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Daughter of Xanadu

Daughter of Xanadu

4.0 3
by Dori Jones Yang

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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


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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Amanda MacGregor
In China in 1275, Princess Emmajin longs to be a warrior in the Mongol army. When she boldly announces this fact, her grandfather, Khan Khabilai, gives her a special task. He requests that she get to know a merchant visiting from Venice in hopes of learning about his homeland and gathering enough information to aid a Mongol invasion. This foreign merchant is Marco Polo, a young storyteller who immediately captivates Emmajin. As they grow closer, Emmajin begins to question the idea of expanding the empire. She provides her grandfather with the information the army needs but does not feel good about betraying Marco Polo. Suddenly everything Emmajin knew or thought she wanted seems uncertain. Her views on battles, conquests, foreigners, and more have evolved, thanks to her time with Marco Polo. To her surprise, a discussion with her grandparents reveals that she is not alone in her new way of thinking. This moving and thoughtful novel's greatest strength is Emmajin's believable and affecting character growth. Her introspection is tempered with enough action sequences to keep up the plot's momentum. A foreword provides a summary of Emmajin's (who is purely fictional) and Marco Polo's lives, their lands, and how their paths cross. A glossary of Mongolian words, places, and characters is appended. Reviewer: Amanda MacGregor
Children's Literature - Elizabeth Fronk
Emmajin, granddaughter of Kublai Khan or Khubilai Khan, longs to serve in her grandfather's army, unheard of during 13th -century China. She tells her story as she approaches her sixteenth birthday. Her parents expect marriage and a good political alliance; Emmajin wants to do well in an archery tournament. As she competes in the tournament, she becomes distracted by a foreigner, Marco Polo. Instead of serving in the army as a soldier, Emmajin finds herself assigned to get to know Marco Polo as a request from the great Khan. She finds herself fascinated and confused by Polo as they spend time together. At the end of the summer, she defends Marco Polo to her grandfather and he allows her to join the army. Emmajin and her beloved cousin, Suren leave Xanadu and go towards Tibet. When battle finally does come, Emmajin realizes that her ideas about war and conquest have changed as have her feelings for Marco Polo. Emmajin's abilities and courage make her an admirable heroine; it is no surprise that this book appears on the recent Amanda Bloomer list. The unique and little-explored era and country make for an added bonus. Middle school girls can learn some history and discover Emmajin's fate. One might quibble a little with the book's ending as it seems almost trite and maybe too romantic. However, the excitement and pain that accompanies war come across and many can overlook the ending and appreciate Emmajin's courage and aplomb. Reviewer: Elizabeth Fronk
Kirkus Reviews

A 13th-century princess wants to be a warrior; the old tale's less forced than usual when set in the Mongol Empire with its legends of fighting women. Emmajin is Khubilai Khan's (fictional) oldest granddaughter, and she would rather be a soldier than a wife. Emmajin struggles to convince the Khan, but her desire is complicated by a growing attraction to the hairy visiting foreigner, Marco Polo. Emmajin's stubborn drive brings both her and Marco to combat and the novel's highlight: a lusciously described brutal engagement of cavalry, archers and elephants. Unlike much of the rest of Emmajin's tale, the battle and its profound emotional aftermath don't suffer from dry overdescription. Otherwise, Emmajin writes as if alien in her own home: She serves "Mongolian cheese," notices her cousins' "distinctive Mongolian male haircut" and rides with a "traditional Mongolian wooden saddle." With such a narrator, it's unsurprising that she finds exotic Christendom compelling, but it is a disappointment. Gorgeous cover art packages this blandly informative adventure, which is spiced with just enough blood and sexual tension to keep readers turning the pages.(Historical fiction. 12-13)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)
780L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt


A Taste of Victory

The fierce Mongol army was riding straight at us.

My cousin Suren and I stood on the balcony of the palace gate, scanning the horizon, our hands on the marble balustrade. In the far distance, on the plain outside the city's south gate, a massive cloud of dust hid the mighty force, advancing toward the city. The sky shone vivid blue on this late-spring day. A cool wind whipped the loose hairs around my face but could not lift the heavy braids on my back.

I leaned over the marble barrier and squinted.

The Mongol army was about to enter my home city, Khanbalik--not to attack us, but for a grand victory parade. I was fifteen, nearly sixteen, the eldest granddaughter of the powerful emperor Khubilai Khan. My blood pounded in my ears, and I could barely stand still.

Finally, my sharp eyes detected the glint of metal armor and the first few horses of the parade as they emerged from the dark arch of the city's south gate. "Look! Is that the general?" I said to my cousin. Suren was the Khan's eldest grandson and my closest friend. His thick neck stretched out like a turtle's as he strained to see, too.

A huge roar of approval rose from the crowds lining the streets, confirming my guess. Shouts of joy echoed from the rest of the royal family, surrounding me on the palace balcony. "Hooray! Hooray!"

I cheered more loudly than anyone else. Victory tasted sweet.

Suren raised his fist high as he yelled. His wide face with its high cheekbones glowed with happiness. In his veins, Suren had a drop of my blood, and I had a drop of his flowing inside me. At the age of ten, we had decided to become anda, cutting our fingers and mingling our blood, promising lifelong loyalty, like blood brothers. Now, five years later, we were inseparable.

Suren pointed to the parade. "Emmajin!" he said. "Is that an elephant?"

I leaned forward and focused on the distant archway. Sure enough, a massive gray creature was entering the city, the carriage on its back nearly hitting the top of the arch. We had heard of these beasts but never seen one. "It's twice as tall as a horse!" I said.

"No, three times as tall!"

The general led the army up the broad main avenue of Khanbalik, the Khan's capital, a city known to the local Chinese as Dadu, or the Great Capital. The soldiers rode in neat formation directly toward the palace gate where we stood. I felt the tromp of their horses' hooves vibrating in my body, and I smelled the grit and the sweat in the wind.

These brave soldiers had broken the long siege of a large city in the South, finally conquering it. This victory opened the way for our armies to march toward Kinsay, the capital of southern China. Many battles lay ahead, but now it seemed inevitable that the great Mongol army would eventually control all of China. No one could stop us now.

This general, the famous Bayan, was returning to his Emperor, the Great Khan Khubilai, to get his reward for breaking the siege and winning this historic victory.

Not far from Suren and me, just beyond a clutch of princes and wives and retainers, the Khan of all Khans sat on a raised platform. His massive body was draped in white brocade edged with the finest furs, white with black spots, from snow leopards. His face, wide and normally impassive, seemed to glow in the late-afternoon sunlight. His feet rested on thick embroidered cushions.

On that day, we all wore white, the color of good luck and victory. I had borrowed a silk robe from my mother, because I had grown taller since the last big celebration. I craned my neck until I caught sight of my father, Prince Dorji. As the Great Khan's eldest son, he stood by his side, the first in a row of many sons of the Khan's four official wives. I felt a pang of joy. My father seldom claimed his rightful place at the Khan's side.

Although my father was the eldest, the Khan bestowed his favor on his second son, Chimkin, Suren's father. Chimkin had led armies, fought in battles, and won the respect of all at court. Instead of fighting, my father had run away to a Buddhist monastery. He walked with a limp, dragging one foot. Some of my cousins mocked him.

Suddenly, I felt like running. "Let's go!" I said to Suren. I pulled back from the balustrade and pushed my way through the crowd of onlookers.

"Wait! Slow down!" Though no longer pudgy, as he had been as a boy, Suren was broad-shouldered and sturdy, not able to slip through the crowd as quickly as I could.

I headed for the steps and raced down them two by two. From the high balcony platform above the gate, the staircase curved around down the inside of a stone tower. Suren stumbled after me, his voice echoing in the empty tower. "Emmajin! Where are you going?" Unlike me, Suren never acted on impulse.

Across the courtyard and through the thick tunnel that was a front gate of the palace compound, I ran. I had always loved the most physical of activities: running fast, racing on horseback, practicing archery for hours on end until my arm muscles bulged. Even though I was a girl, I had built up my skills at all three Mongolian "manly arts": horseracing, archery, and even wrestling, the one sport reserved for men only. I loved to compete with Suren and my other boy cousins, the young princes.

In the square in front of the Khan's palace, crowds were jostling, and soldiers rammed them back, to keep the center of the square clear. With Suren trailing behind me, I dashed across the square toward the main avenue. Onlookers buzzed with jubilation, shouting and pointing as the horses, elephants, and soldiers advanced down the avenue toward us.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Fluent in Mandarin, DORI JONES YANG was a foreign correspondent in China for Business Week. She also wrote a business book about Starbucks Coffee Company. She and her family have traveled to Mongolia and visited the site of Xanadu, now in ruins, and the site of Khubilai Khan's palace at Khanbalik, which is now the Forbidden City in Beijing.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Daughter of Xanadu 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Aik More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I truly adored this book! I read it last summer, and it was the perfect summer read. It was written beautifully, and it was perfect for getting me over my (what I like to call) "Readers Block" I would definelty give this book to a friend Happy Reading!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago