Jeffrey Hantover's debut novel The Jewel Trader of Pegu (forthcoming from William Morrow) is a lavishly-described tale of late sixteenth-century southeast Asia (Pegu is a city in the southern part of Burma), told from the alternating perspectives of Venetian jewel broker Abraham and Mya, a young Burmese woman. Abraham's story is provided through letters written to his cousin Joseph back in Venice, while Mya narrates directly.
While the plot of Jewel Trader is fairly predictable once a few things become clear near the beginning of the book, it is well measured and effectively written. What is more special about this novel than the fairly conventional storyline is the emotionally-wrenching process Abraham undergoes as he comes to grips with Peguan culture, religion and societal norms. The contrasts he makes between his experiences as a foreigner in Pegu and as a Jew in Venice were the most interesting elements of the narrative to me, along with the rich depictions of the Peguan environment and natural world.
An enjoyable book.