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Race of Scorpions (The House of Niccolò #3)

4.41  ·  Rating Details ·  1,739 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
With the bravura storytelling and pungent authenticity of detail she brought to her acclaimed Lymond Chronicles, Dorothy Dunnett 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, the good-natured dyer's apprentice w ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published March 30th 1999 by Vintage (first published May 5th 1990)
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Rosina Lippi
Jan 17, 2010 Rosina Lippi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, best-beloved
People who are devoted Dorothy Dunnett readers generally fall into two camps: the Lymond Lovers (her first series) and the Niccolo folk. I'm in the second camp. I like Lymond, but I love the House of Niccolo series.

The thing is, I can't pick up any of the Niccolo books without wanting to read the whole series again. And given the complexity and demanding nature of these novels, that's like saying you're just rarin' to swim the Atlantic one more time.

So here I am, in the middle of re-reading the
Ryan Groesbeck
Jul 12, 2015 Ryan Groesbeck rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dorothy-dunnett
Oh Dorothy...why am I so attracted to your novels when all they do is confuse me?

I kid (mostly), but if the plotting of any book deserves to be called "byzantine", this is certainly it. Even with the semi-explanation given at the end, this could definitely do with a reread (or two, or three) to try and suss out who did what for what reason.

This is my second readthrough, but it might as well have been the first considering that the first time was almost two years ago, I think, and I remembered
Feb 05, 2011 Diane rated it it was amazing
Race of Scorpions is set in many places, but mainly takes us to mid-15th century Cyprus, where the bastard son of the dead King (James/Zacco of Lusignan) is vying with his sister (Queen Carlotta) for the crown. Niccolo and his crew are shanghaied by Carlotta to join in the fight, but ends up on the side of Zacco...though also, not by choice. As always, there is a woman involved (the duplicitous courtesan, Primaflora), who fights for one side, then the other...we are confused by her but in the en ...more
It's okay to admit that I still don't have the foggiest idea about much of what goes on in this book, right? Especially in the last third, when the plot twists, revelations and political machinations are coming fast and thick. Still, fast-paced enough to be very enjoyable, though, and I think it's a lot easier to spend six hundred odd pages with Niccolo than it is with Lymond. (Don't get me wrong, I'm very fond of Lymond, but the urge to smack him upside the head is so strong.)
Another excellent installment in the House of Niccolo series. This book is set in Cyprus and has a bit of everything to satisfy most reading tastes. There is swashbucking adventure, skullduggery, intrigue and a hint of romance. It is also bittersweet for Niccolo in some ways. The more I delve into the series the more I warm to Niccolo as a character. Infact all of the characters are so very well presented. This book abounds in historical detail and characterisation. Time well spent.
Mar 12, 2013 Brittany rated it really liked it
I remember the first time through reading the Lymond Chronicles, I occasionally had to take a break from Lymond. I couldn't read them back-to-back. I think that may be what's happening here. I have read these books before, but I don't remember them well. And about three-quarters of the way through this book I just really wanted a break from Niccolo. It's still a staggeringly well-written book, and usually a very fun one. But I think I'll take a breather from these for a bit.
Jul 19, 2011 Keeley rated it liked it
Shelves: cheapthrills
Another exciting Niccolo tale, this time set in Cyprus. I'm not sure I can forgive Dunnett for killing off [spoiler omitted - you'll know who I mean if you have read this book] but feel reasonably compelled to keep reading the series nonetheless. Dunnett reminds me more and more of Dumas: good plotting, spiced with tragedy, but the characterization is somewhat anachronistic.
Aug 14, 2012 Karina rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Dorothy Dunnett is superb as always. My only issue with this book is actually rather silly. I so enjoyed certain characters- the electrifying James of Lusignan (Zacco) and his canny mother, the mutilated former royal mistress, Cropnose- that I was impatient and enjoyed other plots and characters less than I should have.
Nov 21, 2011 Ellen rated it really liked it
There are things about this series that intensely bother me -- like Dunnett's penchant for killing off female characters to give the male characters something to angst about -- but it's not going to stop me from reading everything she's ever written.
Jan 28, 2015 elithea rated it it was amazing
these two series by dorothy dunnett are my absolute favorite. nothing different to say about them; together, they will take you off the planet for a full summer and just might re-direct your life, as they did mine.
Aug 02, 2016 Jane rated it it was amazing
These are the most profoundly detailed historical novels--but the characters are unique and intriguing. Venice, Cyprus, Rhodes, Byzantium...a great window into the clash of cultures that preceded the Renaissance.
Jan 02, 2012 Hilary rated it it was amazing
Great in every way that matters to me: gorgeous language, persuasive characters, historically interesting and moderately bodice-ripping. Fun.
May 02, 2009 Yati rated it really liked it
Plot twists! And crazy political machinations! I'm not entirely sure what happened here, but I couldn't stop reading.

On with the show!
Mar 04, 2012 Yasaman rated it really liked it
I am, as ever, left speechless and flailing by Dunnett's skill and Niccolo. Niccolo gives me too many feelings. ;_________;
Mar 21, 2014 Pat rated it really liked it
This is not historic fiction done with broad strokes, but is one of many, many details.
Jul 31, 2016 Max added it
So, on the one hand, here we see Dunnett's utter mastery of her craft. The writing is stronger than ever, the twists masterfully executed, the detail picture-perfect. Individual scenes burn. Some particular moments—the valley of the moths, and the bit where Nicholas wonders how much it cost to dye the sunrise—take my breath away merely to remember, and I don't think the memory's due to fade soon.

Also, I have a hard time remembering the last time I saw a male character driven to avenge his own se
Mar 21, 2010 Carol rated it really liked it
This is the third book in Dunnett's eight-book House of Niccolo series, which is about Europe and the Mediterranean in the late 15th century. I read the first two volumes years ago, but moving to Boston, going to grad school, and all sorts of other stuff kept me from picking the series back up. I decided that, since I was in the mood for a long historical epic anyway, I should read the remaining books before I forgot everything about the first two.
The Niccolo of the title is Nicholas vander Poel
Jean Gobel
Nov 13, 2012 Jean Gobel rated it it was amazing
The Race of Scorpions, the third edge-of-your-seat volume in Dorothy Dunnett's The House of Niccolo epic, kept me spellbound for two days and nights, with very little time for sleep.

Here, the widowed Nicholas vander Poele, after pulling his life together, has joined with Capt Astorre in waging war in Bologna, then finds himself kidnapped and taken to Cyprus. With his mercenary army following his trail, he finds he must lead them in uniting the island under one ruler. But who will capture his ser
Stuart Lutzenhiser
Feb 14, 2014 Stuart Lutzenhiser rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 09, 2011 Joy rated it liked it
I'm sure there have been societies more based on betrayal then war-torn 1460s Cyprus, but it's hard to imagine. Nicholas wants nothing to do with the civil war between Lusignan brother and sister, but he is kidnapped and pitchforked into the middle of it. Both Lusignans think they can buy Nicholas's services, but what it takes is a sadist who stirs up Nicholas's rare urge to kill. Trailed by the vicious Simon's family, Nicholas attempts to protect all his vulnerable dependants, and devise ways o ...more
Jul 23, 2011 Ruth rated it liked it
c1989. Finally caught up with the 3rd book in the seies of "The House of Niccolo" and it certainly was well worth the wait. I must admit though that I kept thinking it was going nowhere and then the plt would veer off onto another unexpected tangent. "Some way off, a donkey brayed; frogs were croaking , and the bushes around him ere ghostly with moths." For a young man, Niccolo has certainly had his share of adventures. Timeless story with Kyrenia featuring heavily.
Dec 29, 2011 Kristine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book & it is probably a 4.5. Much better than the second book and a more satisfying read. The characters were well developed and the plot (and all the twists and turns) were easier to follow I thought Dunnett took more care in helping the reader to be part of the journey & to glimpse some of the background machinations and thinking processes. Looking forward to starting the next book in the series.
Lesley Alcock
Mar 31, 2014 Lesley Alcock rated it really liked it
I must admit I am a Lymond fan and I haven't yet warmed to Nicholas. It took me a while to work my way through this novel and although I enjoyed it I am not rushing for the next volume like I did with the Lymond series.

It is a book I will have to read again whilst on holiday when I have hours of time to devote to it rather than reading it piecemeal over several weeks.
Aug 06, 2013 Tim rated it it was amazing
A short observance of the third book in this series.

Set in the 1400s, this book continues to follow the life of its main character, Nicholas vander Poele, as this time he finds himself in Cyprus - a strategic island even then - in the eastern Mediterranean sea.

Read the first of the series - if you like it you'll follow through
Jul 29, 2013 Ceridwyn rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 18, 2013 Emily rated it really liked it
Third of the Niccolos, with some surprises and already some nostalgia for where it all began. I suspect that I'm getting the rest of the series for my birthday. Cool cool cool. But start with the stand-alone King Hereafter (my favorite book?) if you want to get in on the Dunnett scene.
Apr 15, 2009 Becca rated it really liked it
I think this was one of the better books in the series. It was fast paced and since it involved an area of history I knew nothing about I found myself really paying attention. The character Primaflora is intriguing and useful to the plot.
Mar 20, 2011 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Compelling - addictive - intriguing - bewildering.

Characters and settings to die for - Byzantine plot. Gorgeous!

And you just have to love ths style in the writing - the dialogue is fabulous.

Aug 24, 2010 Peter rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novel
I found this book much more engrossing than the second in the series. Well written with wonderful characters. This is third in a series of 15th century historical, well semi historical novels.
Sep 16, 2012 Jane rated it did not like it
Shelves: reviewed
I was disappointed and had to force myself to finish it. It was tedious and hard to remember who was who.
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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)
  • 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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