At the heart of this epic saga, set just before the Opium Wars, is an old slave ship The Ibis . Its destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean; its crew a motley array of sailors, stowaways, and convicts. In a time of colonial upheaval, the ship boasts a diverse cast of Indians, coolies, and Westerners, from a bankrupt raja to a widowed village woman, from a mulatto American to an evangelical opium trader. As their family ties wash away, they come to view themselves as jahaj-bhais , or ship-brothers, and an unlikely dynasty is born. The vast sweep of this historical adventure spans the lush poppy fields of the Ganges, the rolling high seas, and the back streets of China. But it is the panorama of sharply drawn characters that brings Sea of Poppies so breathtakingly alive. The first in a trilogy, this is a masterpiece by a world-class novelist.