This is a pretty good read. It's a fictional tale about a romance in the Mongol Empire between the young Marco Polo and a grandaughter of the Great Khan Khubilai. Marco Polo is visiting Khan's Empire in hopes of winning the Emperor's favor and returning home and wonderful loot to trade. Emmajin is a princess who wants to serve in the army and experience battle. The Great Khan gives her an assignment: Get close to Marco Polo and find out as much about his home country, Italy, as she can. The Khan hopes to invade Christendom one day.
Emmajin takes her job very seriously but alas, spending a lot of time with Marco Polo leads to feelings that just may be love. BUT what does she desire more, a position in the Khan's army or a forbidden, impossible love with a foreigner? Choices, choices. "What an impossible situation! I had always been loyal to my Khan and my people, but now that loyalty required me to make an enemy of a man who was gradually becoming my friend."
Some very interesting bits of facts and history are incooperated. I was intrigued by the catching of "dragons" for their gallbladders for medicinal purposes, the use of "rat fire," and the army's cutting off of enemies' ears for souveniers. There's also a shocking story about cats on fire. (No, I don't advocate animal cruelty, but really, this was a smart battle strategy.)
Life in the army is not all Emmajin expected though and soon her desire to experience warfare becomes a desire to experience peace. How will her Marco Polo play into this?
Thus, it's a tale about a girl finding herself, experiencing forbidden love, breaking male/female barriers, and experiencing loss. I really didn't feel the "romance" between her and Marco, however. Something was missing there. I enjoyed the story, the conflicts, the battles, but the ending. . . it didn't fit. I am hesitant to reveal too much information, but I will say I was left scratching my head. I don't really see the Great Khan letting his maiden granddaughter just go on this "mission" far away with foreign men. Also, I was left hanging on just how this "romance" was going to play out.
Something of interest: Throughout the novel and towards the end especially, Emmajin draws guidance from a Buddha goddess. This goddess is sometimes portrayed as having a third eye and even eyes on her feet. She is Tara the Protectress. Tara. A goddess. Naturally, I love that. :)
I received an ARC of this book for review purposes thanks to Good Golly Miss Holly blog tour. Any quotes may be changed before publication.