Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Daughter of Xanadu

Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang

I'm pretty sure that this is historical fiction, but as I'm not familiar with Mongol history, I'm going to assume it's creative historical fiction. Pardon me if I'm wrong, but I'm mildly cranky from a very persistent headache.

So our story centers around Emmajin Beki who is the eldest granddaughter of the Great Kahn Khubilai. And to avoid spelling errors this time, I'm frequently referencing the book. In retrospect, should have been doing that all along, but now I will for sure. Pardon past blunders. ANYWHO.

So Emmajin Beki is not your typical royal girl. She grew up with her cousin Serun (the eldest grandson) and Temur (the second eldest grandson, Serun's younger brother). By growing up with them, she pursued "men's passions" such as archery, and wrestling; normal women of the court pursue embroidery, gossip, and fine clothes. Emmajin has no use for 'silly' past times. Emmajin declares in the first chapter that she wants to join the Great Kahn's army. No woman has ever joined the Kahn's army before.

Now this is definitely a RAH RAH WOMAN POWERRRR book as Emmajin is hurtled through the prejudice's of men and also has to carefully balance between honoring her cousin Serun, and not crossing the Kahn Khubilai. To test her abilities and to prove her determination to join the army, the Kahn tasks Emmajin with the task of learning about the foreigner, Marco Polo. On a sidenote, I couldn't help it but as I was reading the book and every time I read 'Marco' I had to shout POLO! I startled the folks around me quite a few times. Whoops. Worth it. Now as Emmajin tries to learn the art of communication, she is also unsure if Marco Polo is flirting with her at first. Nevertheless, she tries to discretely persuade him to teach her about his culture, his military, and his country's ambitions.

I'm not sure at what point is halfway through the story, so I'm going to stop there just to be safe. I think Emmajin was a great narrator as her voice was never annoying or whining when her path became difficult. She kind of had 'oh crap' moments when she was shocked, but she still went on. I thought the metal of Emmajin's character was proven very soundly and repeatedly and I was pleased with how the book was paced and how it was ended.

I think there is a potential for a sequel, but I would be very happy if it was left as simply a stand alone book.

I also would like to clarify that I got suckered into this book by the praise that was printed on the front; the praise was from Tamora Pierce (damn it Tamora!). I clearly need to stop picking up books just because another author I liked praised the book. Although this one was worth the read. I guess it'll remain a trial and error process.

So if you like historical fiction (it could be creative, it might not be, I need a history buff to chime in on this one) then I'd recommend The Daughter of Xanadu. Or if you want a life learning, woman power book; I'd recommend this. Emmajin was brave, courageous, and had youthful naive that brought about interesting situations. Also, Marco (POLO!) was quite charming.

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