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The Spring of the Ram: The Second Book of the House of Niccoloby Dorothy Dunnett
Synopses & Reviews
THE SPRING sign of the Ram is, of course, the earliest in the Zodiac; and Aries relates to the first House in the Wheel. You will have read the Divine Ptolemy on the subject. The Greeks considered the starfield of the Ram to represent the Golden Fleece sought by the heroic Jason; others called it the Ram of Ammon instead. You may now forget the whole issue. It is my business, not yours. Your business (and mine) is the star of Niccol?, whose foot I am required to set on the same quest as that of Jason.
Whether I can do it, I am not at all sure. He is nineteen years old, and clever. It is clever to begin life as a dyer's apprentice in Bruges and gain control of your employer's business by marrying her. A business in Flanders is worth something. Flanders is ruled by the Duke of Burgundy, one of the richest princes in the world, and feared even by the King of France, although Charles is supposed to be Duke Philip's overlord for the lands he possesses in France. Bruges in Flanders is a world centre of trade and finance, dealing across the narrow Channel with England and Scotland (although England is embroiled in its war between Yorkist and Lancastrian). Bruges houses merchants from the republics of Venice and Genoa and from the bits of Spain that are not under Saracen rule. It lodges a branch of the House of Medici, whose head, Cosimo de' Medici, is the power in my ancestral city of Florence. It deals with representatives of Pope Pius in Rome, and the war-worried Kingdom of Naples and the prosperous Duchy of Milan, whose Duke Francesco Sforza is so anxious to win Genoa from the French. It sends goods as far away as Constantinople and Asia Minor, because it likes the luxuries it imports in return, and has moreover a need for Asian alum, the powder which fixes dye into cloth. Aries is, of course, the sign of the wool merchant.
It is a pity that, intelligent as he is, Niccol? should have made so many mistakes while living in Bruges. The worst has threatened his wife and her business. He has antagonised a powerful Scottish nobleman, and must leave Bruges until the danger has lessened. But for me, he would have joined his wife's mercenary troop somewhere in Italy. It is I who have placed before him another prospect, brilliant as the Fleece, and in the same far-off country of legend.
Seven years ago, Constantinople fell before the Sultan Mehmet, and its Byzantine Emperor died. The other European lands of Byzantium were all in time overrun by these Ottoman Turks, my own Greek possessions included. There remained only one spangle of the exquisite culture which had survived for so long at the meeting-place of the West and the Orient, preserving the finest of both. This was the Empire of Trebizond, a garden on the southern coast of the Black Sea, no more than forty miles deep and the worth of three to four days journeying from one end to the other. There ruled the Emperor David of the Byzantine family of the Comneni, a dynasty of legendary beauty and wealth which had survived for two hundred years against the enemy tribes at its frontiers, sometimes through war; sometimes through diplomacy; sometimes through marriage.
The Emperor David of Trebizond, reports said, was sending a merchant to the West seeking Florentine trade, and offering to house a Florentine agency. I put it to Niccol?, whom the Flemings call Nicholas: what had he to lose? He required to leave Bruges. He required to put his t
In fifteenth-century Europe, young Niccolo+a6 travels from Florence to Trevizond on the Black Sea, where the West and the Orient meet and where he finds both opportunity and danger. Reprint. 17,500 first printing.
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 Niccoloograve; 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 andswashbuckles his way to the helm of a mercantile empire.
In 1461, Nicholas is in Florence. Backed by none other than Cosimo de' Medici, he will sail the Black Sea to Trebizond, last outpost of Byzantium, and the last jewel missing from the crown of the Ottoman Empire. But trouble lies ahead. Nicholas's stepdaughter--at the tender age of thirteen--has eloped with his rival in trade: a Machiavellian Genoese who races aheadof Nicholas, sowing disaster at every port. And time is of the essence: Trebizond may fall to the Turks at any moment. Crackling with wit, breathtakingly paced, The Spring of the Ram is a pyrotechnic blend of scholarshipand narrative shimmering with the scents, sounds, colors, and combustible emotions of the 15th century.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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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