Kim O'Hara, the orphaned son of an Irish soldier stationed in India, is neither innocent nor victimized. Raised by an opium-addicted half-caste woman since his equally dissolute father's death, the boy has grown up in the streets of Lahore. From his father and the woman who raised him, Kim has come to believe that a great destiny awaits him. In the meantime, Kim amuses himself with intrigues, executing 'commissions by night on the crowded housetops for sleek and shiny young men of fashion'. His peculiar heritage as a white child gone native, combined with his "love of the game for its own sake," makes him uniquely suited for a bigger game. And when, at last, the long-awaited colonel comes along, Kim is recruited as a spy in Britain's struggle to maintain its colonial grip on India.