Daughter of Xanadu

Daughter of Xanadu

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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385739238
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 01/11/2011
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)
Lexile: 780L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 Years

About 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.

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.

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Daughter of Xanadu 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 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.
BookAddictDiary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in 13th-century China, newcomer Dori Jones Yang paints a fascinating, vivid portrait of the period. Though, of course, for the purposes of the novel's intended age group, she does have to glaze over a few period-specific things. However, Yang does an exquisite job of transporting the reader back to unique setting when the world was completely different, and the role of women was completely different in societyPrincess Emmajin is the granddaughter of the great Khan of Khans, emperor of the Mongols. A strong-willed, ambitious young woman, Emmajin dreams of joining the army and achieving glory in battle on behalf of Mongol nation. Such an ambition is not granted to Mongolan women, especially ones of royal birth. Just when Emmajin starts to make some headway, she meets the Westerner Marco Polo, who has come to trade with the East. Emmajin befriends Marco to spy on him on behalf of the Khan, but she finds herself falling in love with him.An exciting adventure, Daughter of Xanadu is a fast-paced, page-turning action-packed novel complete with dashes of fantasy and romance. A quick read, Yang has a well-practiced, deliberate writing style that hits all the right notes between plot, characterization, action and history. But most importantly, Emmajin is a great, cheer-worthy character that readers can easily relate to and love. Though I knew what was going to happen to her virtually the entire novel, I still wanted to see what wild adventures she had in the meantime.A perfect read for younger teens, Daughter of Xanadu is recommended for fans of Tamora Pierce.
stephxsu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Emmajin is the granddaughter of Kubilai Khan, the fearsome and accomplished leader of the widespread Mongolian Empire. All she has ever dreamed of is to be able to join the Mongolian army, but her destiny as a princess is to be trapped in a political marriage. Emmajin is determined to do all she can to convince the Khan that she will serve him well in battle.With the arrival of foreign merchants to their lands, however, Emmajin is told to gather information from one Marco Polo. This is the last thing Emmajin wants to do, but as she gets to know Marco, so unlike the Mongolian men she knows, she finds that there is something special about his talented storytelling, his peace-loving beliefs. But how can she juggle her growing feelings towards this foreigner and her determination to become a legend in the Mongolian army?If you¿ve never read anything about the Mongolian empire, then pick DAUGHTER OF XANADU up. Writing in a style easily accessible to modern readers, Dori Jones Yang tells the surprisingly deep story of a girl caught between warring desires, who learns that dreams may change and that things are hardly ever what they seem.Emmajin undergoes an incredible journey of self-growth, from a girl with a single-minded determination to be a soldier to a young woman with far more complicated feelings and desires. To tell the story of Emmajin¿s self-discovery, Dori Jones Yang gives us a world full of marvelously fascinating details, first among the artificial glamour of court life, and then among the gruesome reality of mortality on the battlefield. This transition of her soldier aspirations from dream to reality truly affects Emmajin in ways that we who live many centuries after her time can still empathize with. I was in tears for the last few chapters of the book, so wrapped up in Emmajin¿s development I was.DAUGHTER OF XANADU is a great book if you¿re looking for a story featuring a strong female character set in a fascinating ¿other world.¿ Expand the range of POC books you read with this one, and be swept away.
TheLostEntwife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Did you see Disney's Mulan? Did you like it? If you answered "yes" to both of those questions then you need to make sure to read this book when it's released early next year.This story of a Mongolian princess, Emmajin Beki, is a story that proves that love triangles do not need to exist in YA level books for them to be full of romance, adventure and feature a strong, willful female as the hero. Does that mean there isn't romance? No - there's a little but it's where it belongs, adding beautiful color to the background of this story instead of elbowing its way to the forefront and demanding all of the attention.Emmajin has always wanted to be a soldier and, as the granddaughter of the Great Khan Khubilai, she can expect nothing of the sort. What can she expect? Marriage to one of those soldiers - someone high ranking and to spend a lifetime in the shadows, living the quiet life of a woman in a time where women were ignored and put aside while battles waged on around them. However, Emmajin has a different plan for her life. This is a story of Emmajin's bravery, her struggle to prove herself, her sorrow as she learns the consequences for her actions and her message of hope and ultimate peace. It's filled with historical information about the time period, beautiful descriptions of the places and a glimpse of the man, Marco Polo - someone that, up until this point, I'd only been familiar with as a game.I'll be looking for more by this author - I loved the way she wrote, I loved Emmajin's voice and the story had me flipping pages with excitement, anxious to learn more of the story.
chinaphotographer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Can you imagine, a mere girl fighting on the battlefield?" The role of females in combat is a debate as timeless as war itself, and one that remains divisive and unresolved to this century. While present-day arguments for and against allowing women in the military revolve around psychological and biological issues, back in olden times, one needed only cite "tradition" and "familial roles" to silence the detractors. The teenaged heroine of Dori Jones Yang's new 13th-century historical fiction novel, Daughter of Xanadu, is one such detractor, albeit immutable. Often imagining herself on the battlefield, "the son my father never had," Emmajin Beki, the granddaughter of Mongolian king Khubilai Khan, learned to ride a horse before she could walk and can outshoot all her cousins in archery. She confidently and outspokenly aspires to emulate her female ancestors who assisted Chinggis Khan in conquering Asia ("the blood of all these earlier strong women flowed in my veins"). Unfortunately for this princess, "the days of strong women had ended once luxurious court life had begun." The Mongols, fattened, lazy and resting on their laurels, now prefer to tell stories of battles-past over lavish "orgies of excess" rather than engage in new wars, much to Emmajin's restless discontent. When she makes known her desire to "become a legend" like real-life women warriors Aiyurug Khutulun and Hua Mulan of China, the great Khan placates her by sending her on a secret mission to spy on a family of foreign merchants currently visiting the Mongol court. The merchants' young son turns out to be one Marco Polo, the now-legendary Venetian journeyer credited for introducing Asian culture to the west. To Emmajin, however, he is just another "colored-eye man," a court curiosity from Christendom whose gallantry and romantic gestures are as ridiculous to the manly Mongolians as his facial hair ("his beard was so thick I could imagine food sticking in it"). Try as she might, however, Emmajin, caught in the peak of puberty, is unable to resist Marco's western charm, and quickly finds herself enamored by his worldly vision ("I had learned to see the world through Marco's eyes") as well as his pelt. "What would the hair on his arm feel like?" she often fantasized about at night. But she was a Mongolian first, and reluctantly sacrifices her blossoming relationship with the foreigner to complete her spy mission ("He was not a friend but a source of information."). Authoress Dori Jones Yang is a Caucasian American, yet she is no stranger to writing from the perspective of conflicted adolescent Chinese girls, as evinced in her previous, award-winning novel, The Secret Voice of Gina Zhang. In Daughter of Xanadu, she hones in even deeper into the physiological confusion and emotional conflictions that make youth such a joy, turning Emmajin into such a hormonal wreck that this male reviewer often found himself gritting his teeth in frustration at such contradictive revelations as, "if he had pursued me, I would have rebuffed him. By holding himself aloof, he challenged me to win back his esteem." Daughter of Xanadu is not all teenage angst. As our protagonist matures, so does the content of the story. Emmajin eventually persuades Khubilai Khan to allow her to train for war against the Burmese at the Battle of Vochan (present-day Yunnan province), where the embarrassment of getting her period in front of the all-male troops is a bloody omen for what's to come. Upon seeing her cousin slain, innocent Emmajin is transformed into a "mindless killer." Bloodlust unleashed, the young princess swings her sword indiscriminately ("the hatred pounded in my ears...killing him felt good"), resulting in hundreds of men dead by her hand alone. One can only imagine all the Mulan vs. Emmajin fanfiction that this novel will inspire! By story's conclusion, Messer Polo, who witnessed and wrote about the Mongols' real-life battle against the Burmese in his book, The Travels of Marco Polo,
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