Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang
Emmajin, a fictional granddaughter of Khubilai (Kublai) Khan, himself the grandson of Chinggis (Genghis) Khan, wants more than anything to be a soldier herself in the Khan’s army. She has deliberately sabotaged all her parents’ previous efforts to betroth her to a future husband, since she feels marriage means the loss of her freedom and dreams. After ruining yet another visit by a general and his son, Emmajin hurries to an archery contest, hoping to impress the Khan with her skill. Distracted by a foreigner who turns out to be Marco Polo, she misses a target. When the Khan summons her the next day, he informs her she will accompany him and his entourage to the summer palace at Xanadu. She must become friendly with Marco Polo and gather intelligence about his kings, religions, defenses, etc., in preparation for the Khan’s plan to conquer Christendom after his armies finish their conquest of China. Emmajin is thrilled to travel with the Khan, but surprises herself to discover she grows to like Marco Polo. During a military expedition to stop the king of Burma from invading the Khan’s lands, Emmajin becomes a fierce warrior, helping the army to victory, but realizing the meaning of killing other people. By the end of the book I felt I knew these characters well, both the true historical personages as well as the fictional ones. The author made this time period come to life, with details about Marco Polo’s travels, adventures and bravery, as well as the historical scope of Genghis and Kublai Khan’s empires. I recommend this book not only to readers who like historical fiction, but anyone who likes vivid characters and great adventure stories!
Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson