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Niccolò Rising

(The House of Niccolò #1)

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  3,949 ratings  ·  341 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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SamuraiKitty Hi Hannah -
Don't be afraid to embark on the Niccolo series! I was afraid to read it too ( I have literally had the books since they first came out - …more
Hi Hannah -
Don't be afraid to embark on the Niccolo series! I was afraid to read it too ( I have literally had the books since they first came out - but was afraid of how they would compare against Lymond.) So, it took me until this year to read them. For me personally, I still think the "Lymond Chronicles" are my favorites, but I read them first, and as snarky as Lymond was, I loved him, and his cast of friends and family, etc. I loved the Niccolo series as well, but not as much. But, having said that, please read it - all of it - because it ties into the "Lymond Chronicles" and beyond that, it is a great story as well. Enjoy!
Take care!
Peter Meek Explicit? No. Graphic? No.
Descriptive of feelings during sexual encounter? Yes.
I would not hesitate to recommend this to a young adult reader. The ch…more
Explicit? No. Graphic? No.
Descriptive of feelings during sexual encounter? Yes.
I would not hesitate to recommend this to a young adult reader. The chief difficulty will be the dense plotting and huge cast of characters. Worth the effort, in my opinion.(less)

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Jeffrey Keeten
”The hand, heavily ringed, lay curled in the air, as if about to curve it in a greeting. Then M. de Riberac swept it downwards. His palm remained cupped towards him. His outer hand, with its heavy quartz ring, burst its way carefully down Claes’ cheek, from his eye to his chin, holding its blood-infilled course till the end. Then he drew his wrist back and let it dangle. Below the ring, blood appeared on the floor.”

 photo House-of-Niccolo-by-Dorothy-Dunnett_zpsg3n4c2xd.jpg

Claes is an apprentice to the House of Charetty of Bruges. He is, for all int
Rosina Lippi
Jan 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, historical
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
aPriL does feral sometimes
‘Niccolo Rising’ is a work of narrative genius. If you enjoy that sort of thing, and historical fiction, and a taut dense construction, you will put this book down after finishing with a feeling of amazement and admiration for the author.

Dorothy Dunnett, the author, has the kind of intelligence and in-depth education many Ph.D. researchers of European history possess, along with the creativity and awareness of respected MFA Writer’s Workshops’ graduates.

(As a grumpy sideways comment, I don’t f
23/25 (92%) 5 stars.
Is it as brilliant as the Lymond Chronicles? No.
Am I a bit sad about that? Hm. In a way yes, in a way no. Yes because obviously I'd hoped for another emotional rollercoaster that's filled with brilliance all over the place. And no, because I see that while it isn't as excellent as The Best Series Of All Time (TM), it might get there. There are three major reasons why this isn't as perfect as Dunnett's other series, and I'll explain them in a bit, but this is still so much be
It's been a long, long while since I've had to compel myself to read a book till the end, and I don't think it's been one of those times when perseverance is rewarded.

The thing with this book is that, whilst it's the trademark Dunnett style of snail-paced buildup that explodes on the very last track of the race course before the finish line, neither the plot nor the characters are worth trudging on for so long (this isn't a small book) unless you like this setting, the theme of merchants, and ha
Dec 12, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
Oct 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Karen Witzler
I was thinking of this over Valentine's Day as it has not one, but two, of my favorite written love scenes of all that I've ever read. ...more
Mar 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, historical
This review is for the entire 8 book series. There will be no spoilers. I am also going to add a review under "Gemini" which will have spoilers.

I am not a literary critic, nor a book editor. I am not an art critic, or expert. But sometimes, when I look at a painting; when I read a book (or in this case a series of books), I am drawn into, and made breathless, and in awe by what I am seeing or reading. And it's hard for me to express, sometimes in words why. It just speaks to me - literally speak
Jan 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Why I have never read a Dunnett book before is beyond me. Set in one of my favorite eras, with stellar writing and political intrigue, it's really my perfect book. And hopefully series.

The story is set amoung the cloth merchants, bankers and mercenaries of 15th century Bruges. With characters from very poor to very rich, enemies and friends are forged and fortunes are there to be made.

It took me a few chapters to understand what was going on and who the main characters were, the story and writi
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A late contender for favourite read of the year. Nobody does historical fiction like Dunnett, the sheer scope and how she exposes the intricacies of both daily life and political and mercantile intrigue is extraordinary and so fun to read and then she is also building incredibly taut emotional denouements as well. I adore marriage of convenience plots (as does Dunnett clearly) and this one doesn't disappoint. There is an element of comparing Lymond and Claes and they certainly overlap but then i ...more
Jean Gobel
Nov 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
5 shiny stars. My fascination with the early modern period in Japan has since spread to other societies during their corresponding historical phase. Book 1 of The House of Niccolo series starts out in 1460, Bruges. Against the backdrop of civil unrest in England, France, and Constantinople, the nobility, merchants, and bureaucracy of Bruges (as well as their families and servants) engage in trade, craft, political conniving, festivals, wars, jousting, courtship, and so much more.
The Renaissance-
Lorie Ahlander Maenza
Feb 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Kiwi Begs2Differ  ✎
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
May 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
2019 reread:
I kept an eye on certain characters, knowing what I now know from the first time I read this series, but ... I think I might have forgotten most of the plot. Even things I knew were going to happen surprised me.

Also it took me almost ten months to finish rereading this. (I've been reading other things too, but huh. That really took forever.)

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
Sep 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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
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Dorothy Dunnett fans: Niccolo Rising Read Along NO SPOILERS 16 64 Sep 03, 2016 06:23PM  
All About Books: Niccolò Rising by Dorothy Dunnett 64 53 Sep 19, 2015 12:15AM  
Better the Second Time Through 7 40 Jun 29, 2013 06:27AM  

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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 and a series of mystery novels centered on Johnson Johnson, a portrait painter/spy.

Her New York times obitua

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)

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