1. For discussion of The Disorderly Knights
The Disorderly Knights is filled with clever, excitingly staged, and exquisitely detailed battle scenes in half a dozen countries. Beneath this action and adventure is a serious running commentary on the clan battles of Scotland and the conflict between the crusader Knights of St John and the forces of Islam. How are these two conflicts compared in the novel? What is Lymond’s critique of both? Is he successful in developing an alternative to the politics of war?
2. Joleta Malett and Philippa Somerville are a deliberate study in contrasts–physical, psychological, national, and moral. What element do they add to the story? How does each of these girls fit the character of "heroine"? Philippa comments that "love often begins with a show of hate, doesn’t it!" What is she trying to say?
3. All during this novel, indeed since the last scenes of the previous novel, two "creations" of Francis Crawford have been conceived, born, and are maturing. One is the conscious expression of his military, practical, and professional intelligence; what is the other? What sides of the hero do these creations reflect? Are they tools or pawns–or both? What is the role Graham Malett in both of these strands of the plot? How do they reflect his knightly name, Gabriel?
For discussion of the Lymond Chronicles
1. The hero of a long series of historical novels, like the hero of a crime or detective series, lives properly in a milieu of struggle and physical violence and is likely to be the object of this violence over and over. Yet, of course, he must survive it if the series is to continue: "Popular resurrections are a tedious pastime of Francis’," says Lady Lennox in Queens’ Play, trying to recover from yet another reappearance by the handsome nemesis she had thought was dead. What are the most interesting or important examples of the deaths and resurrections of Francis Crawford in the series? How and for what purpose do such scenes play with the feelings of the reader?
2. In its various travels and stories, the Lymond Chronicles encompass several religious systems–Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Russian Orthodox Christianity, as well as several forms of the Islamism of the Ottoman Empire. What is the series’ attitude toward religion, religious institutions, and authentic spirituality? What do figures like the Dame de Doubtance, John Dee, and Michel de Nostradamus–astrologers and scientists, mystics and psychologists–represent in this respect?
3. Over the length of the Lymond Chronicles the protagonist must withstand the attacks of three powerful antagonists–Margaret Lennox, Graham Malett, and Leonard Bailey. How do these figures of evil differ in their reasons for wanting to possess or destroy Francis Crawford? Does the manner of their deaths or downfalls seem particularly appropriate to their characters?
4. As the secrets of the Crawford family structure surface one by one, through the very last few pages of the last novel, the questions raised in the first novel about Francis Crawford’s relationship with his father, his brother, and his sister acquire disconcerting new dimensions. What new father, brother, sister does he need to integrate into his understanding of his family? One thing never changes, however–the centrality of his relationship to his mother for his psyche, his sexuality, even his politics. What by the end do we think of Sybilla Semple Crawford?
5. The essence of a good historical novel is its capacity to create colorful scenes for pure entertainment value, while also offering shrewd characterization, complex plot evolution, and acute political and social insight. Is the comedy of a scene like the feast and fight at the Ostrich Inn in Part II of The Game of Kings, for instance, a good balance for the pure thrill of the swordfight and chase into Hexham in Part IV? How do these scenes illuminate character, plot, and relationships?