Author: Dori Jones Yang
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Read Time: 2 days
Rating (1-5): 5
Tag Words: 2011 historical fiction challenge, 2011 debut author challenge, 350+ pages book challenge, historical fiction, Mongols, female warrior, Marco Polo, battle, politics, falling in love
Emmajin Beki, the granddaughter of the Khan of all Khan’s has always wanted to be a warrior, serving her people as a woman of power, loved and revered as a strong leader. She has trained with her boy cousins all her life in the hopes of being accepted as part of the Khan’s army. When Marco Polo, the Latin foreigner comes to Xanadu, Emmajin begins to see the world- and herself- in a new light. Who wins in a battle of the heart?
I loved this book, I was completely enraptured by the plot, the historical details and Yang’s take on this overlooked part of Asian history.
We have all seen the Disney take on Mulan, the Chinese warrior, who went to battle as a man and saved the empire. Emmajin is a Mongol, part of a great race with a superiority complex, who once revered women as strong, fit, and beautiful warriors, but now see them as most of the world did, a trading piece in a marriage contract. Emmajin wants to join the ranks of women like Mulan; she wants to be revered not only as a warrior, but as a woman.
Emmajin fights the stereotype only to find that she would greatly love to be a woman when Marco Polo arrives and declares his total devotion to the Beki- the Princess- of Xanadu.
The internal struggle of who, and what, Emmajin wishes to be in life is evenly matched with historical battles, and details surrounding the Khan’s rule. I was so surprised by Yang’s take on femininity, from the point of view of a female warrior living in a society where value is emphasized in the strength of a warrior’s arm, while she falls in love. I think Yang executed all her plot points perfectly and brought all aspects of the story to a beautiful ending.
Emmajin is fierce, beautiful and has the depth to work through major issues such as religion, love, trust, honor, peace and grief. Though Emmajin is not strictly a historical figure, she comes alive in Daughter of Xanadu.
Notes on the Names: Emmajin is a name you wouldn’t expect from the Mongol language. It is, in fact, the female diminutive of the Warrior’s name, Temujin and it is noted in the glossary that her name would have been more properly spelled Emujin. I wish that Yang had sprang for the more traditional spelling, what with ‘Emma’ being such a popular Anglo choice. I think the Anglo version of her name would be Imogen, which is such a beautiful sound!
Thoughts on the Cover: Such an amazing cover, and exactly how I pictured Emmajin! I read on the Editor’s Page that Stephen Yang was the artist behind the book, so kudos on this cover, Stephen!
Possibly the best part of reading this book is picturing Henry Cavill as Marco Polo! I also really like Jamie Chung for Emmajin, what do you think?