Book: Gemini by Dorothy Dunnett

Splendid conclusion to a series of historical novels set in the early Renaissance

September 29, 2010

Dorothy Dunnett


Vintage, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-70856-1

672 pages


Gemini is the eighth and final book in Dorothy Dunnett’s “House of Niccolò” series of historical novels set (mostly) in western Europe during the early Renaissance. Reviews of the previous books in the series are at: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

Relatively little needs to be said here. No one would read the first seven books in the series if they didn’t enjoy them. And no one who had enjoyed the first seven would balk at reading the final book. I am glad but not surprised to say that the reader is likely to be fully satisfied with the conclusion.

Minor spoilers for the earlier volumes follow (especially for people whose knowledge of early Renaissance history in western Europe is as spotty as mine).

At the end of the last book, Caprice and Rondo, Charles, the Duke of Burgundy, had died in battle, leaving a young daughter as his heir. The question is whether she will be married to the French king or the German emperor. Which one she is persuaded to choose will affect the balance of power in western Europe. The status of Burgundy’s possessions in the Low Countries (including Bruges) is of much concern to the people who live there.

As this book begins, Nicholas has returned from Bruges to Scotland to arrange for his family to move there. He runs into a bit of trouble just after his arrival and it seems that a final confrontation with David de Salmeton will be necessary. Even Bruges isn’t necessarily safe given the uncertain state of its government. And then, a little later, the book might have ended with the words “He was free” (p. 267). But then the Scottish king’s advisors ask Nicholas to see if he can personally manage the unstable king’s (that is, James III) more-unstable brother, Sandy Albany (more formally, Alexander Stewart, First Duke of Albany). Alexander doesn’t like the current peace with England and so is going to require some considerable managing. And then it seems that a war with England is going to happen regardless.

The story is as good as all the other books’, but this one is not short on tragedies as the great drama of the series moves toward its end.

Identification of the twin relationships implied by the book’s title is left as an exercise for the reader.