But it does! This book takes three part-stories, dry academic scholarship, adapting to life in a completely different culture and a slave in 12th century Egypt, that are each individually neither compelling nor fulfilling. Yet the sum of the three parts is both compelling and fulfilling. The narrative jumps from story to story skillfully, creating tensions in each story line that would otherwise be absent and drawing the reader onward. Amitav Ghosh is a wonderful writer of lyric descriptions and this book is lovingly fulled with them, adding embellishments to the otherwise simple stories. Everything comes together to produce a book as good as his Shadow Lines.