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The Unicorn Hunt: The Fifth Book of the House of Niccoloby Dorothy Dunnett
Synopses & Reviews
HENRY HAD OFTEN considered killing his grandfather; there was so much of him, and Henry disliked all of it.
Today the impulse came back quite strongly when, sticking his head upside down through the casement, he discovered the old man himself riding over the Kilmirren drawbridge. He could see his big hat, and the pennants, and the baggage-mules, and the men in half-armour to protect what was in all the boxes. They hadn't sounded their trumpets, and below in the courtyard people were scampering in every direction, attempting to help with the horses or even running away. No one liked Henry's grandfather.
Monseigneur Jourdain, the servants called him. It meant Chamberpot. His real name was Jordan de St Pol, vicomte de Rib?rac, and all this castle of Kilmirren was his, and the yards and trees and bothies that Henry looked down on, and the good farmlands and villages just beyond that Henry's father was supposed to look after. This was Monseigneur's Scottish castle, which he came to examine most years. The rest of the time he stayed in France.
Usually, everybody knew when to expect him. The message would come, and his father would curse, and then there would be a week when everyone was in a bad temper, trying to put things to rights. Then on the day, his father would stand in the doorway with Henry, his only son, at his side, and they would both welcome the old man as if they meant it. Fat Father Jordan was how his father referred to him.
Today, there had been no warning, which was terrible. No one knew better than Henry just how terrible it actually was. Henry set aside the hawk he had been feeding and, whirling down from his room, shoved open the door to his father's great chamber.
The bedcurtains were only half closed, so that he could see, with a pang of admiration and interest, what was happening behind them. Even now, in an emergency, he knew better than to interrupt. When it was finished (the signs were familiar) he said shrilly, 'Father Father Monseigneur is here '
The first face to appear was the lady's. He had seen her before. She looked flushed, but didn't giggle like Beth or conceal herself with the sheet like the other one. This lady frowned at him, certainly, but bent and picked up her robe like an ordinary person. Like all his father's ladies, she was well set up as to the chest. Henry's friends all mentioned that, and the servants. They, too, were proud of his father. Henry used to wonder, now and then, if his mother had been flat in front like himself. She had died when Henry was three, but he didn't miss her. He didn't know why people thought he ought to miss her. He said, 'Father?' again, in case he had gone back to sleep.
'God's blood and bones, ' said his father, and rolled over and pushed himself up.
Even angry, his father Simon was beautiful. Blond and blue-eyed and beautiful, and the finest jouster, the most splendid chevalier in the whole of Scotland. When Henry's grandfather was dead, Henry's father would be the lord of this castle and its grazing in the mid-west of Scotland. He would own his grandfather's castle in France, and his ships and his mills and his vineyards. His father would be Simon de St Pol, vicomte de Rib?rac, and Henry would be his sole son and heir, and a knight, with ladies to bounce with in bed. Flattish ladies, to be truthful, for preference.
God smote Henry then in the back. Henry wa
With the bravura storytelling and pungent authenticity of detail she brought to her acclaimed Lymond Chronicles, Dorothy Dunnett, grande dame of the historical novel, presents The House of Niccolo series. The time is the 15th century, when intrepid merchants became the new knighthood of Europe. Among them, none is bolder or more cunning than Nicholas vander Poele of Bruges, the good-natured dyer's apprentice who schemes and swashbuckles his way to the helm of a mercantile empire.
Scotland, 1468: a nation at the edge of Europe, a civilization on the threshold of the Modern Age. Merchants, musicians, politicians, and pageantry fill the court of King James III. In its midst, Nicholas seeks to avenge his bride's claim that she carries the bastard of his archenemy, Simon St. Pol. When she flees before Nicholas can determine whether or not the rumored child is his own—or exists at all—Nicholas gives chase. So begins the deadly game of cat and mouse that will lead him from the infested cisterns of Cairo to the misted canals of Venice at carnival. Breathlessly paced, sparkling with wit. The Unicorn Hunt confirms Dorothy Dunnett as the genre's finest practitioner.
About the Author
\Dorothy Dunnett was born in 1923 in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. Her time at Gillespie's High School for Girls overlapped with that of the novelist Muriel Spark. From 1940-1955, she worked for the Civil Service as a press officer. In 1946, she married Alastair Dunnett, later editor of The Scotsman.
Dunnett started writing in the late 1950s. Her first novel, The Game of Kings, was published in the United States in 1961, and in the United Kingdom the year after. She published 22 books in total, including the six-part Lymond Chronicles and the eight-part Niccolo Series, and co-authored another volume with her husband. Also an accomplished professional portrait painter, Dunnett exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy on many occasions and had portraits commissioned by a number of prominent public figures in Scotland.
She also led a busy life in public service, as a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Library of Scotland, a Trustee of the Scottish National War Memorial, and Director of the Edinburgh Book Festival. She served on numerous cultural committees, and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In 1992 she was awarded the Office of the British Empire for services to literature. She died on November 9, 2001, at the age of 78.
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