Gentlemen of the Road is like a boy’s adventure story for adults. Before 1000 AD, Zelikman and Amram are two adventurers travelling in the Caucasus Mountains. They make money by faking fights to be wagered on. Zelikman is a thin, gawky physician from Regensburg who has broken with his family, while Amram is a giant of an ex-soldier looking for his daughter, who was stolen from his village.
An old man hires the men to escort an unwilling young boy named Filaq to his grandfather. The boy’s father was a bek in Khazaria, a legendary Jewish country on the Caspian Sea, when he was murdered by a rival. The boy wants to return to take his revenge, but the rival is having his entire family murdered and enslaved. Filaq eventually persuades Zelikman and Amram to return to Khazaria and help him retake his father’s position.
Chabon originally published this novel as a serial in the New York Times Magazine, ending each chapter with a cliffhanger. He obviously had a great time writing it and it is lots of fun to read, with colorful characters, exotic settings, and deeds of derring-do.