Get to know these characters well – they will surely prove to be worth every page of their three-book investment: Deeti, the young wife of a detached opium addict whose startling grey eyes see well beyond her vision; Zachary Reid, a mixed-race freedman from Baltimore whose ‘passing’ appearance helps him rapidly master life on the high seas; Serang Ali, an experienced seaman with a mysterious past, inexplicably determined to help Reid succeed; Paulette Lambert, the orphaned child of a peripatetic French botanist, and Azad Naskar – known always as Jodu – a servant’s son who grows up by Paulette’s side as her brother; Baboo Nob Kissin, whose spiritual obsessions will lead him to unexpected destinations; Kalua, a gentle giant of a young man, unjustly abused by the more powerful around him; and Raja Neel Rattan Halder, a pampered patriarch of one of the most notable families of Bengal, whose fortunes are about to crumble [his painstakingly detailed "Chrestomathy" at book's end is also quite the literary bonus].
Master storyteller Amitav Ghosh introduces each member of this epic cast in the first volume of his Ibis Trilogy as if choosing the most fascinating fibers for the most intricate tapestry. Each of these seemingly disparate strands will somehow commingle and converge on the deck of the former slave ship Ibis on its 1838 voyage from India to Mauritius, while legendary Canton looms beyond the black waters on the eve of the First Opium War. The tumultuous journey proves to be a microcosmic mix of caste, race, status, and power.
Final confession: I don’t do well with series. Especially the good ones, because waiting for the next book is achingly difficult for my restless brain. Having read numerous previous titles by Ghosh, I well suspected Ibis would be of not-to-be-missed caliber. So in order to circumvent my usual impatience, I decided I would wait (HA!) for all three titles to be out before commencing. I only got 2/3 through the actual waiting … and now that I’m deep into River of Smoke (Ibis, part 2), I am soooo dreading the delay until I can get my eyeballs on the concluding installment …