From Publishers Weekly
From the glassworks of Murano to the commercial hub of Timbuktu--and through fearsome peril on land and sea--entrepreneurship, religion, gold fever, friendship and revenge fuel this rich historical romance from a masterful raconteur. In 1464, adventurer and merchant banker Nicholas van der Pole (hero of three previous Dunnett novels) returns to Venice to find his financial empire in jeopardy due to the Crusades and the onslaught of powerful, unscrupulous competitors. Closely guarding the specifics of his mission, Nicholas sets out for Africa and its gold trade, taking with him his closest friend Loppe, guide and former slave; Father Godscalc, a would-be missionary to Ethiopia; Diniz, his impetuous young cousin; and Gelis van Borselen, a strong, brilliant woman who blames Nicholas for the death of her sister. Relying on Nicholas's unflappability, his instinct for leadership and especially his ever-calculating intelligence, the unlikely group make their way deep into the continent's perilous, uncharted interior. Moving briskly from thick jungles to barren deserts to opulent salons throughout Europe, Dunnett ( Race of Scorpions ) fills each page with wit and winning detail.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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From Kirkus Reviews
Medieval entrepreneurial whiz Nicholas van der Poele now finds gold, uncharted African territories, and inner peace in the Sahara desert--in this fourth novel in a series that began with Niccol Rising (1986). Returning to Venice from Cyprus, Nicholas the dyemaker's apprentice, who by 24 has become one of Europe's great merchant- bankers, finds the bank he founded in trouble and his own reputation beset with rumors. Enemies (and he has naturally a great many) are claiming that he murdered trading rival Simon St. Pol's wife Katelina, as well as seduced Simon's nephew Diniz. The Turks are also threatening to retake their lost lands; Venice itself needs money; and arch-banking-rivals want to destroy Nicholas, which is just the sort of situation he thrives on. Through complex maneuvers and deals, he manages to arrange an expedition via the sea route to the south to find gold and the legendary kingdom of Prester John in Ethiopia. The expedition that sets off from Madeira includes beautiful but feisty Gelis, Katelina's younger sister bent on avenging her murder; Loppe, the freed black slave who has promised to lead Nicholas to the fabled gold mines of Africa; Bel, a formidable Scotswoman; and Father Godscale, who hopes to make Christian converts. In Africa, Nicholas fights his rivals; is appalled by the slave trade; treks (with Loppe as his guide) to fabulous Timbuktu, where he is tempted to linger; makes an arduous but futile search for Prester John; and returns to Venice via the Sahara desert--the setting of a significant epiphany--with enough gold and heroic reputation to restore his fortunes. Only true love is elusive as Nicholas, prepared to settle down and raise a family, finds unexpected obstacles--so presumably there's a lot more adventure still ahead for our hero. Great stuff for all Dunnett fans. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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