To Lie With Lions, by Dorothy Dunnett

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Nicholas de Fleury was not brought to Ham in bonds, nor deprived of his senses, but he was under guard, and had been for the week of the journey from Angers. On the way, they stayed only at the King's lodges. The Burgundian was allowed his own horses and his own servants, who were considerably better acquainted with fighting than they looked. Of his escort, only Wodman stayed at his side from the first, but answered no questions.

Sixth of the House of Niccolò novels by Dorothy Dunnett, and very much a sequel to the fifth, The Unicorn Hunt, which I somewhat bounced off when I read it last summer. However, To Lie With Lions actually clarifies a lot of what happened in The Unicorn Hunt and indeed Scales of Gold and Race of Scorpions as well, making me feel encouraged about following the series through to the end.

The settings are Scotland, Iceland, Flanders, and France; the plot concerns Niccolò's manipulation of the market in Icelandic stockfish (ie cod) and his continuing battle of wits with his wife Gelis, in which their son is becoming a collateral victim. The three high points, more or less evenly spaced through the book, are the staging of a massive Nativity play by Niccolò in Edinburgh; a volcanic eruption on Iceland; and the final dénouement between Niccolò and Gelis.

The Icelandic eruption chapters are absolutely superb, as vivid as any of Dunnett's descriptive passages (and there are many good ones) and practically justify the book on its own. I don't think I could recommend it as a starting point for readers unfamiliar with the series though.

This was the most popular book by a woman on my unread pile. Next on that particular pile (broadly defined) is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, script by Jack Thorne based on an original new story by Thorne, J. K. Rowling and John Tiffany.

One thought on “To Lie With Lions, by Dorothy Dunnett

  1. Of the ones I have read and you haven’t, I would hesitate to recommend Richard Calder to anyone for fear that it would cause them to look at me with suspicion forever, and Blood is late-period Moorcock where he starts tying absolutely everything together – I enjoyed it but it’s a bit self-indulgent.

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