Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang (Published by Delacorte Press, January 11, 2011)
Sixteen-year-old Emmajin is the oldest granddaughter of the great Khubilai Khan, ruler of the great and powerful Mongolian empire in the 13th century. Growing up in a society where fame and glory can only be earned through warfare, Emmajin competed with her male cousins and became skilled in archery and riding. Emmajin longs to join the army, now that she is old enough, but even in her society, women cannot be soldiers.
When she tells her grandfather, the Khan, about her longing to join the army, he instead gives her an assignment to get to know Marco Polo, a young foreigner visiting the Khan’s court, in order to find out about his homeland. Emmajin resents the assignment at first, since she is prejudiced against foreigners, but she soon comes to care for Marco as a friend, and even finds herself attracted to him. He also challenges her beliefs in a way no one else ever has, causing her to question for the first time the morality of the Mongol army’s brutality during war.
Daughter of Xanadu is a fascinating historical novel full of history, romance, and adventure. I really liked the historical setting, it was very interesting and I had never before read a book set in this place and time. Emmajin is a strong female character who struggles to find her place in a male dominated society. She must decide where her loyalty lies, as she deals with love and loss, grows and matures, and learns about the true reality of war. I would recommend this book to both teens and adults who enjoy historical fiction, the unique historical setting really makes it stand out from other books in the genre.