By Dori Jones Yang
Delecorte Press, $17.99, 336 pages

 

Many contemporary young adult novels feature ambitious heroines whose strength buckles as their first romance blossoms. Dori Jones Yang’s Daughter of Xanadu refreshingly deviates from this pattern. Emmajin is a princess of the Mongolian Empire. Though she is a young woman, she excels in the manly arts of horseracing, archery and wrestling. She wants nothing more then to be a soldier in the Kahn’s, or king’s, army. Commissioned by the king to spy on Marco Polo, a merchant from medieval Venice, she is suspicious of his foreign ways, from his odd respect towards women to his concept of “courtly love”, but the two eventually grow to harbor secret affections for each other. Emmajin faces the uncomfortable decision of betraying the man she loves or being loyal to her country. ||In her travels with the army, Emmajin captures dragons, battles an elephant army and suffers great loss. Ultimately, she must reassess her desires. Is being a soldier in the Kahn’s army the biggest dream of her heart? Daughter of Xanadu is a beautifully written novel of adventure, love and self-discovery. I recommend it to strong young women tired of protagonists who lose themselves in the men they love.

Reviewed by Emily Davis