Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Tiger Queens by Stephanie Thornton

I've always seen Genghis Khan as a monster.  He conquered other kingdoms and claimed their land and any of their women his troops wanted.  He killed indiscriminately to show his power, contempt and the strength of his troops, and he never faltered.  This story unveils the women behind him and the fact that he did care about his family.  It was an eye-opening read for me.

Penguin sent me a copy of this book to read for review (thank you).  It has been published so check with your local bookstore for a copy.  This also includes a reader's guide that makes it perfect for book clubs.

Temujin was the son of a one eyed thief.  He had no stature and no future as a youth, but when his father dies and he has to return home, he leaves a young maiden he was to marry behind with a promise to return.  She waits and waits and waits and listens to tales of his exploits and what he does to work his way up to a leadership role.  When she hears he's killed his stepbrother to get authority, she wonders if she should still marry him.  That's just the beginning of the man who becomes Genghis Kahn.

He loves his wife.  When their new home is raided, she sends him off with the children and women and runs for the woods.  Unfortunately she and the old woman she was running with get caught.  She becomes another man's slave and endures many indignities with everyone watching.  She is rescued by her husband, but she knows she's pregnant and it's the other man's son.  Temujin takes her back in his tent as his wife again, although most men wouldn't.  He also accepts this baby, even when his mother tells him it's not his.  I would have expected him to kill them both.  There was more depth to him than I thought. He's a good strategist, marries his children to good matches that strengthen his kingdom, and he holds his powerful grip until death.  After that, it's the women who carry on and keep the kingdom alive.

This is historical fiction but it reads like it's happening now.  You become involved with all the characters, mourn some and root when some die, hope for happy endings but realize they don't happen much in this world.  The men had more than one wife, most women married more than once when since husbands didn't last long, and many of the women were warriors, too.  This was no life for sissies.

I enjoyed reading this book and learned a lot on the way.  I don't read much non-fiction or historical work, but this one nabbed my attention.  The women of Genghis Kahn were even more formidable than he was.

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