A heroic knight falls in love with the married queen, incurring the wrath of the king. Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot? No, it's a slightly different Arthurian tale, and one that mainly focuses on the musically-inclined Sir Dinadin, who never wanted to be a knight anyway.
Dinadin has always wanted to be a minstrel (especially since his older brother Tristam is a valiant knight), but his father knights him in a drunken stupor and sends him off. After dispatching the knight of a treacherous damsel, Dinadin joins up with a rather dim Welsh knight, Culloch, and ends up at Arthur's court of Camelot. Then he goes off with Culloch, Kai and Bedivere to do knightly things -- including freeing a sharp-tongued lady-in-waiting called Brangienne and Culloch's attempts to win a rather unattractive princess.
Along the way, Dinadin learns that Brangienne is fleeing Queen Iseult, because she knows that Iseult is in love with Tristam, who is wandering around, having taken a vow of silence and unwilling to shut up about it. He also won't shut up about Iseult, with the result that everybody except her husband knows about them. Dinadin teams up with the noble Moor Palomides (who wants to learn what knights are), as Brangienne's safety is jeopardized, and the not-so-secret affair between Tristam and Iseult comes to a dramatic peak.
Morris takes a skip back in time for this book -- it takes place parallel to "The Squire, His Knight And His Lady" and "The Savage Damsel And the Dwarf," though the overlap is only about two paragraphs long. And he handles this story very well and very deftly -- Dinadin doesn't want to become a knight, and he doesn't really have conventional aptitude for it. He'd rather stay home and play his rebec. But his cleverness and ingenuity are what make him a good knight, above and beyond being able to whack things with a sword.
Dinadin is as likable a hero as Morris has penned before, not your typical knight but a solid and admirable one instead. Palomides serves as a good foil, searching for the English ideal knight and finding it where he doesn't expect to; Brangienne is very like Eileen, very witty and smart. Iseult and Tristam are pretty pitiful, and I'm not just talking about the nauseatingly-named "Love Grotto." Tristam thinks he's nothing without a lady to serve, and Iseult is just... well, she's just a lisping ditz with a crazy husband.
As with all his books, there is plenty of humor in this story, ranging from horribly-written ballads to a magical drinking horn to the worst wedding ceremony in history. (Not to mention Kai repeating the ballad line: "Jug jug witta poo poo") It gets a bit more serious near the end, but overall it's much more lighthearted than Morris's fourth Arthurian tale, "Parsifal's Page."
Fans of Morris will definitely like "The Ballad of Sir Dinadin." (Or Sir Dumbledin... Dimbledum... Dinderlin... oh bugger it...) Giving a new twist on the tale of Iseult and Tristam, Morris lets the spotlight shine on the unlikely and capable Dinadin.