The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett- book review/discussion

Has Lymond met his match in, The Disorderly Knights, the third instalment of possibly the best historical series ever, The Lymond Chronicles, by Dorothy Dunnett?

Series: Lymond Chronicles

This remains one of my favourite opening lines :

On the day that his grannie was killed by the English, Sir William Scott. The Younger Buccleuch was at Melrose Abbey, marrying his aunt.

Disorderly Knights,Dorothy Dunnett

Please note that there may be spoilers in this review for the first two books and also for this one despite desperately trying to avoid them.

Lymond is persuaded to go to Malta to observe the Knights of Hospitallers and defend the island from the Turkish army. In Malta, he meets Graham Reid Malett, a charismatic knight and finds himself embroiled in a leadership challenge, rescue missions and fighting off the Turkish army. And this is just the first half of the book!

 In the second half, Lymond returns to Scotland, meets Graham’s beautiful sister Joleta and forms a private army all the while battling a worthy foe.

As always, the book has plenty of drama, intrigue, action and humour with Dorothy Dunnett’s amazing prose bringing these scenes to life. The battles and life in Malta are vividly described but have to admit,I found the scene of Lymond asking for his friends and family help the most nerve-wracking of them all.

Lymond may have finally met his match with Graham Reid Malett. Graham and Lymond are similar in appearance with blonde hair and blue eyes ( but not the yellow hair and deep blue that is associated with Sybilla and Lymond). They are both skilled speakers, fighters and leaders but one is better than the other.


We rarely see the story from Francis’s point of view but from the point of view of his family, friends and foes and this isn’t always flattering. There are times in this book where Lymond’s actions are almost unforgivable especially when compared to Graham’s selfless acts. His explanation, in the end, doesn’t completely redeem him, But as always, when I was ready to throw the book on the floor, Dunnett shows us why Francis acted the way he did and all is forgiven. Luckily, Lymond’s family and friends never give up on him. I always feel heartbroken for Lymond at the end, no matter how many times I have read this book.

“I would give you my soul in a blackberry pie; and a knife to cut it with.”

― Dorothy Dunnett, The Disorderly Knights

People obsessed with Lymond:

The list is long in Disorderly knights and includes Graham who wants Lymond to work with him, Jerott, a knight and old childhood acquaintance and Joleta, Graham’s sister.

Women in Disorderly Knights

“Man is a being of varied, manifold and inconstant nature. And woman, by God, is a match for him.”

― Dorothy Dunnett, The Disorderly Knights

My favourites Margaret Eskine, Sybilla and Kate Somerville are joined by Janet, Will’s stepmother- brave, honest, open and clever- she plays a vital role in helping Lymond. Phillipa, now a spirited 13-year-old, has more page time and still retains her hatred of Lymond.

I didn’t really like Oonagh in Queens’ play but I felt for her in this book particularly after her tragic sacrifice to help Francis.

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Joletta despite her actions, she is after all just sixteen.

Ongoing arc

There are more mentions about the differences in appearances between Richard and Francis.  Lymond’s youth is referenced with the antagonist calling him a ‘sweet boy’, Sybilla stating he isn’t much older than Joletta.He plays a convincing woman in that surreal scene at Hough Isa, so must be quite young.

How is this man still standing.? The Lymond Health Counter

I was struck at how much damage Dunnett inflicts on her hero and thought it would be interesting to log this by each book.

Lymond is knocked unconscious by a rock to the head, superficial burns, flogging, sword injury to the hand.

Content warning

Chid abuse( off page)


This isn’t an easy read but it is more conventionally written than the previous two books in this series, so could be a good introduction to Lymond.

Now, I’m going to take a deep breath before plunging into Pawn in Frankincense.

2 thoughts on “The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett- book review/discussion

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