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Title: Gemini: The House of Niccolo (Signed First ...
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Scotland, 1477: Nicholas de Fleury, former banker and merchant, has re-appeared in the land that, four years earlier, he had brought very close to ruin in the course of an intense commercial and personal war with secret enemies--and, indeed, with his clever wife Gelis.
Now the opportunity for redemption is at hand, but Nicholas soon finds himself pursuing his objectives amid a complex, corrosive power struggle centering on the Scottish royal family but closely involving the powerful merchants of Edinburgh, the gentry, the clergy, the English (ever seeking an excuse to pounce on their neighbor to the north), the French, the Burgundians. His presence soon draws Gelis and their son Jodi to Scotland, as well as Nicholas's companions and subordinates in many a past endeavor--Dr. Tobias and his wife Clémence, Mick Crackbene, John le Grant, and Andro Wodman among them. Here, too, Nicholas meets again with others who have had an influence, for good or evil, in his life: King James III of Scotland and his rebellious siblings; the St. Pols: Jordan, Simon, and young Henry; Mistress Bel of Cuthilgurdy and David de Salmeton; Anselm Adorne and Kathi his niece. Caught up in, and sometimes molding, the course of great events, Nicholas exhibits by turns the fierce silence with which he masks his secrets, and the explosive, willful gaiety that binds men, women, and children to him. And as the secrets of his birth and heritage come to light, Nicholas has to decide whether he desires to establish a future in Scotland for himself and his family, and a home for his descendants.
Gemini brings to a dazzling conclusion Dorothy Dunnett's House of Niccolò series (synopsized in this volume), in which this peerless novelist has vividly re-created the dramatic, flamboyant world of the early Renaissance in historical writing of scrupulous authenticity and in the entrancing portrait of her visionary hero. Now, in a book infused with wit and poetry, emotion and humor, action and mystery, she brings Nicholas de Fleury at last to choose his heart's home, where he can exercise all his skills as an advisor to kings and statesmen, as a husband, a father, and a leader of men--and where, perhaps, we will discern a connection between him and that other remarkable personality, Francis Crawford, whose exploits Lady Dunnett recorded so memorably in The Lymond Chronicles.
A marvel of storytelling and historical imagination, Gemini just may be Dorothy Dunnett's pièce de résistance. This culminating installment of the House of Niccolò series is set in Scotland in 1477--and more specifically, in the world of international trade and commerce, which can deal fatal blows to those unfamiliar with its intricacies. When Nicholas de Fleury returns to Edinburgh after a four-year absence, speculation runs rampant about why he closed all his ventures in Scotland and deserted his friends. Struggling to fend off various assassination attempts, Nicholas rejoins the fledgling court of young King James III. Yet he soon discovers that the squabbles between the monarch and his double-dealing siblings are no less dangerous than the intrigues he has left behind. Dunnett recounts the whole story with typically ornate and pungent prose, and delineates her massive cast of characters with a Holbein-like attention to physical detail.
Nicholas in particular is a splendidly rounded creation. And by placing him at the center of her sprawling narrative, Dunnett helps us to navigate the many convolutions of the plot. Her female characters, too, are distinctive. However, it is the sheer breadth of Dunnett's ambitions that takes the breath away, along with her exhilarating set pieces:
The sword point bit into his cloak and grated across the cuirass underneath, bringing the swordsman close for a moment, his face blank with surprise. Nicholas kicked him under the chin, so that he blundered back and hit someone else, while Nicholas dragged out his own sword. The horse wasn't his, but it was a powerful beast and alarmed enough to be ready to rear. Nicholas wrapped the reins around one wrist and hauled, using the bit to drag the horse threshing onto its haunches, and then allowing it to plunge forward again.En garde, Dunnett fans! Those who have made the long trek with our sword-brandishing hero will find this a perfectly orchestrated finale. --Barry Forshaw
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