An adventure novel about the ups and downs of the life of Arjun, 14, a Brahman in seventh-century India who is tricked and sold into the army. His rise through the ranks--from lowly foot soldier to the king's elite elephant corps--is a success story that takes up three-quarters of the telling. In the remainder of the book, Arjun achieves another type of success, as a stonecutter, who experiences a Siddhartha-esque spiritual awakening as an artist. Throughout, Arjun devotes himself to finding his lost sister; in the end, he resigns himself to carving her image in a temple wall. A motley narrative is packed with adjectives, proper names, and colorful descriptions, like a dish with every available spice thrown in; it's full of digressions into Indian philosophy, mythology, and religions, cooking, elephants, military strategy, rock-carving techniques, even a detailed explanation of yoga postures. The sprawling plot brings together many figures, but all of them are unfinished--characters without personalities, or personalities without characters. Bosse (The Examination, 1994, etc.) wanders from topic to topic--sometimes investing in Arjun, sometimes using him merely as a lens through which to view his surroundings. For all that, the thematic construction of the novel is skillful and surprisingly tasteful.