The Spring of the Ram (The House of Niccolò #2) by Dorothy Dunnett

‘He has, I believe, no idea what is really going to happen.’

Florence, 1461.  Nicholas is in Florence where, having accepted a prospect put before him by Nicholai Giorgio de´ Acciajuoli, he hopes to lead a Florentine agency to Trebizond.  He seeks, and obtains, the backing of the Medici.  Nicholas and his team obtain a galley, purchase trading goods, and set off.  But Nicholas has a rival, Pagano Doria, a Genoese adventurer, who has eloped with Nicholas’s stepdaughter.  Trebizond is under threat from the Ottoman Turks and is seeking support from the west.  Trading opportunities will be fraught with danger and may be limited.  Who will triumph? 

This is the second book in Ms Dunnett’s eight volume ‘The House of Niccolò’ series and continues the adventures of the enigmatic Nicholas as he strives to establish the Charetty company in both trade and the provision of mercenaries.  Ms Dunnett uses 15th century history brilliantly to provide a backdrop for Nicholas and his adventurous schemes.  Banking and trade are expanding, political conflict and empire building provide ample opportunity for those astute (and courageous enough) to take risks.

I have finished ‘The Spring of the Ram’ and am taking a breath before starting ‘Race of Scorpions’ (the third novel in the series). 

If you enjoy well-written historical fiction set in 15th century Europe with complex storylines and intricate plotting, you may enjoy this series as much as I do.

I should add that I have read and reread this series at least three times.  And each time, I find a new aspect to view, a different perspective to consider.  These are not light reads, there are plenty of twists in the story, a large cast of characters to try to keep track of.  But these novels are amongst the most rewarding works of fiction I have ever read.  As well as  ‘The House of Niccolò’ series, Ms Dunnett wrote the six volume ‘Lymond Chronicles’ and ‘King Hereafter’ ( a novel about Thorfinn of Orkney) as well as six spy/detective mysteries (the Dolly or Johnson Johnson series).

Highly recommended.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith