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Niccolo Rising: The First Book of the House of Niccoloby Dorothy Dunnett
Synopses & Reviews
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 ever change. Or as if there existed no sort of fool, of either sex, who might one day treat trade (trade ) as an amusement.
It began mildly enough, the awkward chain of events that was to upset the bankers so much. It began with sea, and September sunlight, and three young men lying stripped to their doublets in the Duke of Burgundy's bath.
Of the three, Claes and Felix were watching the canal bank for girls. Julius, his instincts blunted by an extra decade, was content to sink back, agreeably fortified, and forget he was anyone's tutor. A good astrologer would have told him to get out at once.
The sun warmed the bath, and the water bore it along on the last stage of its meandering journey. From the leadfounder's in England it had crossed the narrow sea to the Low Countries in a serviceable wind-battered caravel. It had been unloaded with some trouble in the crowded harbour at Sluys, and strapped with some trouble athwart a canal boat with a scratch crew of oarsmen.
And now, here it was. Lumped with cherubs: a bath for the noble Philip, Duke of Burgundy, Count of Flanders, Margrave of the Holy Roman Empire and all the rest of his high-yielding honours. A communal bathing-basin now on its way to the Duke's occasional residence in the merchant city of Bruges. And working their passage inside it, Julius, Felix and Claes.
For the moment, there was nothing to do. In the peace, a wave of philosophy overcame Julius. What, he said, is happiness? He opened his eyes.
A new hound, said Felix, who was seventeen. His crossbow lay on the points of his pelvis and his ratlike nose was red with the sun. The kind with big ears.
Julius curled a lip, without malice. So much for Felix. He turned his gaze towards Claes, who was eighteen and built like an oak tree with dimples.
A new girl, offered Claes. He jerked open the wine flask, gripping the neck like the hock of a stallion. The kind with . . .
That's enough, Julius said. Philosophy was wasted on both of them. Everything was wasted on Claes. Julius was sometimes glad that civilization had reached the advanced stage it had, so that it could stand up to Claes. The Greeks would have gone back to tents.
Claes looked at him, pained. He said, I've only had- Beside him, young Felix was grinning.
Julius said, Drink Drink I said that's enough about girls. Forget I said anything.
All right, said Claes, surprised. He drank. He inhaled. His nostrils were indigo blue. He said, This is nice.
Julius refrained from agreeing. A dyeshop apprentice would find any change nice. Felix (his charge, his employer's son, his daily burden) had enjoyed the day's rabbiting, but didn't deserve to. Only he, Julius, had left his cares in the dyeshop and had a right, for one day, to indulge himself.
The canal banks glided past. The lightermen bickered companionably and dropped into snatches of song as they paddled. The sunwarmed cherubim lodged three indolent heads, cheek by jowl round the bath-rim. Julius found the wine flask in his hand, and eclipsed the whole sun wi
Sent to Italy by his guardian Marian, the widowed owner of a Bruges trading house, Claes, a reckless boy and seeming simpleton, develops into a sophisticated adventurer known as Niccolo+a6, in a colorful novel of late fifteenth-century Europe. Reprint.
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 Niccol 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.
Niccol Rising, Book One of the series, finds us in Bruges, 1460. Jousting is the genteel pastime, and successful merchants are, of necessity, polyglot. Street smart, brilliant at figures, adept at the subtleties of diplomacy and the well-timed untruth, Dunnett's hero rises from wastrel to prodigy in a breathless adventure that wins him the hand of the strongest woman in Bruges and the hatred of two powerful enemies. From a riotous and potentially murderous carnival in Flanders, to an avalanche in the Alps and a pitched battle on the outskirts of Naples, Niccol Rising combines history, adventure, and high romance in the tradition stretching from Alexandre Dumas to Mary Renault.
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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