July Books 24) The Spring of the Ram, by Dorothy Dunnett
Not quite a year after I read the first in this series, I've read the second, and have certainly worked up an appetite to read the rest now. Niccolò, the Flemish apprentice-turned-magnate of the first book, is sent on a mission of cut-throat mercantile competition to Trebizond, the only surviving point of the Byzantine Empire; but the year is 1461, and Trebizond's time is also running out. There's some very skeevy (though not at all explicit) underage sex in this book, though our hero nobly stands aside from it; there's also a lot of appropriately byzantine political conspiracy, with tendrils reaching from Georgia to Scotland in a beautifully drawn pattern of entanglement. It's all very lush and convincing, and just as I was wondering if Niccolò would ever actually lose any of the conflicts he gets involved with, I was blindsided by one of the several twists at the end. Good stuff.