Book Review : Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang

Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang

Product Details
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (January 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385739230
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385739238
Daughter of Xanadu
is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble & The Book Depository

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.

I don't know much about Mongolian history, but it's true that I don't have a liking for the Mongols after watching movies and reading storybooks depicting their barbaric acts. But now I realize it's just the way a story is portrayed that influences the reader's mind, thanks to Daughter of Xanadu. When a same story is told in two different perspectives, we will have different perceptions and feelings after reading them.

In this book, our heroine, the 16-year-old granddaughter of Kubilai Khan - Princess Emmajin has no intention of getting married and become a good wife. She sole ambition is to get enlisted in the army and fight for the Khan to gain fame and glory in order to make herself comparable to men. She wants to help contributing a part in helping the Great Khan conquer the whole world. But as she eventually befriends a Latin merchant named Marco Polo whom she is initially assigned to spy on, she learns about the countries which is far off the borders of the Mongolian empire. Marco's words about the bad effects of wars start to prick her consciousness, and she thinks about the possibility of attaining peace through an alternative solution. As time passes, Emmajin and Marco begins to develop special feelings for each other.

While being historically accurate and highly entertaining, Daughter of Xanadu is also a thought-provoking novel. It questions the act of waging a war simply because of one man's aspiration to be the supreme world ruler. You will not fail to discover the brutalities and grittiness of war, which is portrayed vividly
in this novel during the Battle of Vochan. However, I must say that I really admire Marco's wit in introducing a special tactic that proved to work against the Burmese King's troops. I love the part where Emmajin, Suren and Marco helped in capturing live dragons (crocodiles) to be taken back to Khanbalik.

In the front pages of the book, you will find a map of the Mongol Empire under Kubilai Khan from 1275 - 1276, with translations of ancient names of places to today's standard names. Also, there is a page on Emmajin's family tree. The author really deserves compliments for her meticulous research on the Mongolian lifestyle and culture. She describes the scenery of the wide stretches of land in
Mongolia skillfully using beautiful words which makes me feel as if I were in that place. Included in the back is a glossary of some of the Mongolian and Latin terms which is used by the characters in the novel.

Dori Jones Yang has created word images so vivid that it is almost like watching a movie. She takes you on a brilliant Odyssey through the often-discussed-but-seldom-written-about Mongolian history through the eyes of the courageous royal princess herself. I heartily recommend this book to everyone, especially those who has a keen interest in the history of China and Mongolia or the founding of the Yuan Dynasty.


Many thanks to the author for providing a copy of Daughter of Xanadu for this review!

If you've read the book, feel free to take the quiz on Goodreads to test your understanding for the book!
Dori Jones Yang grew up in Ohio, the daughter of a bookseller, and fell in love with foreign travel at an early age. Among other languages, she speaks fluent Mandarin and has lived in Singapore and Hong Kong, where she was foreign correspondent for Business Week.

Her first book, The Secret Voice of Gina Zhang, was a Skipping Stones Honor Book in 2001, and was also awarded the Pleasant T. Rowland Prize for Fiction for Girls. Her most recent book is Daughter of Xanadu, set in 13th century Mongolia, under the Khubilai Khan.

Dori lives near Seattle with her husband Paul Yang; they have three grown-up children.

Find Dori Jones Yang On:
Daughter of Xanadu
is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble & The Book Depository

2 creative remarks:

Cass said...

Glad you loved it! :D

It's sad that this book gets overlooked because it is a historical, and many people think they will not be able to relate at all with the culture portrayed in the book.

This book is dope! LOL.

Aik said...

Thanks for your comment, Cass! I agree with you on the historical part. I tried recommending this book to my friend, a YA lover, but she said she has no interest in books with historical settings. Sigh!