cover image Spring of the RAM

Spring of the RAM

Dorothy Dunnett. Alfred A. Knopf, $19.95 (469pp) ISBN 978-0-394-56437-1

Praised for her historical novels (King Hereafter, the Francis of Lymond series), the prolific Dunnett continues with this crisp and dashing tale of venture and misadventure, the second volume of a monumental 15th century sequence. In Niccolo Rising, Nicholas married the middle-aged widow Marian Charetty, head of a lucrative dyeworks in Bruges. Now, plucky 19-year-old Nicholas, fleeing his bitter foe Simon de Pol, journeys via Florencewhere he gets funding from the Medicisto the East. There he hopes to trade with the Emperor of Trebizond. Thus, the setting moves to the land of the fabled Golden Fleeceunderscoring the title, which refers to the wool merchant's star sign, Ariesand the plot thickens briskly. Marian's nymphet daughter Catherine is ensnared by sea-prince Pagano Doria, who is working secretly for the formidable Simon in his quest to wrest control of the House of Charetty. Doria and Nicholas race each other's galleys and meet in hasty skirmishes. The invading Turks pose a further threat. But the seductive Princess Violante, in diaphanous deshabille, offers Nicholas protectionand much more. Steeped in Byzantine luxury, pageantry and intrigue, this lengthy, complex narrative shows Dunnett at her dextrous best. History Book Club alternate. (July)