completely suck me in, to knock me onto my butt with something I've never seen or felt or been made to feel before. Always, there is a stupid little voice piping up in the back of my head, saying things like "But that plot turn was badly handled!", or "This character could use a little bit more meat here..." (IT'S LIKE HAVING BHARATI MUKHERJEE HANGING OVER MY SHOULDER WITH HER DESSICATED HAIR AND HER YAPPY LITTLE DEVIL DOG FOR ALL THE REST OF MY READING DAYS. BANISH THE THOUGHT.) But maybe, maybe, the problem is that all the books I've been reading are too, well, same-y: contemporary literature, written by writers schooled to write in certain ways. And certainly not in the glinting, intricately embroidered, pillowy-plush sentences that Dunnett is so skilled at unfurling, billowing, over her entranced readers:

    I just want to rub that sentence all over my body. Okay.

    On the other, I still miss a certain depth of character intimacy and relationship development. Richard nursing Lymond back to health. Thady Boy and Robin Stewart on the clock tower. Lymond and the little Queen jesting about turnips. Instead, we get Lymond directing all after masterfully revealing the machinations of the most vile gorgon to ever blight the surface of 16th century Scotland and everyone meekly doing as they're told because, duh. Lymond=genius. There's not much time left after the revelations of evil-doings and harlotry and political intrigue and nonstop action and also SWORDFIGHTS (FYI not as good as the Richard-Lymond showdown. true fact.) and OSHIT EVILLEST VILLAIN EVA!!! for quiet looks to be exchanged between Lymond and Jerott which simultaneously telegraph compassion, pain, understanding, resentment, and love all rolled up into one smouldering synaptic exchange.

    But, you know, I have a feeling that that's coming up. :D

    Spoilery thoughts:

    + I know the ending was supposed to be horrible, and I did feel sickened by the casualties and Joleta and Gabriel's very staged performance before the legions of St. Mary's, BUT I ALSO LOL'ED WHEN GABRIEL WAS LIKE, "I spit upon your grave! May your son's putrefying corpse boil over with maggots! And now I vault over pews and run away, glinting evilly, MWAHAHAHAHAAHAHHA!" lolllll. Over the top.

    + Holy shit guys. I LOVE RICHARD AND SYBILLA OKAY. I love the part where Richard slams his hands down on the roundtable gathering and in answer to Lymond's request for help is like "NO >:E" and when Lymond closes his eyes in anguish jolts him back to earth by adding "NO, WE MUST HUNT HIM DOWN RIGHT NOW!!". Also love how Sybilla's opinion is the only opinion that makes Lymond seize up and, looking shiftily from side to side, inch towards the nearest exit. My heart squeezes from my adoration of the Culters. Squeeeee.

    + Speaking of Richard: his honesty = Lymond's inability to tell the truth to exculpate himself from blame makes for a great dramatic device. This has happened at least twice by this point. Interestingly, the reader gets put in the same position.

    + Jerott Blyth is pretty cool, but I have a feeling he becomes a fuller character in later books, since the treatment of the tragic death of his fiancee is mentioned about three times and then is dropped completely in favor of Antics. I like how he trails around after Francis for most of the book though, muttering under his breath and darkly massaging the pommel of his sword. Oh wow that sounds perverted. MOVING ON. It's interesting that Lymond swears to himself that he'll get Jerott out of this safely, and interesting that he reacts in such a way to Jerott's request to stay, since the book doesn't really provide firm reasons for

    he'd feel that way. Although god, I still love this scene. So much tension. So many feelings. Jerott being all woobie-eyed and beseeching and Lymond's reaction. as;skgjsaklsgjlaskgja.

    Residue of childhood affection? Pity for the guy because he's spent his life in unknowing worship of unmitigated evil? A simple yearning for friendship? Desire for eye candy*? (If I had to guess I'd cast my vote for door

    3, actually.)

    + Joleta freaked me out, man. I know you've said that you hate what happens to her, Nol, but I can't imagine lovely fanfic. At first she was hilariously naughty, oh, shooting the horse, oh, haha, hilarious, and oh, now she's gone and got the baby drunk, haha, what a darling girl, let's braid her hair and give her cuddles, BUT THEN she becomes SINISTER and MENACING and CRAZY. I have problems with the way promiscuity=bad in this book, so it's not like I think that b/c she had the temerity to have sex with men THEREFORE SHE DESERVES TO DIE, but her complicity in her brother's plots weren't exactly. you know. fraught with guilt. If anything she just seemed like she was deriving way too much unhinged enjoyment from lying and killing things (Sybilla's cat ;_______;).

    + In contrast, Philippa Somerville = AW YEAH.

    + How impressive that Dunnett is able to tie this roil of plots and subplots into a unified whole? Very.

    *words or phrases used to describe Jerott Blyth: handsome; magnificent; beautifully built and hard as iron; magnificent eyes (twice); handsome, smouldering knight that Francis always dragged around with him; curling raven hair and hawk nose; beautiful young man

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