Is there any place-name so redolent of adventure, peril and the thrilling cross-currents of culture as the Silk Road? Little children may imagine a glorious length of shining fabric winding across a map. Older ones will know the Silk Road as an ancient trade route connecting China through Central Asia to India, Turkey and Italy. The explorers Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta both traversed it. In “Kim,” Rudyard Kipling’s scruffy orphan travels the 19th-century vestiges of it with his venerable friend, the Teshoo Lama.
The old Silk Road is such a vivid presence in “The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams” that it might be one of the characters. In this illustrated picaresque, Daniel Nayeri and artist Daniel Miyares conjure a richly colored 11th-century realm of merchants and swindlers, camels and donkeys, caravanserai and spice bazaars, and the gaudiest array of mercenaries ever assembled in a book for young readers.