Niccolò Rising by Dorothy Dunnett

‘It all began, mildly enough …’

 Three men, drifting in the Duke of Burgundy’s bath. Meet Claes, Julius and Felix. Welcome to 15th century Bruges, to a world on the brink of change:

‘From Venice to Cathay, from Seville to the Gold Coast of Africa, men anchored their ships and opened their ledgers and weighed one thing against another as if nothing would change.’

What can I tell you about this novel, without spoiling the beginning of a magnificent eight volume series? Who is Niccolò? The story builds slowly, with action aplenty, to keep the reader turning the pages and (frequently) confused. Confused?  Well, you need to read slowly to try to keep track of each of the different threads and to try to sift important plot points from red herrings.  And along the way you will learn about trade, about mercenary armies, and about politics.

You will meet some fascinating characters (and wonder how some of them survive, while other do not).

Ms Dunnett’s novels are complex and multi-layered. They reward careful reading and rereading. Rereading?  Yes, Ms Dunnett’s novels are amongst the few I reread regularly. And each time I read; I discover new detail.  There is a wealth of detail to explore, relationships to puzzle over, decisions to question.  Who is Niccolò?  Who is this man of many names and talents, this enigma?

I love these novels. If you’ve not yet read Ms Dunnett’s novels and you enjoy lively well-written historical fiction, this series (The House of Niccolò) may appeal.  This is the order of the eight books:

Niccolò Rising

The Spring of the Lamb

Race of Scorpions

Scales of Gold

The Unicorn Hunt

To Lie with Lions

Caprice and Rondo

Gemini

I strongly recommend reading them in order. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith