cover image To Lie with Lions

To Lie with Lions

Dorothy Dunnett. Alfred A. Knopf, $27 (640pp) ISBN 978-0-394-58629-8

Nicholas de Fleury, cosmopolitan merchant banker of late-15th century Venice, burgher of Bruges, master manipulator who craves absolute personal power, stands at the dawn of the modern age, shedding light on our own. In this sixth engrossing installment of her House of Niccolo saga (following The Unicorn Hunt), Scottish novelist Dunnett focuses on her scheming, autocratic, charming hero's startlingly modern open marriage to quick-witted, self-sufficient Gelis van Borselen. It's a war of wills, egos and attrition that erupts in 1471 as de Fleury (aka Nicholas vander Poele) snatches his infant son, Jordan, from Gelis's arms and kidnaps the boy, a pawn in a bitter power struggle that will take the lives of friends and rivals. Nicholas, who often resembles a mercenary or soldier of fortune more than he does a banker, serves multiple masters, working secretly for French King Louis XI while openly advising Charles, Duke of Burgundy and Scottish King James III. With her usual dramatic flair, Dunnett mixes historical and fictive characters in a tale that sweeps from Venice to Antwerp, Edinburgh, Iceland, France and Cyprus, where Nicholas undertakes a diplomatic mission to James de Lusignan, King of Jerusalem, Cyprus and Armenia. High adventure, high finance, war, piracy and royal intrigue enliven a historical romance that seems unerringly realistic in its quicksilver evocation of a world where happiness is fleeting and usually unexpected. (June)