Sunday, February 20, 2011

[Review] Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang

Title: Daughter of Xanadu
Author: Dori Jones Yang
Publication (dd/mm/yy): 11/01/11
Publisher: Random House (Delacourte)
Price: $17.99 US
Source: ARC Tour (Good Golly Miss Holly Tours)
Age: 16+, violence
Pages: 320
My Rating:

Athletic and strong willed, Princess Emmajin's determined to do what no woman has done before: become a warrior in the army of her grandfather, the Great Khan Khubilai. In the Mongol world the only way to achieve respect is to show bravery and win glory on the battlefield.
The last thing she wants is the distraction of the foreigner Marco Polo, who challenges her beliefs in the gardens of Xanadu. Marco has no skills in the "manly arts" of the Mongols: horse racing, archery, and wrestling. Still, he charms the Khan with his wit and story-telling.
Emmajin sees a different Marco as they travel across 13th-century China, hunting 'dragons' and fighting elephant-back warriors. Now she faces a different battle as she struggles with her attraction towards Marco and her incredible goal of winning fame as a soldier.

My thoughts: 

Daughter of Xanadu is the first book I have read this year that I can say with absolute honesty deserves a 5 star rating. Daughter of Xanadu was everything I had expected of it. This was one of those books that I could not wait to get my hands on, to the point of stalking the author around the blogosphere. Yang's debut YA novel was a phenomenal mix of the historical (and thus, educational) and fictional, the memorable and the entertaining.

Emmajin, princess, has wanted nothing more than to serve her people in the highest way possible: join the Mongol army and fight for conquest. The glory that accompanies warfare, the parades that are hosted for veterans . . . And so, on her sixteenth birthday, she works her way up to appeal to the great Khan, her grandfather, to prove that she is indeed worthy of proceeding into the service known then only to men. The Khan takes kindly to her request, though apprehensive, and she is given the task of "gaining intelligence" on three Latin merchant travelers from Christendom (Europe). From there she meets Marco Polo, a strange but deliciously forbidden foreigner, who wrecks havoc on her plans . . .

The voice of Emmajin clearly rang out in the novel to reflect her personality: brave, naive, stubborn, determined, etc. I was consistently engaged with the words that had been picked and was surprised by how easy it was to read given my recent reading slump. Yang did not describe every setting with intense detail, but in so not doing this I was able to imagine the "centre of the world", Mongolia at the time, and the people involved in the novel for myself. Dialogue and actions were all suited to the context that is encompassed in DoX, and I loved the very distinctive culture differences between the Latins and the Mongols, which was very well depicted through Yang's descriptions. You can tell that the author has done her research and she was able to transport me across oceans and time to the point that all I could do was continue reading.

The main characters - Emmajin, Marco Polo, Temur, Suren, Khubilai Khan - each had their own distinctive personalities and behaviours, histories and relationships. Well-developed as they were, I was able to sympathise with and understand them as events unfolded. These are characters (might I add that some of these were real people) that felt real to me, like they could have existed all those centuries ago. Daugher of Xanadu held many other names in it, many of which were significant to the plot, or significant to a greater meaning that the book withheld. By the end of the book I was saddened by the fact that this wasn't the first in a series, that I had to leave all the characters behind, because I'd gotten quite attached to them and just the novel as a whole.

I could not put in better words to describe this book than the blurb given by Tamora Pierce, bestselling author of Beka Cooper: Bloodhound: "A glorious, gripping tale of a fierce girl torn between duty, dreams, and reality, love and war!" Daughter of Xanadu is a YA historical novel that has successfully interwoven the era that surrounds the ruling of the Mongolian Empire (1200s): a story with heart, that entertains and educates. I love this novel to pieces, and I will certainly be purchasing a finished copy in the near future so that I can re-read it. I can say assuredly that this won't get old; it's one of those books that can offer something for everyone.

I highly recommend this for historical YA fans, and strongly urge all those involved in the historical YA fiction challenge to add this to their list! :P

First Line

"The fierce Mongol army was riding straight at us."
Random Quote

"Marco's eyebrows twisted with sadness and concern. I did not want his sympathy. I wished I could toss a golden goblet across the table and smash him in the head with it."


Live in Australia?
Fishpond | Readings | Dymocks | Angus & Robertson | Borders | The Nile

Live elsewhere?
Amazon | The Book Depository US


Official Site
Goodreads Page

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review. 

Challenge: YA Historical Fiction Challenge 2011
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