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Niccolò Rising (The House of Niccolò #1)

4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  2,444 ratings  ·  210 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, 470 pages
Published March 30th 1999 by Vintage (first published 1986)
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Hanneke I think Niccolo is better... felt that the Lymond characters were a bit of a know-it-all, while (spoiler of sorts :-) Claes/Nicholas/Niccolo is much…moreI think Niccolo is better... felt that the Lymond characters were a bit of a know-it-all, while (spoiler of sorts :-) Claes/Nicholas/Niccolo is much more flesh & blood. The medieval environments of Flanders and Italy are wonderfully painted. Having only read the first of the Niccolo series, I love this one better. By all means, try it out for yourself!(less)
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This is the story of Claes AKA Nicholas AKA Niccolo van der Poele and his meteoric, often painful rise from a dyer’s apprentice to one of the premier businessmen in sixteenth-century Europe. Nicholas is brilliant, hilarious, and possessed of the sort of intellect and drive that are simultaneously intoxicating and very dangerous. He is a dyer, a toymaker, a natural mathematician, a fighter, a shameless cheat, a man of complex and often alarming motivations. He forms the backbone of these books, a ...more
ETA: No, I cannot do it. I cannot give a book two stars if it is so bad I cannot finish it!


I tried to read this book once before, and I gave up. Now several friends are reading this and so I thought it might be worth another try. I failed again. This time I read through 12 chapters.

What is wrong? What didn’t I like?

There are so many people; I have difficulty keeping them all straight. Sure I get the main gist of what is happening, but the details are too compl
Rosina Lippi
Jan 15, 2010 Rosina Lippi rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people interested in a complex and detailed historical novel
This is my favorite historical novel, bar none.

I have re-read this novel and the rest of the series many times, but some things never change, no matter how many times I pick them up.

First, I have to read Niccolo very, very slowly. Dunnett has absolutely no patience with lazy readers. The plot is very complex and she doesn't coddle: you read closely, or you will be lost. It's amazing, really, (and heartening) that these stories are so popular and widely read in a day and age where people seem to
This will do for the whole series! Far be it from me to feed anyone's book addiction but have you met Dorothy Dunnett and her Nicolo series? They are historical novels set in late middle age/early renaissance Europe. They centre on the live of group of people in the great trading city of Brugge, then part of the independent duchy of Burgundy. The main character is one Nicholas van der Poele, who rises from the dyeing vats to head a trading house, a bank, a mercenary unit ... and has adventures a ...more
While expanding my knowledge of Medici Italy in MAGNIFICO, I was reminded over and over of peripheral characters in The House of Niccolo, the Renaissance series by the magnificent Dorothy Dunnett. With Unger as background, I decided, I could revisit this series with a better understanding of Niccolo's world. Was I ever right. :-)

And there's Niccolo. Apprentice develops into continental financier: Niccolo, whose many pranks with Felix, heir to the Charetty company, are constantly getting him into
Moderately interesting so far. A lot of - sometimes too much - detail threaten to suffocate the story at times. Decent characters which appear to be way too savvy about the current political occurrences, as if they had access to newspapers twice a day. Author apparently in love with her style. But I kinda like the main character and I'll see what happens.

All right, I've finished it. I'm confused. I'm glad to have read it, but I can't say it gave me enough pleasure. I persevered, and was given so
Jun 17, 2015 Leslie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Leslie by: Joan Garland
If Dunnett's Lymond saga was too difficult for you, you should try the Niccolo series... Same great writing but a little more transparent plots and much fewer foreign language quotes. This series is a must for historical fiction fans!

June 2015 reread
I was surprised on this reread by how much of the plot of the entire series is laid out in this first book. I don't mean that there is a lot of hidden foreshadowing but almost all the main characters were introduced and the stage was set. I enjoyed s
Alas DNF after about third of the book, a number of elements led me to put it aside.
To me, the humour in the first chapters was overdone to the point of resembling a farce. I found myself confused by the myriad of characters and frustrated in trying to keep them straight in my mind. I had to pause several times and go back to check where I encountered that character and how it was related to the other main characters in the story (there is a scary long character list at the beginning of the boo
The Great Niccolò Re-read of 2014, or This Time I Will Actually Pay Attention and Understand Things, Dammit.

Dorothy Dunnett's plots are like a Rube Goldberg machine. Niccolò Rising is both a Rube Goldberg machine in itself and the beginning of the even bigger and more elaborate Rube Goldberg machine that is the House of Niccolò series. On first read, it's confusing, but the bright side is that every re-read is more and more enjoyable as you come to fully understand the intricacies of Dunnett's w
I am kind of in love with this book. And Nicholas.

After many enthusiastic recs, I read the first book of Dorothy Dunnett's Chronicles of Lymond series last year, and though I found it a rather difficult read at first, it was a rewarding one. An exhausting one too, so I didn't immediately go on to read the rest of the series. While browsing at Bookman though, I saw they had Dunnett's Niccolo Rising, the first book in her "prequel" series to Lymond, following Claes, later Nicholas, Vander Poele in
I approached this book, the first in the series with a good deal of trepidation. I had finished The Lymond Chronicles earlier in the year and didn't think that this book, or main character would be able to match the level of fascination that I had viewed Francis Lymond.

So I was relieved, very relieved to have another worthy character to be involved with. Niccolo vander Poele is quite mesmerising and the plot in this story is as riveting and convoluted as only Dorothy Dunnett can deliver.

To my mi
(A millioneth time reread.) The 1st in the 8-book Niccolo series which while published later is a prequel of sorts to the 6-book Francis Crawford of Lymond series. I read the Francis books first, then the Niccolo (they were still being written/published at the time). I thought I'd read through the series in opposite order of publication, but linear chronology, this time around.

There was a point in the 90s where I was completely obsessed with Dorothy Dunnett. King Hereafter is still one of my ver
Jean Gobel
Thoroughly enjoy this book despite a rather slow beginning. Perhaps slow only because I just finished the last of the Lymond Chronicles, and I'm "still living in the world of the last book" which was not the least bit slow! Here we find our hero, Claes, appears to be a clumsy, slow-witted dyer's apprentice who is constantly in trouble, not always of his own making. He has been with the Widow de Charetty's family since he was 10, as servant to her son, Felix. We learn Claes is actually exceptiona ...more
Much slower to start than the Lymond Chronicles, I think; and unlike the end of the first Lymond book, where at least I had something of a grasp of all the various machinations by the time the book ended, I finished The House of Niccolo still thinking "Wait... but... he did that? Really? And... who?" Which is not to say that Dunnett didn't lay out her plot well, but that she did so in a manner so labyrinthine and Byzantine that I think it surpassed the Lymond Chronicles at points.

Though to be h
I read this for the first time in September of 2008. Then I liked it, though I knew I should like it more than I did. So I'm rereading it. And this time, I'm not going to be angry at Niccolo for not being Lymond or at pretty much all of the women for not being Philippa. I'm going to enjoy the story for itself.

You ought not be allowed to plow into these directly after reading the Lymond Chronicles.

Apparently, I forgot quite a lot of this book. The first time I read it, I remember being disgruntle
Lori (Hellian)
Welcome to the world of Dorothy Dunnett! I can't remember how I learned about this book, but I started with this series. I started, and didn't stop reading until I read all day and night for months finishing this series, delved right into The Lymond Chronicles, immediately reread this, followed by a second read of Lymond. Ahhhh. Dunnett is an intellectual writer - these books are not to skim thru, they are dense with information about characters, plot and history. The first read through don't ex ...more
I don't think this book lends itself well to be an audiobook. Too complicated a listen and I couldn't get into it. Perhaps I'll try again later, but not as an audiobook.
Lorie Ahlander Maenza
Niccolo Rising

Going on my second read of "The House of Niccolo". I am enjoying the story even more this time around. I read the Lymond Chronicals twice before I picked up this series. Thinking nothing could be better than the story of Lymond, I was amazed how the "House of Niccolo" series is just as surprising with characters that are insanely intelligent, funny and secretive.

When we meet Niccolo his name is Claes (short for Nicholas), an apprentice dyer. From the very beginning like a chess ga
The House of Niccolo starts in 1460 in Bruges then moves to the city state of Venice and ends up in Trebizond at the end of the Byzantine Empire. Breathtaking in scope. Thru the 7 books (500 + pages each) you go to all the same places as Lymond does in the Lymond Chronicles but add in Iceland and Mali (as the first white man to make it that deep into the African continent). It follows the title character and his female love interest which is sometimes actual love but mostly revenge trading off b ...more
The first chapter turned out to be very confusing. It was describing a scene at the sluices in the canals, and given the fact that I was born and raised in the Netherlands, I do know something about how they operate. However, even for me the description was confusing and I could not really picture what happened, also considering the interaction between the characters and their actions. I started reading the second chapter to see if it would improve, but the writing style still feels too descript ...more
Love, love love Ms. Dunnett's writing. This is historical fiction written by a master story teller. She gives us a main character so surprising and complex in a world so richly drawn -- an amazing tour de force. Niccolo is a dense, complex read and you have to keep track of a lot. A lot of characters and plot twists. If this isn't your thing then this may not be the book for you. But if you love intrigue, mystery, adventure and romance delivered by a fantastic writer you must give this book a tr ...more
What I learned from this book: I don't know how to pronounce "Bruges". And almost, oh, all the characters' names.

This was nothing like the Lymond chronicles (aside from the meticulous research, very good writing, etc). The ending made me go "whoa whoa what?" and I ended up flipping through the pages again without much success of finding what I was looking for. A reread some other time (and actually looking things up in dictionaries/Wikipedia/the Companion) is probably in order, once I actually
This is the second series written by Dorothy Dunnett, and is placed in Antwerp in the 16th century. Although it is about many things, the main focus is on the rise of the textile industry and trade and much of the book involves the search for alum, which was used to bind color. There are six books and they take place all over, ranging from Antwerp to Morocco, Egypt, Cyprus and more. As in the Lymond Chronicles, the books are meticulously researched, but also have a wonderful story woven througho ...more
My Favorite Author! I love historical fiction & Dorothy Dunnett is the absolute best in the genre. Her books are amazing. So incredibly intelligent and well researched. Sometimes I felt like I should take notes just to be able to follow all the characters, historical figures, & political plots. I love that she doesn't translate alot of the quotes in her novels - either figure it out yourself, or just forget it. And Niccolo is the most intriguing character I have ever read. Until the very ...more
Ch 1. Introduces Claes and Felix from Julius's point of view, primarily, though with a third person omniscient feeling. Nice example: "He (Julius) hoped the Bishop was less vindictive than he looked, and that some god would stain, tear or even drench the taffetas of the exquisite Simon, who was still murmuring to Katelina van Borselen, watched, as they all were, by the devouring gaze of the onlookers." pg 11 hardcover. This chapter also establishes the primary tensions within the constrict
Jul 04, 2008 JuliAnna rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who have read the first Lymond boo
This is the beginning of a wonderful series, but the narrative really does span across the entire series. I read this series before reading any other Dunnett and, as a result I missed a great deal of what was going on. I recommending reading at least the first of the Lymond saga (which stands alone fairly well) to get a sense of how she crafts her plots and characters before delving in to this series.
Three young men floating down a canal inside a bathtub being delivered to a Duke in Bruges. Action and hilarity ensue but this chapter is key--don't read it lightly. I read it twice in a row. The chapter has layers and kicks off the events not only in this book but in the entire series. This is my second time through this series--it was a delight the first time when I had the pleasure of reading it through with several co-workers--we had a lot of fun at lunchtime discussing the antics of Nichola ...more
I find the historical setting of this book fascinating. Set in Renaissance Europe, Bruges, Florence, Venice, and surrounding areas, the characters interact with Medicis, the Dauphin, and various agents of the Vatican among others. There are wonderful intricacies of trade and espionage.

The main character, Niccolo, initially known as Claes, starts off pretty intriguing, as an oafish servant given to occasional "out of the mouths of fools" types of questions or statements. Over time we see that th
This is a book really worth staying with. It takes nearly 100 pages before you begin to get immersed in the story. Then it is hard to put down. The richness of the descriptions give the book an authentic feel. The story is full of political intrigue, warring, romance, and suspense.
Jan 06, 2013 Prue rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who loves hist.fict
I've read this a number of times over many years. Just picked it up the other day after reading Angus Donald's Outlaw. Within first three chapters had found smidgeons I couldn't remember so decided to read book again. Absolutely LOVE DD's narrative style.
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All About Books: Niccolò Rising by Dorothy Dunnett 53 28 Jun 23, 2015 08:33AM  
Better the Second Time Through 7 29 Jun 29, 2013 06:27AM  
  • The Dorothy Dunnett Companion: Volume II
  • The Master of Verona (Star-Cross'd #1)
  • A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury
  • In a Dark Wood Wandering: A Novel of the Middle Ages
  • The Reckoning  (Welsh Princes, #3)
  • The Bruce Trilogy: Steps to the Empty Throne, Path of the Hero King & Price of the King's Peace
  • Insurrection (The Insurrection Trilogy, #1)
  • The Champion
  • In Pursuit of the Green Lion (Margaret of Ashbury, #2)
  • The Ruby in Her Navel
  • The Vizard Mask
  • Within the Fetterlock
  • London in Chains: An English Civil War Novel (English Civil War, #1)
  • The Founding (The Morland Dynasty, #1)
  • The King's Spy (Thomas Hill, #1)
  • Gildenford (Norman Quartet, #1)
  • The Squire's Tale (Sister Frevisse, #10)
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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More about Dorothy Dunnett...

Other Books in the Series

The House of Niccolò (8 books)
  • The Spring of the Ram (The House of Niccolo, #2)
  • 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)
The Game of Kings (The Lymond Chronicles, #1) Queens' Play (The Lymond Chronicles, #2) The Disorderly Knights (The Lymond Chronicles, #3) Pawn in Frankincense (The Lymond Chronicles, #4) Checkmate (The Lymond Chronicles, #6)

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“And across the water, you would swear you could sniff it all; the cinnamon and the cloves, the frankincense and the honey and the licorice, the nutmeg and citrons, the myrrh and the rosewater from Persia in keg upon keg. You would think you could glimpse, heaped and glimmering, the sapphires and the emeralds and the gauzes woven with gold, the ostrich feathers and the elephant tusks, the gums and the ginger and the coral buttons mynheer Goswin the clerk of the Hanse might be wearing on his jacket next week. . . . The Flanders galleys put into harbor every night in their highly paid voyage from Venice, fanned down the Adriatic by the thick summer airs, drifting into Corfu and Otranto, nosing into and out of Sicily and round the heel of Italy as far as Naples; blowing handsomely across the western gulf to Majorca, and then to the north African coast, and up and round Spain and Portugal, dropping off the small, lucrative loads which were not needed for Bruges; taking on board a little olive oil, some candied orange peel, some scented leather, a trifle of plate and a parrot, some sugar loaves.” 3 likes
“Защото ако синът не харесва баща си - както и да е. Това е естествената смяна на поколенията. Но когато един мъж се осмелява да мрази сина си - това е неестествено.” 1 likes
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