Michael Chabon, Gentlemen of the Road, Del Rey, 2007. Illustrated by Gary Gianni.
This short novel tells the story of two Jewish mercenaries around the year 950 C.E. One is a former soldier of African descent, the other Western European with medical training. They embark on adventures in the Khazar Empire, a Jewish state in the Caucasus (about which little is known).
The story involves wars, elephants, an orphaned prince trying to reclaim the throne, and clashes between Jews, Moslems and Christians. It is a wide-ranging adventure story with insightful treatment of the main characters. There is a twist in the plot that makes it all the more interesting.
Chabon is a gifted writer, and the high literary style serves the story well. Each sentence is beautifully crafted, and the story-telling is masterful. The story is accompanied by charming illustrations, reminding readers that not only children's books can benefit from a visual interpretation.