Scales of Gold
The Fourth Book of The House of Niccolo
By Dorothy Dunnett
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780375704802, 544pp.)
Publication Date: June 1, 1999
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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, the good-natured dyer's apprentice who schemes and swashbuckles his way to the helm of a mercantile empire.
The year 1464 finds Nicholas back in Venice. Plagued by enemies bent on dissolving his assets and smearing his character, he sets sail for Africa, legendary location of the Fountain of Youth, home to a descendant of Sheba and Solomon, and the source of gold in such abundance that men prefer to barter in shells. He will learn firsthand the brutality and grandeur of the Dark Continent, from the horror of the slave trade to the austere nobility of Islamic Timbuktu. He will discover, too, the charms of the beautiful Gelis van Borselen--a woman whose passion for Nicholas is rivaled only by her desire to punish him for his role in her sister s death. Erotic and lush with detail, Scales of Gold embraces the complexity of the Renaissance, where mercantile adventure couples with more personal quests behind the silken curtains of the Age of Discovery.
Dorothy Dunnett was born in 1923 in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. Her time at Gillespie's High School for Girls overlapped with that of the novelist Muriel Spark. From 1940-1955, she worked for the Civil Service as a press officer. In 1946, she married Alastair Dunnett, later editor of The Scotsman.
Dunnett started writing in the late 1950s. Her first novel, The Game of Kings, was published in the United States in 1961, and in the United Kingdom the year after. She published 22 books in total, including the six-part Lymond Chronicles and the eight-part Niccolo Series, and co-authored another volume with her husband. Also an accomplished professional portrait painter, Dunnett exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy on many occasions and had portraits commissioned by a number of prominent public figures in Scotland.
She also led a busy life in public service, as a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Library of Scotland, a Trustee of the Scottish National War Memorial, and Director of the Edinburgh Book Festival. She served on numerous cultural committees, and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In 1992 she was awarded the Office of the British Empire for services to literature. She died on November 9, 2001, at the age of 78.
"Dunnett's pace is robust, her grasp of the Renaissance mind subtle and convincing." --Kirkus Reviews
"As a writer of historical romances, Dorothy Dunnett . . . epitomizes [the genre]. . . She salts it with wit and intelligence and serves it with style and elegance." -- San Francisco Chronicle
"The finest living writer of historical fiction"--The Washington Post Book World