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The Spring of the Ram (The House of Niccolò #2)

4.4  ·  Rating Details ·  2,059 Ratings  ·  81 Reviews
With the bravura storytelling and pungent authenticity of detail she brought to her acclaimed Lymond Chronicles, Dorothy Dunnett, grande dame of the historical novel, presents The House of Niccolò series. The time is the 15th century, when intrepid merchants became the new knighthood of Europe. Among them, none is bolder or more cunning than Nicholas vander Poele of Bruges ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published March 30th 1999 by Vintage (first published October 12th 1987)
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The second in the Niccolo series and just as compelling as the Lymond series in it's own right. I love the way the author allows the reader to become so invested in the characters. All of the characters from the central ones right down to the peripheral characters, all make their presence felt.
There is far more to the young Claes, dye apprentice turned world worldy adventurer then was first apparent and I'm enjoying seeing more and more of the machinations of Claes being revealed.
A word of warn
Ryan Groesbeck
May 26, 2012 Ryan Groesbeck rated it really liked it
Shelves: dorothy-dunnett
This one's definitely picking up steam from the first one, which suffered a little from Dunnett's tendency to throw you in at the deep end and expect you to swim. With more familiarity with the major players, this book read much easier.

It's fascinating to me how some of the characters / scenes I initially thought were just pale retreads of ones from her other series, but the more fleshed out they become the more I see that they are entirely different people. Niccolo and Lymond are both incredib
Nov 18, 2016 Eric rated it really liked it
One very special trait Dorothy Dunnett, the author, possesses in her writing is when she creates and develops a nefarious character, you the reader, will certainly loathe, detest, despise and wish any number of equally nefarious means to the character's demise. They appear and some receive their just deserves, others, I'm sure, are to remain in these tales of the House of Niccolo Series House of Niccolo Series (Niccolo Rising, The Spring of the Ram, Race of Scorpions, Scales of Gold, The Unicorn Hunt, To Lie with Lions, Caprice and Rondo, Gemini) by Dorothy Dunnett.

As I have finished book two of the eight in this saga, I will refrain from any other reviews other than to l
Stuart Lutzenhiser
Jan 02, 2013 Stuart Lutzenhiser rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
My experience with this novel was like basically every other Dunnett novel I have read. That is I start to read it and get hopelessly bogged down in the details and all of the other setup work that she does. I plod along day after day after week after month unless something clicks. Usually about 1/2 to 2/3rds of the way through the book and there is a tipping point in the narrative and then I just consume the book until the very, very satisfying end. However, it does take me a while to get there ...more
Jun 26, 2013 danse rated it liked it
Personally I don't like the author (and particularly this series) very much but acknowledge that she was a very good genre writer. I wanted to know how the lead sidesteps the minefields. I could imagine the historical setting of the book. While I didn't have problems following the allusions, I didn't feel like they added emotional pathos. Sure, they deepened the story by making it more historically accurate. However, I didn't feel emotionally connected to the characters. To me they seemed like t ...more
Seriously give this book to the showrunners of Game of Thrones--I've found their next series.
Jul 16, 2010 Terri rated it it was amazing
Loved it. Learned a lot. Nicholas fascinates me. Gotta go, the next in the series is calling me....

3rd reread of this series: Even better! So interesting.
Christian Scala
La primavera dell'ariete, in originale "Niccolò Rising", è un romanzo della scrittrice scozzese Dorothy Dunnett, edito nel 1986. E' il primo romanzo della serie di Niccolò, che consta di otto libri.

La Serie di Niccolò è una serie di otto romanzi storici di Dorothy Dunnett ambientati a metà del XV secolo, in pieno Rinascimento europeo. Il protagonista della serie è Nicholas de Fleury (Niccolò, Nicholas van der Poele, o Claes), un ragazzo di nascita povera ed incerta, che arriverà alla ricchezza g
May 30, 2015 Adriana rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sadie Slater
Sep 14, 2016 Sadie Slater rated it really liked it
The second of Dorothy Dunnett's House of Niccolo books takes her hero (now definitely Nicholas, rather than Claes, and leader rather than apprentice) on a trading mission to Trebizond in 1461. Having looked up Trebizond when I read The Towers of Trebizond, I knew from the start that this wasn't likely to be an entirely uneventful trip, as indeed it wasn't, featuring Dunnett's trademark twisting plots; sequences that had me turning the pages, unable to put the book down until I found out how Nich ...more
Dec 03, 2010 Diane rated it it was amazing
I love Niccolo. And I love Dorothy Dunnett. History has always been a favorite area of study and I am learning (again, as I am re-reading this series) what life was like in 15th C. Europe and environs. Our study of culture in this book was mainly focused on Trebizond, a Byzantine holdout on the Black Sea. The court was extremely decadent and the Emperor was a power-mad, self-loving idiot. Fascinating stuff.

Again, Dunnett has researched this world so well, my mind's eye was able to imagine it in
Sep 22, 2015 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second book in the series. I have read the House of Niccolo Series of eight books, and I have found her characters to be deep and rich. They are not without flaws and make mistakes and suffer from the consequences. They are, most of them “bigger than life” in the sense they are so intelligent, learn languages and foresee events and plan for all the possibilities. She visits several settings in each book, each with it’s own set of characters, and great attention to detail in describin ...more
Roman Clodia
May 22, 2016 Roman Clodia rated it it was amazing
This is the second volume of Dunnett's second great series built around the enigmatic Nicholas, once a dyer's apprentice in Bruges, and now the leader of a trading company setting up business in Trebizond, the last outpost of the Byzantine empire, on behalf of the Medici.

After the domestic beginning of the series (Niccolo Rising) this allows Nicholas, still only 20, to spread his wings and try his skills in a wider world. But he is as dangerous as the sphere which he is entering, and his friends
Mar 26, 2011 Joy rated it really liked it
Niccolo/Nicholas, a brilliant young man rapidly rising on the European business stage, is invited to establish a trading station at Trebizond, the last remnant of the Byzantine empire. His rival is Pagano Doria, deliberate mischief-maker, who has seduced and carried off Niccolo's very young stepdaughter. Representing respectively Florence and Genoa, Niccolo and Pagano conduct an escalating business war with the advance of the Sultan's armies as a backdrop to high adventure.

Written in an entirely different "voice" and manner, this second book in the series is MUCH easier to read, the scenes more clear (and therefore more fun) to watch, the characters similar.

It begins with a Chorus/Storyteller to explain where things stand with our Nicholas/Niccolo, and then the story begins with his youngest step-daughter, Catherine, 11, headstrong and maker of his own destiny (as she sees it) thinking herself into an adventure! One her mother would not care for, if she (when) she
Jean Gobel
Nov 10, 2012 Jean Gobel rated it really liked it
I had a difficult time with this second book of The House of Niccolo, I think because I _feel_ too much for Nicholas vander Poele, the dyeworks apprentice making his way upwards in the world. Seems like he is to blame for everything, good or bad. Or so his men think. They trust him, they perhaps do not. They fear his brilliant but secretive mind may bring them to their end. They fear his youth and inexperience. They do not understand his genius. But they follow him, if sometimes somewhat relucta ...more
Sep 22, 2007 Siria rated it really liked it
As with most of Dunnett's books, the more involved details of the plot flew right over my head--I can tell you that there were political machinations involving the Emperor of Trebizond and the Turkish Sultan, but that's about it. Oh, and some rather amusing and engaging scenes involving the plague, bath houses, intimations of sodomy and camels (not all at once).

I think Dunnett is also somehow managing to tell this series much more from the point of view of her protagonist, while at the same tim
Beth (moonivy)
Oct 20, 2007 Beth (moonivy) rated it it was amazing
Read 11/10/07-2/3/08
The Spring of the Ram is the second book of The House of Niccolo. In this volume, Nicholas De Fleury sheds the last vestige of his dyer’s apprentice persona, Claes, to
become the leader of the Charetty trading company. And what a fascinating journey it is !
From Florence to Constantinople to the Black Sea and the dying empire of Trebizond, Nicholas and his company outwit devious friends and enemies, in a glorious, complicated
series of plots and mishaps and triumphs. Densely, b
Feb 06, 2013 Brittany rated it really liked it
I remember reading this book. I remember wanting to strangle Catherine (this did not change this time around). And apparently, I remember very little else because reading this book this time was very much the same as reading it for the first time.

Watching Niccolo come into his own is entertaining and engrossing. His interpersonal relationships are less one-sided than Lymond's. (It's so hard not to compare the two sets of books, though that's unfair. There can only ever be one Lymond, and I'm not
Nicholas Whyte
Sep 18, 2010 Nicholas Whyte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, 1207, non-genre, xw[return][return]Niccolò, the Flemish apprentice-turned-magnate of the first book, is sent on a mission of cut-throat mercantile competition to Trebizond, the only surviving point of the Byzantine Empire; but the year is 1461, and Trebizond's time is also running out. There's some very skeevy (though not at all explicit) underage sex in this book, though our hero nobly stands aside from it; there's also a lot of appropriately byzantine political conspirac ...more
Nov 29, 2015 Sergio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Il secondo libro sulle avventure di Niccolò, già apprendista tintore nella mercantile città di Bruges nelle Fiandre della prima metà del XV secolo ed ora a capo di una fiorente compagnia mercantile, non perde il fascino del romanzo introduttivo e, attraverso le vicende che spingono la compagnia oltre il Bosforo nella città di Trebisonda in competizione con Genova per assicurarsi le merci più preziose delle carovane, permette al lettore di seguire, insieme alle avventure fittizie dei protagonisti ...more
Jan 16, 2009 Katherine rated it it was amazing
Nicholas, a dye merchant's apprentice abruptly turned master of his company, feels his way around the schemes of rival merchants, princes, and emperors. He is brilliant but young, not entirely trusted by his advisors (for good reason), and ringed about by uncertain allies and merciless enemies.

His main rival in this volume is the insouciantly ruthless sea prince Pagano Doria, who manages to find a particularly diabolical way to undermine Nicholas's fragile authority. In the background, Dunnett
I enjoyed this one much more than the first. The intrigue with the Genoese "sea prince" who had abducted young Catherine de Charetty and took her to Trebizond, knowing that Nicholas and his little army of friends would also be headed there, was great. I still think the author was quite purposefully obscuring some stuff, and the characters' scheming - everyone was scheming, everyone was impenetrable, enigmatic, and equally calm in face of danger - tired me a bit, but I read on and I think it was ...more
Kate Alexis
Dec 03, 2007 Kate Alexis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: always-reading
Well, I love this book! It makes me want to visit the Black Sea. And yes, I'm reading it AGAIN, for the 3rd time(10.2011). It just keeps getting better. I love how this time I remember who is behind Doria trying to ruin Nicholas and the rest of the Charetty Company. I love how Dunnett writes from the perspective of the many different main characters. My favorite is seeing how they are all so worried of what Nicholas will do next and whether he is dangerous. The first book is a tough read but if ...more
Mar 23, 2016 Michele rated it liked it
Oh, I just don't know. This is my fourth Dunnett book and maybe my last. I totally get why people love them, and I admire the level of historical detail and the intricacy of the plots, but... I just can't get on board with the utter perfection of Dunnett's heroes, Lymond and Niccolo. Do they have to be amazingly good at everything? And were there really so many extraordinarily evil noblemen in past centuries, spending years and fortunes trying in vain to rid the world of these paragons? It's all ...more
Jan 01, 2008 Korynn rated it liked it
Married to a woman old enough to be his mother, who was formerly his boss, Niccolo retreats from Bruges and his past to create a fortune and a new persona. This gamble involves bringing soldiers and trade to Trebizond, last outpost of the Christian emperors since the fall of Constantinople to the Turk. Unfortunately he has a competitor with family alliance and experience on his side, as well as Niccolo's stolen jealous step-daughter in his bed. Niccolo does some crafty planning to come out of th ...more
Jan 18, 2012 Nathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Second of the House of Niccolo series (following Niccolo Rising). In which aspiring merchant prince sails on behalf of Florence to the Empire of Trebizond in 1461, just as the Turks start eyeing the place off. Intrigue and adventure ensue, with the occasional swordfight and cannon, 12 year old girls getting married, and androgynous bath boys. More contained than Niccolo Rising and therefore easier to follow. Rated M for some violence, nudity and adult themes. 4/5
Mar 31, 2013 mirole rated it really liked it
3.5* just because it took me so long to finish it (2 months, 10 days on and off). Surprisingly, although I've been warned not to expect anything like Lymond and I did not, I like the hero very much albeit he is too mature for his age (20 at this point). But the writing is so much less interesting than in TLC that it makes the story drag for me. I loved The Game of Kings and The Queen's Play although there was not much of a story in either of them.

Still, will continue with the series
Jan 25, 2014 Pat rated it really liked it
I'm enjoying this series. The protaganist is sort of a 15th century Indiana Jones, constantly getting in and out of sticky situations. He has worked his way up from apprentice at a very successful dye operation to one of its managers, and discovers a talent for trade along the way. To that end he heads from Florence to Turkey, following great wealth and a sworn enemy. Break out the popcorn - this is a literary swashbuckler.
Dec 02, 2012 Tim rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book describing 15th century life ranging from modern day Netherlands clear over to the Black Sea. Niccolo - the principle character - provides the reader a storyline that at the same time illuminates empires long crumbled, and those being built. Islam, Christianity and Paganism are found throughout the multitude of city states, along with the depravities of the rich and powerful and the less widely seen acts of valor, virtue, and loyalty.

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Dorothy Dunnett OBE was a Scottish historical novelist. She is best known for her six-part series about Francis Crawford of Lymond, The Lymond Chronicles, which she followed with the eight-part prequel The House of Niccolò. She also wrote a novel about the real Macbeth called King Hereafter (1982), and a series of mystery novels centred around Johnson Johnson, a portrait painter/spy.

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Other Books in the Series

The House of Niccolò (8 books)
  • Niccolò Rising (The House of Niccolò, #1)
  • Race of Scorpions (The House of Niccolo, #3)
  • Scales of Gold (The House of Niccolo, #4)
  • The Unicorn Hunt (The House of Niccolo, #5)
  • To Lie with Lions (The House of Niccolo, #6)
  • Caprice and Rondo (The House of Niccolo, #7)
  • Gemini (The House of Niccolo, #8)

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“Tobie. Unless I'm giving off steam, behave normally. I remember what to do. One foot in front of the other, but not both at the same time unless I'm a robin.” 3 likes
“Well, get the coffer out," said Tobie roundly. "You find his clean clothes and I'll cut his hair round his cap and wash his ears out. Then, when we get to the Palazzo Medici, you imitate his voice and I'll sit him on my knee and move his arms up and down. Where is the problem?” 3 likes
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