Gentlemen of the Road is the kind of book I would have said no one writes anymore except that Michael Chabon has done just that. Chabon is an enthusiastic genre multitasker who has written everything from mysteries (The Yiddish Policeman's Union) to young adult novels (Summerland), and who has now turned out a rollicking adventure that could have fit comfortably in Thrilling Wonder Stories (which makes it all the more fun that the story was commissioned and serialized by the New York Times). Zelikman and Amran are traveling companions who will be satisfyingly familiar to fans of fantasy writers Fritz Leiber and Robert E. Howard. The mismatched pair comes across a kidnapped young heir to the Khazar kingdom and, lacking anything urgent and getting a whiff of one of their favorite aromas, money, they decide to help him along his way. The charismatic but annoying heir, Filaq, or Little Elephant, wants to regain his kingdom from a general who has deposed and murdered his family. Not believing that Zelikman and Amran will take him home, Filaq repeatedly attempts to escape and eventually steals Zelikman's most prized possession, his horse Hillel. This guarantees the pair's pursuit and as they follow Filaq, they see the result of a compelling leader let loose in a country full of unrest. Filaq is able to turn his landless position into one of strength and gather an army to fight for his birthright. His return to his homeland is full of twists and turns, setbacks and newfound friends, mistaken (and hidden) identities. In the fast-moving Gentlemen of the Road, Chabon takes readers on an exhilarating journey hopefully one of many continuing adventures in genre for this talented author.
Gavin J. Grant is the co-editor of the anthology The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet.