Abbas is just seventeen years old when his gifts as a woodcarver come to the attention of Tipu Sultan, and he is drawn into service at the palace in order to build a giant tiger automaton for Tipu’s sons, a gift to commemorate their return from British captivity. His fate—and the fate of the wooden tiger he helps create—will mirror the vicissitudes of nations and dynasties ravaged by war across India and Europe.
Working alongside the legendary French clockmaker Lucien du Leze, Abbas hones his craft, learns French, and meets Jehanne, the daughter of a French expatriate. When Du Leze is finally permitted to return home to Rouen, he invites Abbas to come along as his apprentice. But by the time Abbas travels to Europe, Tipu’s palace has been looted by British forces, and the tiger automaton has disappeared. To prove himself, Abbas must retrieve the tiger from an estate in the English countryside, where it is displayed in a collection of plundered art.