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Gentlemen of the Road

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  13,607 ratings  ·  1,809 reviews
Two wandering adventurers and unlikely soulmates are variously plying their trades as swords for hire, horse thieves and con artists - until fortune entangles them in the myriad schemes and battles that follow a bloody coup in the medieval Jewish empire of the Khazars.
Hardcover, First Edition, 204 pages
Published October 30th 2007 by Ballantine Books
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Robert Seems like a mistake. Could be intended to be Filaq, who of course is in the company of the fleeing mutineer faction. But I note a sentence in
the pre…more
Seems like a mistake. Could be intended to be Filaq, who of course is in the company of the fleeing mutineer faction. But I note a sentence in
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(C+) 66% | Almost Satisfactory
Notes: Grandiloquent verbosity and overlong sentences make what should be an escapist tale a needlessly bothersome read.
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
"All the evil in the world derives from the actions of men acting in a mass against other masses of men."
- Michael Chabon, Gentlemen of the Road


Jews with Swords? I guess that was Chabon's working title, if Chabon is to be believed. He is a bit unreliable. His prose, however, is delicious. His perspective is always new and fresh. I don't think this is nearly one of his great ones*, but it seems like it might have been the most enjoyable (that I've read so far) for Chabon to write. It is a yarn, a
It is impossible to verbalise how much I wanted to like this book. I became an ardent fan of Chabon's output after The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and subsequently read The Wonder Boys hoping for more of the same. I rapidly realised that Chabon is an author who might thematically link his books in many ways (Judaism, homosexuality and the struggle to achieve an identity are ongoing themes) but he's not one for sticking to the same style, much like grand-master of the ever changing styl ...more
I thought this was great fun. The writing has been criticised as rather over-wrought – well, it is certainly a little baroque but Chabon's tongue is firmly in his cheek, and there is a wittiness to his descriptions which makes me very willing to go along for the ride. Besides, the sentences may be elaborate, but they are always interesting, utterly free from cliché, and often strange and beautiful:

Then, as if overhearing and taking pity on the maudlin trend of his thoughts, the wind carried to h
May 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
“There was no hope for an empire that lost the will to prosecute the grand and awful business of adventure.”

“The Gentlemen of the Road” is a buddy adventure epic set in the Caucasus Mountains region in 950 AD, with a lapsed Jew named Zelikman and an African named Amram as the titular duo. It is an adventure story through and through, but it is written in a literary style. It is not often that the two combine, however Michael Chabon, the author, pulls of the feat admirably. Chabon can write. Ther
Aug 11, 2010 rated it liked it
What occurs when you have the freedom to produce any-length book after winning the Pulitzer. Believe it! This one is too short to be adventuresome, too busy in its prose to match its zippy plot. Every single sentence must be odd and fascinating... which does nothing to make the tale odd and fascinating. It's an adventure ("Jews with Swords") that's not really worth taking.

("K & C" may just be the only way to go...?)
Oct 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
A rollicking book. If any book deserves the word 'rollicking', this is it. This adventure yarn draws heavily and with much love from Michael Moorcock, Fritz Leiber, and Robert E. Howard, among others. While some readers may wonder 'what's the point?', the reader who does not look for a point to everything will enjoy the ride immensely. ...more
Mattia Ravasi
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
#18 in my Top 20 Books I Read in 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIWkw...

Michael Chabon pretending he is Jules Verne. Combines all the sheer, unbound awesomeness of Jules Verne and Michael Chabon. If all the books I read were this good I would do little in my life but read.
Oct 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, adventure
A fun little picaresque tale of adventure and daring-do. I had no idea what to expect from this book when I picked it up a few weeks back from Powell's after a particularly entertaining reading from the author (not this book, he read from his newest). I do have to say that, after reading three of Chabon's book at this point, that the man definitely has a knack for keeping me guessing. He follows the muse wherever, and I do mean wherever, she may alight.

This may not be a piece of Chabon's work th
Seizure Romero
Dec 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mine, fiction, borrowed
I stole this book from my friend Krystal. Ok, not so much stole as co-opted for a few days. I see her at the coffee shop and she shows me the book she just started reading. She then starts talking to other people. Having left my book at home in a rare moment of bibliotardedness, I start reading hers. She wanders off to run errands nearby and by the time she comes back I'm a third of the way into it. She gathers her things to go and tells me, "Go ahead and finish it. I've got another book."

Nov 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2007reads, theroad
Okay, this book was f****** great. And for those of you who are a little slow those asterisks stand for ucking. I would give it 6 stars if I could.
Really though, this book was just excently written. It was fun, had great character development (which I think was the main thing lacking in Chabon's last novella experiment, The Final Solution), and of course a great story with unexpected turns and an excellent ending.
I've seen that some other people have written lesser reviews and I'm not sure why.
Jan 21, 2016 rated it liked it
A fun little tale of adventure that comes a little too close to being trite. Very few of the twists actually come as a surprise. I found myself both lamenting that many scenes/actions/characters were described briefly and broadly instead of unfolding in greater depth, and also being thankful that the book wasn't twice its length to accommodate more complete storytelling.

In short, pleasant, but not essential in the least.

And yet, if Chabon ever wrote a sequel, I'd read it.
Aug 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I'm rewriting my review now that the book has finally come out (read it in August as an advance); I knew it would divide fans and perplex even more.

"Gentlemen of the Road" draws from what some might call 'pulp' fiction styles, or in other cases 'adventure fiction'. The language is very much a product of these styles of writing; frankly, prose was more complex back then (not that I'm saying it was better, but it was definitely different)-- longer sentences, oddly constructed, and florid.
If you h
Feb 05, 2021 rated it liked it
I love these kinds of books usually, but this one lacked the grit and shamelessness that makes escapist fantasy work.

It might be a good intro to sword and sorcery for the uninitiated, but for fans of Conan, Elric and Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser it will seem milquetoast.
Oct 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-ebooks
If you favor long periods and complex wording this book is a delightful study in characters. It's not an easy read but I truly liked the protagonists and their development, not to mention the horses&elephants. What's more, I had no idea lush prose and emotional descriptions could fit a swashbuckling adventure so well; the result is intense.
I mean:

“Get up,” Amram said.

Zelikman looked up at him, his face blank, soot-streaked, filling with that unshakable weariness as rapidly as a staved-in hull fi
May 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: hss-club
It's sad when I enjoy the afterword (which was itself long and self-indulgent) more than the entire book. I really wanted to like this book. The scenario was refreshing, the characters interesting and language challenging. However, I was able to easily figure out the entire plot within the first chapter. The writing was difficult -- page long paragraphs with only two sentences. I'd get to the end and find myself thinking "huh?" and return to reread. This happened repeatedly. There were many fore ...more
Nov 06, 2007 rated it liked it
Michael Chabon has been making it hard for me lately, to love him in the way I'm used to doing. The Yiddish Policeman's Union was unfinishable for me, but I'm going to try again. This is something totally different however, a swashbuckling adventure story full of Turks, caravans, princes in disguise, swordfights and ruffians of many degree. He says in the afterward that he wanted to name the book "Jews With Swords" but didn't get a lot of positive feedback on that. But it made me like the book m ...more
Matt Quann
A few years back I made it my goal to read at least one Chabon novel per year, but I've fallen off the wagon in the past two. Lately, my schedule has been very busy as I stare down the barrel of a Royal College exam and I've tended more towards shorter or easy to read novels. I'd forgotten just how verbose Chabon can be, but in the case of this novel it actually makes for a somewhat confusing experience.

Admittedly, I'm not familiar with the Khazars or the period of history in which this novel i
Dec 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-novels
Reading this directly after Lawrence Block's "Tanner's Twelve Swingers" was quite eye-opening. Unlike Block, who relied on flimsy flash and sex to barrel through his story, Chabon created a complex world for his two Jews with swords - a French Jew (before there was a France) who looks like a scarecrow and a giant Abyssinian black Jew who wields a battle ax called Motherfucker. Sure, it sounds like the stuff of fantasy, but with this little novel, Chabon achieves what only the best fantasy storie ...more
Blake Charlton
Dec 24, 2011 rated it liked it
in his apology...er...afterward to this quick-witted and enjoyable historical adventure story, chabon discloses that the original working title was 'jews with swords.' (personally, i think that would have been a pretty kick ass title.) chabon goes on to explain how it came to be that he, a capital-L-literature-author, ended up writing a story that involved swords. unintentionally it smacks of condescension, of a slight embarrassment of what it was trying to be. that was my only significant compl ...more
Tim Lepczyk
I didn't want to believe the negative reviews when I started this book. I'm a big fan of Michael Chabon and have been impressed with his writing. However, this novel seems to tread the line of wanting to be literary fiction or pulp adventure fiction as a result it fails at both.

The novel is bland and empty. Things happen and there is a fast pace at times, but I didn't care. That's the first for a Chabon novel. I don't care about any characters or what happens to them.

So, leave this one on the sh
Jun 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
There is no writer that I have more of a love-hate relationship with than Michael Chabon. Having rated his works everything from 5 stars for The Yiddish Policemen's Union which I enjoyed immensely for its humor, plot, and overall fine writing down to 2 stars for the plodding and dull Telegraph Avenue I enjoyed this book more than I thought but with some caveats. It's a fun story in a swashbuckling way but the prose is so breezy that on occasion I had to go back to the beginning of a sentence ...more
Elliot Ratzman
Jul 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read Chabon’s satisfying adventure novel in one brisk sitting and with dictionary in hand, looking up a few archaic words each page. The chore of looking up exotic English terms mimicked the ordeals of the characters dealing with one strange situation after another and helps transport you into the terms of the story. The tropes of fantasy adventure are all here, impishly deployed and beautifully rendered. This is perhaps the first historical fantasy about the Khazars, a legendary Turkish-Cauca ...more
Rick Riordan
Nov 08, 2013 rated it liked it
An adult selection. I listened to this one on audio, and it was a perfect companion for a trip from Dallas to San Antonio. I haven't read everything by Chabon (my mom is still dismayed that I haven't gotten to Kavalier and Clay yet, since I'm a comic book fan), but I enjoyed Summerland and I thought Chabon did a good job in Gentleman recapturing the feel of a Dumas adventure. The language of the narrative was as antique and exotic as the setting, and I mean that in a good way. It wasn't an easy ...more
Sean Gibson
Mar 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
I reviewed this for Esquire when it came out: http://www.esquire.com/entertainment/...
Althea Ann
Nov 24, 2011 rated it liked it
If Robert E. Howard had been writing his historical adventure fiction at the beginning of the 21st century instead of toward the beginning of the 20th, this book might very well have come from his pen. I'd highly recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the Howard collection "Sword Woman."
Still, while I'm recommending it, it's not without its flaws - some of those the same as I feel the Howard stories contain. The narrative can get bogged down in technical details that impede the flow of the tale, a
I want to like this book, and maybe twenty years ago I would have. But at this point in my life my tolerance for rape as plot device has dropped to zero, and it’s handed so poorly and trivially here I can’t forgive it, no matter how much the idea of Jews with swords having adventures appeals.
Mar 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Part I of the review:
“I want to do nothing. Nothing. Okay, maybe I’ll read a book. Hmm… Gentleman of the Road, by Michael Chabon. Well, I really liked Kavalier and Clay. And I liked Yiddish Policeman’s Union. And this is a short book- maybe I’ll just read this book, and work myself out of this 5 month funk I’ve been in…
… For numberless years a myna had astounded travelers to the caravansary with its ability to spew indecencies in ten languages, and before the fight broke out everyone assumed th
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
After a slightly slow start, the story gains pace and does not let go. The prose is beautiful and clearly a bow to Michael Moorcock, whom the book is dedicated to, yet with a very own touch and incredibly concise. A sentence and Zelikman and Amram and Filaq stand before you as if you have known them forever while the plot dances from one unexpected and nevertheless oh so logical twist to the next. And oh, the bittersweet ending ...
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This was made to be a movie adaptation. 3 78 Sep 16, 2013 01:02PM  

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Michael Chabon (b. 1963) is an acclaimed and bestselling author whose works include the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000). Chabon achieved literary fame at age twenty-four with his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), which was a major critical and commercial success. He then published Wonder Boys (1995), another bestseller, which was made in ...more

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“[A]dventures befall the unadventurous as readily, if not as frequently, as the bold. Adventures are a logical and reliable result - and have been since at least the time of Odysseus - of the fatal act of leaving one's home, or trying to return to it again. All adventures happen in that damned and magical space, wherever it may be found or chanced upon, which least resembles one's home. As soon as you have crossed your doorstep or the county line, into that place where the structures, laws, and conventions of your upbringing no longer apply, where the support and approval (but also the disapproval and repression) of your family and neighbors are not to be had: then you have entered into adventure, a place of sorrow, marvels, and regret.” 11 likes
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