Author: Dorothy Dunnett
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Length: 628 pages
The Ringed Castle is the fifth book in Dorothy Dunnett's six-book series, The House of Niccolo. Set in the 15th century, the novel follows the complex character of Nicholas de Fleury on his adventures as a merchant, soldier, and spy. In this book, Nicholas navigates political intrigue, personal relationships, and historical events as he continues to build his empire and reputation.
The story takes place in various parts of Europe, including Scotland, Russia, Poland, and Lithuania, and Dunnett expertly weaves historical events into the narrative. Chapters alternate between Nicholas's point of view, providing insight into his complicated thoughts and motivations, and other characters in the story. The plot is intricately constructed, with layered meanings and numerous twists and turns.
The Ringed Castle begins with Nicholas traveling to Scotland to find his estranged wife, Gelis. Despite their tumultuous past, Nicholas still has feelings for Gelis and hopes to reconcile with her. However, he quickly realizes that Gelis is more than just a scorned wife; she has become a dangerous and powerful woman with her own political ambitions. Gelis is aligned with one of Nicholas's enemies, the Scottish nobleman Simon de St. Pol, and they have plans to use Gelis's influence to further their own goals.
Meanwhile, Nicholas is also involved in the politics of Scotland, particularly with the struggle for the Scottish throne. He aligns himself with the young James IV, who he believes will make a good king, and helps him to gain support and unite the country. However, this puts Nicholas at odds with Simon, who supports another candidate for the throne, and Nicholas must navigate dangerous political waters to stay alive.
Nicholas's next journey takes him to Russia, where he becomes embroiled in the politics of the Russian court. He befriends the young Ivan III, who will become a significant figure in Russian history and seeks to establish his power against other powerful families. Nicholas plays a key role in helping Ivan succeed, but the journey is not without danger and intrigue.
The final section of the book takes place in Poland and Lithuania, where Nicholas continues to build his business empire and becomes involved in the political unrest of the region. He works for the Grand Duke of Lithuania, who is building an army to fight against the rising power of the Ottoman Empire. In the process, Nicholas meets and falls in love with a young Lithuanian woman, Katelina.
Throughout the book, Nicholas faces challenges and obstacles, as well as opportunities and triumphs. He must navigate complex social and political situations, outwit his enemies, and manage his complicated personal relationships. He faces betrayal, loss, and danger, but also experiences love, friendship, and loyalty.
The Ringed Castle is a captivating work of historical fiction that combines intricate plotting, complex characters, and expertly researched historical accuracy. Charles Nicholl, writing in The Guardian, describes the book as "a tapestry woven of vast amounts of research and considerable literary invention" that "demonstrates Dunnett's astonishing ability to handle a huge cast of characters moving against a vast historical canvas."
The book grapples with themes such as power, loyalty, love, betrayal, and the complex web of relationships that make up human life. Nicholas is a fascinating character whose motivations are often unclear and whose actions are sometimes morally ambiguous. He is a complex and flawed individual, and yet a powerful and influential player in the world of the 15th century.
The Ringed Castle is an important work of historical fiction that offers a rich and complex picture of Europe in the 15th century. It is a must-read for fans of the genre, as well as anyone interested in history, politics, and human relationships. Dunnett's talent for weaving historical events into her narrative makes the book both informative and entertaining, and her characters are unforgettable. The novel is a testament to the power of fiction to bring history to life and to help us understand the world around us.