Tamil Nadu, southern India, 1765. Maya plays among the towering granite temples in the ancient city of Tanjore. Like her mother before her, she is destined to become a devadasi, a dancer for the temple. On the day of her initiation, a stranger arrives in town. Walter Sutcliffe, a black-frocked clergyman, strives to offer moral guidance to the British troops stationed in Tanjore, but is beset by his own demons.
When the British tear apart her princely kingdom, Maya heads to the steamy port city of Madras, where Thomas Pearce, an ambitious young Englishman, is entranced from the moment he first sees her.
The Pagoda Tree takes us deep into the heart of a country struggling under brutal occupation. As East and West collide, Walter Sutcliffe unknowingly plays the decisive card in Maya's destiny.