cover image The Unicorn Hunt

The Unicorn Hunt

Dorothy Dunnett. Knopf Publishing Group, $25 (656pp) ISBN 978-0-394-58628-1

Last encountered in Scales of Gold , ruthlessly determined Flemish banker/knight Nicholas vander Poele, protagonist of Dunnett's House of Niccolo series, embarks on a new set of adventures that take him across late-15th century Europe from Flanders to Egypt. After a useful recap of the saga's previous four volumes, Nicholas sails to Scotland, where he confronts his archenemy, Simon de St. Pol, who may be the father of the child whom Nicholas's wife, Gelis van Borselen, is carrying. Months later, back in Flanders, vengeful Gelis, in order to punish Nicholas for fathering an illegitimate child by her sister, hides her newborn boy. Intrigue, betrayal and adventure follow as hardened Nicholas journeys from Florence, full of Medici machinations, to the Tyrol, where he uses a divining rod to find silver. Then it's on to Alexandria, to which the intrepid wanderer is lured in search of treasure, and to Mount Sinai, where he has a dramatic confrontation with his estranged wife. In Cairo, Nicholas is captured in a mosque and tortured, but he escapes to Cyprus, where he searches for the infant boy whose very existence he has begun to doubt. Dunnett keeps the surprises coming in this richly embroidered historical romance, a splendid entertainment peopled with dozens of historical figures, as she puts her finger right on the pulse of the 15th century's turbulent politics, mercantile concerns, earthy passions and deadly feuds. (July)