Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

September Books 12) Race of Scorpions, by Dorothy Dunnett

Cyprus is partitioned between feuding rulers, one a proxy of distant Christian Europe, the other beholden to the more local Muslim regional power; the larger part of of the island is controlled by one faction, but the key cities of Famagusta and Kyrenia are in the hands of the minority.

However it's not 1974, or any year since, but 1463, and Dorothy Dunnett's Flemish hero Niccolo gets drawn into the dynastic dispute between the legitimate (but losing) heiress Carlotta, and her very handsome half-brother James. There are beautiful women and fierce battles, and terrific derring-do; there is a brilliant scene with chemically impregnated clothes and a valley filled with snakes; there is gut-wrenching, understated tragedy as Niccolo works through his own complex family back-story against the foreground of the Lusignan succession. It's brilliant stuff.

In addition, anyone who actually knows Cyprus will find it particularly attractive. For the same reason as Dunnett's hero, I have an affinity with the Gothic cathedral in Famagusta; much of the rest of the landscape, and a surprising amount of the architecture, is familiar even today - it may be that the same is true of the scenes in Burges or Rhodes, which I know rather less well. It's not essential to enjoying the book, but it adds some much appreciated colour.
Tags: bookblog 2014, world: cyprus, writer: dorothy dunnett
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