Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller, “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay”, sprang from an early passion for the derring-do and larger-than-life heroes of classic comic books. Now, once more mining the rich past, Chabon summons the rollicking spirit of legendary adventures—from “The Arabian Nights” to Alexandre Dumas to Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories—in a wonderful new novel brimming with breathless action, raucous humor, cliff-hanging suspense, and a cast of colorful characters worthy of Scheherazade's most tantalizing tales.
They're an odd pair, to be sure: pale, rail-thin, black-clad Zelikman, a moody, itinerant physician fond of jaunty headgear, and ex-soldier Amram, a gray-haired giant of a man as quick with a razor-tongued witticism as he is with a sharpened battle-ax. Brothers under the skin, comrades in arms, they make their rootless way through the Caucasus Mountains, circa A.D. 950, living as they please and surviving however they can—as blades and thieves for hire and as practiced bamboozlers, cheerfully separating the gullible from their money. No strangers to tight scrapes and close shaves, they've left many a fist shaking in their dust, tasted their share of enemy steel, and made good any number of hasty exits under hostile circumstances.
None of which has necessarily prepared them to be dragooned into service as escorts and defenders to a prince of the Khazar Empire. Usurped by his brutal uncle, the callow and decidedly ill-tempered young royal burns to reclaim his rightful throne. But doing so will demand wicked cunning, outrageous daring, and foolhardy bravado . . . not to mention an army. Zelikman and Amram can at least supply the former. But are these gentlemen of the road prepared to become generals in a full-scale revolution? The only certainty is that getting there—along a path paved with warriors and whores, evil emperors and extraordinary elephants, secrets, swordplay, and such stuff as the grandest adventures are made of—will be much more than half the fun. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)
I know that many folks highly praise this book so I had high expectations, but I was quite disappointed. Where is the action? Where is the urgency? I was hoping to be sucked into a fantastic mini-epic, but instead found myself slugging through the book. To begin, I found the style of writing made it quite difficult at times to tell who was doing what and to keep the characters straight. I did find the dynamic between Amran and Zelikman interesting, but in a sense of “I’d like to hear about their other adventures”. The whole story around Filaq seems somewhat thrown in there as a side thought that grew too large.
I did find the historical aspects quite intriguing that saved this book from a measly two stars. It had be interested enough to do a little reading after the book and Chabon provides some of the sources he used to build the background. Other than that, however, I did not find much for it to recommend itself.
Warning: Contains repeated violence
Rating: 3 stars!
Who should read it? MEH – probably would say skip unless you’re a huge fan of the author.