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The Unicorn Hunt (The House of Niccolò #5)

4.42 of 5 stars 4.42  ·  rating details  ·  1,219 ratings  ·  44 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 Niccolo 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, 656 pages
Published June 1st 1999 by Vintage (first published November 4th 1993)
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Intricate, rewarding and compelling that's what the series to date has been for this reader. As with the previous books in the Niccolo series the density and complexity of the novels, their scope and very fine characterisation astounds me.

This book in the series is rich in atmosphere and historical detail and also a rewarding read in it's own right. Others have alluded to the "special" qualities of Niccolo in this book but nothing would surprise about Niccolo's abilities at this point.

Story well
Certain things I predicted when I started the book (or rather when I finished the last one) were correct, much to my astonishment. Nicholas still makes me exclaim in startled disbelief when I'm reading the book -- I don't think he'll ever stop surprising me.
After the intensity of Scales of Gold, this book is much more discursive (not to say long). Niccolo is in search of his child with Gelis - or is it his child? And it is said to be born, but where is it, and where is Gelis? The hunt that ensues is a game between Niccolo and Gelis, as she withholds the child and he pursues her in hopes of finding him. Katelinje is one of Dunnett's young, smart, skinny girls who adds comic relief as well as wisdom. Otherwise, we revisit a number of characters and s ...more
A typically intricately plotted and dense offering from Dunnett; before I began this series, I would not have thought it possible to complicate one's life more than Lymond did, and yet Nicholas seems more than up to the task. This is the darkest of the 'Niccoló Rising' series so far—an echo of Pawn in Frankincense in the Lymond series, I think; there are certainly thematic and plot resonances, too—with Dunnett breaking Nicholas down as far as he can go before it's possible to make of him the kin ...more
Tant que je vive indeed. Wow. At least in this one there weren't *two* children to chase. Katelijne is delightful. I could have done without the divining...but there was an element of the mystical in Lymond, too, with prophecy. Hopefully it will come to a payoff rather than serve as a plot crutch.
Diane Calhoun
Another marvelous adventure with Nicholas, this time known not as Nicholas van der Poele but Nicholas de Fleury (he has taken his mother's name). After the devastating news he received from his wife, Gelis, at the end of the last book, Nicholas is following a dangerous course in Scotland...setting up ambitious business plans, scheming to destroy his 'father', and trying to follow the trail of his wife. Forced by a promise to a dear, dying friend, he leaves his Scottish concerns and heads to Veni ...more
I felt so sick and depressed after the ending of Scales of Gold that I started this one right away just to see how DD decided to pick up after those awful final scenes. Read this one in two days and I am happier with the ending although I find myself worried about Nicholas and his decision to disappear with Jordan. The last thing he needs is to get Gelis even more PO'd than she already is (justifiably or no).

I am trying to avoid spoilers for the remaining books, but I have to say that if Nichol
Jennifer (JC-S)
Aug 08, 2008 Jennifer (JC-S) rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jennifer (JC-S) by:
In this book, set between October 1468 and February 1471, our hero Sir Nicholas De Fleury appears to have designs on the kingdom of Scotland under the reign of King James III. Friends, foes and business rivals alike have different plans for Nicholas. As does his wife Gelis: the one enemy he cannot face directly.

Nicholas is as brilliant and dangerous as ever, but no longer as joyous. Driven by a range of motivations, he undertakes a series of journeys which range across Europe and the Levant. Alo
This is the fifth book in the House of Niccolo series. It's also the first book of the second half, and things are definitely different. Nicholas is a rather changed person in this volume - he's much more burdened by his responsibilities and endeavors, and much less happy, too. Although the lack of happiness has a lot to do with the fact that Nicholas' personal and professional intrigues and conflicts have become much more complex, involving higher stakes and greater dangers. This new mood as we ...more
Book 5 of the House of Niccolo series. Nicholas's third wife has been a severe disappointment to him. She has hidden their son and used him as a lever to put Nicholas through as much suffering as possible. Our genius businessman is finding his personal issues are damaging his Bank.

The Unicorn Hunt takes us from Scotland to the Sinai and just about everywhere in between. After an attempted murder in Scotland we make a short and interesting visit to the Tyrol, and Nicholas is nearly killed in Egy
Geri Hoekzema
Am rereading Dunnett's House of Niccolo series because I got hungry for good juicy historicals again, and nobody wrote them like DD.
c1993. I found this book far more cryptic that the others in the series so far. Perhaps, I was too eager to read the tale of Claes than to understand what the hell was going on. I am starting to think that poor old Claes can surely not be such a lodestone for misfortune both of his own and others doing. The ploy of using differing names for the protagonist depending on who and what the circumstances are does help but I started to get very confused from about P392 out of the mouth watering 656. A ...more
I have long since become an ardent fan of Dorothy Dunnett's historical fiction, but I am chagrined by the enforced cooling of the hero-reader relationship in the first quarter of this, the fifth book in the series. The reader has been through so much with the hero, Nicholas, and by the end of Scales of Gold, is there rooting for him right by his side. But from the beginning of this book, the reader is thrust into the background, and has cherished notions about Nicholas' character and value tramp ...more
I'm liking Nicholas better at this point. Gelis is a diabolical manipulator more loathe some than Nicholas. I guess I'll have to read them all at this point.
I loved this book as well as all the others in the series. This time the setting is Scotland and there is more bitterness created between Simon and Nicolas. Also the character Kateljine is more developed. I feel like the author is holding back something with her. Almost like she has some great secret that will just destroy everyone. I'm not sure if I think of her as a good guy or a bad guy. This book was a little hard to follow because Nicolas had so many schemes going on and then part of the bo ...more
Another fine tale - basically read in a fog of not catching clues and implications set by the author throughout the narrative.

What DOES stand out, is Dunnett's deep understanding of life in the late 1400s among the civilizations around the Mediterranean Sea and her ability to articulate the societies and mores of the day.

So fascinating to read of the power and intrigue of Egypt, as well as adventures in the Sinai peninsula and the port of Gaza. We read of these lands through such different eyes
After furious and gripping pacing, I found this volume in the series to be the most difficult to read. While Dunnett continues wide travels and plenty of action, she did not create scenes in which the characters' actions made a lot of sense. I also think she added in subplots that did not particularly enrich the main story. Generally I have liked her books and the general story line. This one seems to falter, but must be read to understand the rest of the series.
Found this wholly engrossing. Bought it immediately after finishing the previous book and read it in every spare moment I could create.

If you're already reading the series, you'll know what this is about so I'm not going to get into summarising or analysing the plot; if you're not reading series yet and you appreciate intelligently written and constructed historical fiction, find yourself book one, Niccolo Rising, and get started!
Bill Gibson
Probably my least favorite of the Niccolo books so far. I can deal with one brilliant-but-inscrutable character, but presenting Gelis as a second example of this same type made the book a bit murky for me -- there were just too many plots, counter-plots, and counter-counter plots to keep track of. Still, the novel is well worth reading, and I will certainly be reading the next one eventually.
Um, why does Niccolo now have ESP? How does that make sense in the otherwise historically centred universe of Dunnett? At least, a volume with a conclusion that is far enough from a cliffhanger that I can take a brief break before launching into the next one. I can't imagine reading these when she wrote them and waiting for the next volumes to come out!
It is humbling to admit that only upon reading this book for the third time did I understand character motivations, problems, mistakes, relationships. And the time it took was well worth it. Besides being fantastic historical fiction, these books reward close reading, pondering, empathizing, rethinking...a huge change from typical popular fiction.
A neatly placed book geographically.
The initial interlude in the Tyrol.
Then off to Egypt - halfway between the previous adventures of Africa and Cyprus.
I hardly need mention Dunnett's sumptuous descriptive passages, the twisting plots, the larger than life characterisations.
I still haven't found an author that I enjoy reading more.
This may be my favorite book in this series, although I had to keep reading the series, even though I already know how everything comes out in the end. In this book, Niccolo and his small company voyage to explore the coast and of Africa and venture inland in search of both gold and the fabled land of Timbuktu.
This volume is an intense battle despite the fact that Niccolo is all over the map working on various threads of his grand plan he is getting strung along by Gelis, his wife, who seeks to punish him any possible way she can manage including hiding their child from him. It ends in a cliffhanger of sorts.
This was the first book of the Niccolo series that I found really outstanding. The others have been good, but this one really held its own when compared to Dunnett's other fantastic books (King Hereafter, Pawn in Fran.,etc). I really enjoyed the new shades of grey that Nicholaus has gained!
At least two-thirds of the way through. So far, it's great. It's number five in the Niccolo series and I will definitely go back and read one through four. Only difficulty is keeping all the characters straight at first, but with repetition comes recognition.
Jan 21, 2009 Anne rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: light
the darkest of the Nicolo books so far. It took me a long time to finish becuase I was just so frustrated with the charecters, but I'm now suffeciently invested that I'm going to get the next from interlibrary loan. ANd I think there's hope I might like them again.
Back to Scotland, political, financial, and personal intrigue, the Tyrol, and then on to Egypt and Sinai. Something happens in this one which I found very disturbing. I did not like it the first time I read it but in re-reads I came to accept it.
Ms Dunnett certainly knows how to pull the emotional strings. You find characters to love, hate, admire and loathe throughout every novel, all set against a historical backdrop which you could almost believe was happening right now.
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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)
  • 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)
  • 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) Checkmate (The Lymond Chronicles, #6) Pawn in Frankincense (The Lymond Chronicles, #4)

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