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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Dunnett
Having read and adored all of the Lymond books and fallen in love with Francis Crawford I was expecting the Niccolo books to be a bit of a let down. On the contrary this first in the series is completely and awe inspiringly wonderful. Set in 15th C Bruges and all over Europe eventually, it tells the story of Claes/Nicholas/Niccolo and his progression from lowly dyers...
Published on 16 Mar. 2006 by CJ

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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not easy to get into.
I'm still trying to get into this book. Usually if I don't like the first few pages I put the book away but I'm giving it another go.
Published 23 months ago by Cat lover


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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Dunnett, 16 Mar. 2006
By 
CJ (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Niccolo Rising: The House of Niccolo (Paperback)
Having read and adored all of the Lymond books and fallen in love with Francis Crawford I was expecting the Niccolo books to be a bit of a let down. On the contrary this first in the series is completely and awe inspiringly wonderful. Set in 15th C Bruges and all over Europe eventually, it tells the story of Claes/Nicholas/Niccolo and his progression from lowly dyers apprentice to respected merchant. His character and talents are unveiled in the course of the book and the adventures and countries he travels through are brilliantly brought to life. You get a real taste of what it must have been like to live in medieval times and its all set very accurately in its historical context. Can't recommend it highly enough - a thoroughly satisfying and exciting read.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant 'prequel' to the Lymond series, 11 April 2008
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Niccolo Rising: The House of Niccolo (Paperback)
Having finished the magnificent Lymond series of novel, Dunnett made a brave decision to go back in time rather tha writing a sequel and so here starts her sequence of 8 novels telling of the ancestors of the Crawfords.

Being Dunnett there are no easy parallels, and the forbears of Francis Crawford are a far cry from what we might expect. Set in the C15th in Flanders this tale is set amongst the merchants and traders of Flanders, and the Italian states rather than kings and queens (at least in this first novel). Niccolo, the apprentice Claes, is seemingly young, innocent and accepting but at the novel progresses a very different mind emerges: one more subtle, opaque and dangerous than anyone might have imagined.

This is a brillaint start to Dunnett's second major sequence, less intellctual with none of the fabulous linguistic word-play of the Lymond series, but just as fascinating and perhaps more accessible.

A far cry from the 'historical' novels of the likes of Gregory and Chadwick, this is robust, solid and tangible, with a teasing wit that draws you deeper and deeper into what becomes a very complex story.

The rest of the series in order is Spring of the Ram, Race of Scorpions, Scales of Gold, The Unicorn Hunt, To Lie with Lions, Caprice and Rondo, Gemini.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Revelation, 31 Dec. 2004
This review is from: Niccolo Rising: The House of Niccolo (Paperback)
A funny, wonderful, challenging journey into Renaissance Europe is brought to life by the author's impressive scholarship and obvious love of historical detail.
For Dunnett the past is more than just a convenient source of drama, costume and turn of phrase. Drama there is plenty of - there are great battle scenes and moments of passion, hand to hand combat with sword, dagger and staff. But the real concern is always the characters - powerful men and strong women move through a time of great potential and vibrancy. Many of the characters are historical figures - de Medici bankers, flanders merchants, nobility. And of course there is Claes, at the start seeming like no more than a simple clownish apprentice youth, the depths of his personality and talents are slowly exposed piece by piece through the book. And yet at the end more questions have been raised than answered about his motivations, his actions.
And this is a trait of the whole book. Expect to be baffled. Much of the tension rests on ambiguity and missing pieces. Some of the developments and motivations make little sense without knowledge of the political and economic situation of late fifteenth centuary europe. And this information is not always fully given - the author often only barely sketches the intricate background and leaves the reader to work out the the motivations behind the calculations and actions of the players. Expect to be challenged.
Anyone who has ever tried to picture the immediate reality of daily life in a far away time and place will find a lot of joy here. All through the intricate plot developments and intensity of dialogue she brings from years of research into history, trade and industry a very real awareness of how people lived - the smells, the sights, the sounds of a medieval city, of a dyehouse, a castle. More than just the wealth of detail there is a sense of how individuals fitted into the bigger picture of kings and battles. The fall of Constantinople to the Turks a few years before the events of the book is the cause of many of the shifts of power and intrigue. The same goes for the war of the roses, the conflict between the French King and his son, the Dauphin. At times the book seems to be recounting many games of chess, all on the same board, sharing many pieces. And one game in particular.
Excellent.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, but keep reading as difficult to get into!, 6 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: Niccolo Rising: The House of Niccolo (Paperback)
To be frank this was not really my subject but when a friend spoke so highly of Dorothy Dunnett's work I felt I had to try it! The first thing I have to say is that the author brings the characters alive with all the trappings of their time in 15th c Europe, but she also makes them experience contemporary feelings, something historical writers often find difficult to express. Things, morals, clothes, expectations may be different but these people have real feelings. The second thing to say is that Dunnett really paints a picture: as much a travel journal as a historical novel and even if you have not been to Bruges you are left feeling that you have, and fortunately for us these characters travel around - Flanders, Scotland, Geneva, Milan and Northern Italy. I won't spoil the ending by relating a synopsis; be it sufficient to say this is a book I am really glad to have read and my understanding of time of the High Renaissance is much enhanced. I highly recommend it!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dunnett does this so well, 1 Oct. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Niccolo Rising: The House of Niccolo (Paperback)
This is the first book in another series of historical novels by Dorothy Dunnett. It is set in the 15th century when life in Europe is almost controlled by the merchant classes. Claus is an apprentice dyer an illegitimate child nobody wants. He is very shrewd and has a head for business so manages to rise to running a courier service for the merchants and bankers. He has enemies though, and it seems hard to understand why. Why would a Scottish aristocrat have any interest in a clumsy buffoon? Once again Dorothy Dunnett brings her skill at weaving a great plot into historic fact to her readers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "That's the Ostrich," said the boy, "It roars when it's unhappy.", 2 Jan. 2013
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Niccolo Rising: The House of Niccolo (Paperback)
In the second series by this wonderful writer she has chosen to go back further in time to the great trading expansion of the Mediterranean world, and the moment in which the Renaissance expanded the remit and techniques of art in particular, through artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. It is most often stated that the Renaissance began in Florence, but this was much more than an artistic flowering. New ways of building, new techniques of study and, most notably, an expansion of trade that was unprecedented in previous times. This period of marvels saw new weapons culverin (guns), and cannons coming into play, and the advancment of siege engines with ever-more sophisticated methods of breaching city walls. The great trading companies of the time frequently had soldiers as well as merchants, to defend their trading arms. The Medici, the Ventians, the Genoese and merchants of France and Flanders, and great Duchys such as that of Milan and Savoy, Burgundy and the Kingdom of Naples. At that time the Kingdom of France was an uncertain place, with the King and the Dauphin engaged in a covert war against each other.

In this novel, we are introduced to a low born apprentice called Claes, a well-set-up young man who through his own wits and abilities rises through the ranks and by means of marriage begins his career at the head of the Charetty Company - initially dyers and cloth traders, with their own soldiery - which, through Claes's activities, becomes a valuable player. Claes learns about ciphers and corners the market in alum. He takes the name Niccolo as his own right, having discovered that he is related to Jordan de Riberac, a dangerous man, with an equally dangerous son, Simon of Kilmirren. Niccolo, is in fact, Jordan's grandson, though not everyone is aware of the relationship.

This first novel of the series sees him fighting in the short war between Naples and Milan and Genoese interests, with the King, of Navarre (Ferrante, the bastard son of Alfonso V of Aragon), in which Nicholas sees his stepson killed and returns to Flanders a very rich man.

There are a great many activities and interests left out of this description, among them the identity of the father of the child about to be born to Katelina von Borselin, married to Simon of Kilmirren. It's not really possible to give a full account of everything that happens in this brilliantly exciting and complex plot. Enough to know that we are in Dorothy Dunnett's safe hands and things can only get better. Choosing a low-born man with a mystery attached to his parentage is an echo of that other hero in her previous series of novels. But this one is more human, more likeable, though just as resourceful and admirable as was Francis Lymond. Very many of the people described actually lived at that time which gives this wonderful book an authenticity that other historical romances cannot hope to emulate. I can't wait to read more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best historical fiction novel I've ever read, 17 Nov. 2013
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This was my second read of 'Niccolo Rising'. I actually enjoyed it more this time because I had a better grasp of all the characters and felt like I understood more of what was going on. I just love the metamorphosis of 'Claes' and how he brings all the main characters together by the end. And Dunnetts usual flair for ending each book with a shocking revelation. I read 'The House of Niccolo' before 'The Lymond Chronicles' and controversially prefer Niccolo as the main character and all the supporting cast in this series more than Lymond. Reading them a second time is very recommended.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Niccolo Rising, 21 Aug. 2005
This review is from: Niccolo Rising: The House of Niccolo (Paperback)
What a complete joy! From the very beginning, I was completely absorbed in the life of Claes, with the amazing twists and turns in the story, and always providing accurate historical detail as well.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At the very pinnacle of historical novels, 10 Oct. 2007
By 
Didier (Ghent, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Niccolo Rising: The House of Niccolo (Paperback)
Entertaining, informative, gripping, insightful, funny, dramatic: the Niccolo-series by Dorothy Dunnett of which this is volume one has it all and more besides. I found myself reading into the early hours of the morning as in a trance, and when finally closing the book to go to sleep it felt like I spent the previous hours in the 15th century.

When it comes to historical fiction this is as good as it gets.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High Romance in medieval Bruges (and elsewhere), 18 July 2013
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Dorothy Dunnett writes fascinating complex romantic substantial adventure stories. Niccolo Rising is the first of her second series of historical novels set in 15th century Bruges with a wealth of detail on the business and government life of Bruges and the leaders and conflicts of the cities, duchies and states around it.
The hero is charming, clever, flawed and saddled with a low social status and a murky family background. In this book he begins to understand his capabilities and his opportunities, meets with some success and some failures and sows the seeds for later plots in the series.
It's not the first time I've read it, but it's still hugely entertaining.
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Niccolo Rising: The House of Niccolo
Niccolo Rising: The House of Niccolo by Dorothy Dunnett (Paperback - 3 Nov. 1988)
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