Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It is circa 950 C.E. in the Caucasus Mountains area, the Khazar Empire. Zelikman, the Frankish scarecrow of a man, and Amram, the Abyssinian former soldier, both Jews and brothers under the skin, make their way in the area by serving as blades for hire, thieves, bamboozlers - whatever happens to come their way. They are, in fact, Gentlemen of the Road or, as Chabon says he first titled the work, "Jews with Swords."
This is a short novel full of Chabon's trademark sardonic style of writing. I had previously read The Yiddish Policemen's Union and thoroughly enjoyed it and I was anxious to try out his latest work. I was not disappointed.
Zelikman and Amram are quirky and attractive characters, full of humor, much of it sarcastic. Their tale hangs upon their half-unwilling drafting into the service of escorting and defending a prince of the Khazar Empire whose family - a royal family of the empire - had been killed and his father displaced as ruler by the prince's uncle. The prince, who has many secrets, burns with the desire for revenge and Amram and Zelikman are drawn into his plots.
This is a swashbuckling adventure that compares favorably with many of the past's most famous and beloved buddy adventures. The twist at the end is something that I might have seen coming, but it was delicious nonetheless. It is a page-turner of a book, one that goes quickly and ends before the reader wants it to - a fun read.
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