In 1461, the mysterious enigmatic Nicholas is in Florence. Backed by none other than Cosimo de‘ Medici, he will sail the Black Sea to Trebizond, last outpost of Byzantium, and the last jewel missing from the crown of the Ottoman Empire. But trouble lies ahead. Nicholas’s step-daughter – at the tender age of thirteen – has eloped with his rival in trade: a Machiavellian Genoese who races ahead of Nicholas, sowing disaster at every port. And time is of the essence: Trebizond may fall tot he Turks at any moment. Crackling with wit, breathtakingly paced, THE SPRING OF THE RAM is a pyro technic blend of scholarship and narrative shimmering with the scents, sounds, colors and combustible emotions of the 15th century.
by Dorothy Dunnett
27/25 (108%) 5 stars.
The Greeks considered of course the starfield of the Ram to represent the Golden Fleece sought by the heroic Jason; others called it the Ram of Ammon instead. You may now forget the whole issue. It is my business, not yours. Your business (and mine) is the star of Niccolò, whose foot I am required to set on the same quest as that of Jason. Whether I can do it, I am not at all sure. He is 19 years old, and clever.
And so it begins, and so once again Dear Dorothy has proven me wrong. Remember what I, in blissful ignorance have claimed after reading the prequel: that this series was great, but could never be as breathtaking and extraordinary as the Lymond Chronicles. I take it back. It can be as good, and this installment is as good: this is another testament to my favourite author’s brilliance. It’s also more accessible than The Lymond Chronicles, so if all of those classical references are what’s keeping you from diving into that BEST SERIES OF ALL TIME, this one may actually be better for you.
The land of the Golden Fleece. The land of Colchis, where the flying ram made its way, the gift of Hermes. Wither Jason was sent on his impossible mission; sailed on Argo advised by his wooden Oracle, reaped the fields full of soldiers; drugged the dragon was Medea’s assistance.
How does she do it? By using the same magnificent recipe she used in her last series. By placing an irresistible Gary Stu at the heart of her story and by placing him into a different setting in each book. This time it is Trebizond, then the seat of the small rest of the Byzantian Empire, where Rome, Greece and the Orient came together. Of course, the hero is once again accompanied by a band of merry travelling companions that excel in their respective fields – some familiar, some new. And, just like in the later Lymond books, especially in books 3 and 4, there is a nemesis to the hero, an alter ego, an amazing villain: Pagano Doria.
‘But I tell you, she would serve a skrede run all winter, and still have energy left in the spring. The refinements she has learned!’
(…) He could feel Loppe, black with murder, behind him. He knew the first words Loppe would say, when this was over. ‘How will you kill him?’
He had no need to think of his answer. It was the same as all the other times. All the other five times. ‘I never kill,’ he would say.
And through all of this detailed duel between Niccolò and Doria, Dunnett never fails to widen our perspective and direct to the horizon: we are in this era. We feel the mindset of its people, the topics that determine their lives. Then we get to Niccolò and his way to Trebizond, and to his enemy. Dunnett switches between mostly four perspectives as elegant as usual, and although the transition between these voices is faultless, they are still all distinctive and unique. People who lave to hate Sansa Stark’s early chapters will find a character who does it worse right here. Oh, how I hate that stupid, naive girl.
‚We ought to offer her to the Sultan. He’d get the fright of his life.‘
And thus the plot unfolds, a marvel to behold, a tragedy in the making. Extraordinary in every way possible, as challenging and clever as always – five stars.
Writing Style 6