The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan
Author: Stephanie Thornton
Publisher: NAL Trade (November 4, 2014)
How Acquired: From the Publisher through HFVBT
From the back cover: In the late twelfth century, across the sweeping Mongolian grasslands, brilliant, charismatic Temujin ascends to power, declaring himself the Great, or Genghis, Khan. But it is the women who stand beside him who ensure his triumph....
After her mother foretells an ominous future for her, gifted Borte becomes an outsider within her clan. When she seeks comfort in the arms of aristocratic traveler Jamuka, she discovers he is the blood brother of Temujin, the man who agreed to marry her and then abandoned her long before they could wed. Temujin will return and make Borte his queen, yet it will take many women to safeguard his fragile new kingdom. Their daughter, the fierce Alaqai, will ride and shoot an arrow as well as any man. Fatima, an elegant Persian captive, will transform her desire for revenge into an unbreakable loyalty. And Sorkhokhtani, a demure widow, will position her sons to inherit the empire when it begins to fracture from within.
In a world lit by fire and ruled by the sword, the tiger queens of Genghis Khan come to depend on one another as they fight and love, scheme and sacrifice, all for the good of their family...and the greatness of the People of the Felt Walls.
About the Author
Stephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel. “The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora” and “Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt” are available from NAL/Penguin. “The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan” will hit the shelves November 4, 2014, followed by “The Conqueror’s Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great” in November 2015. For more information please visit Stephanie Thornton’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
My thoughts: This review was supposed to be posted this morning, but I was up until almost one o’clock this morning finishing the book. I have been really behind because of my birthday, writing recaps of How to Get Away with Murder for Romance at Random, and NaNoWriMo. My apologies but I also literally couldn’t put the book down. Every commercial break during Must See Thursday on ABC, I was dipping into the book. It’s been a long time since I’ve been that enthralled by a work of fiction. Normally I juggle several books at once, but it’s been all The Tiger Queens, all the time the past few days.
There has been a lot of talk on Twitter lately about diverse books and how important it is to be able to read stories about different people and different cultures. I was thinking about that topic while I was reading The Tiger Queens. It’s rare in either historical fiction or romance, that you get to read about people of the Far East. For the most part it is either American historicals or European historicals (mainly England and Scotland). The market seemed to be glutted with so many books about the Tudors, particularly Henry VIII and his six wives. So I jumped at the chance to read The Tiger Queens when Amy Bruno from HFVBT sent out the email looking for reviewers. I knew very little about Genghis Khan, just what I remembered from social studies in grade school, that he united the tribes in Mongolia, and that he conquered much of the East as far as Iran. There was nothing about the women in his life or how important they were in ruling the empire.
From the very first page, I was gripped by the stories of Borte, Alaqai, Fatima and Sorkhokhtani. They are four very different women whose lives are impacted by the choices of Genghis Khan and his sons. Borte was born with the sight, but it is both a blessing and a curse. She knows that her marriage to Temujin, as he was first called, will lead to a war between brothers, and a rift that can only be ended with the death of one. That’s a pretty tough burden to carry. At first it seems as the prediction will not come true, since Temujin rides off and doesn't come back for seven years (he was only supposed to be gone a few months). Borte meets Jamuka, and develops feelings for him only to learn that not only is he Temujin’s blood brother but then Temujin comes back ready to claim his bride. She marries Temujin but they are ripped apart soon afterwards when Borte is taken by a rival tribe, the Merkid. Thornton doesn’t stint on describing the brutality that Borte both witnesses and experiences at the hands of the Merkid. It’s pretty tough reading.
The writing in The Tiger Queens is often incredibly evocative but also breath-taking. I wish I had thought to underline some of my favorite passages, but Thornton gives you a really good feeling of the sights, as well as the sounds of late twelfth century Mongolia. My favorite parts of the book were the domestic scenes between Borte and her daughters by marriage, and her daughter Alaqai. Whether they were joking about Alaqai’s lack of domestic skills, or sharing confidences about their husbands, and their children. I tended to skim my way through all the battle scenes, mainly because violence tends to upset me, even in print. Out of all the female characters in the book, I think my favorite had to be Alaqai. I love the fact that she was a free spirit, a warrior who was not afraid to do what was necessary. She was more of a warrior than any of Genghis Khan’s sons. It’s a pity that she couldn’t have been chosen Khan after his death.
I’m sure others will disagree with me, but Fatima’s story was probably my least favorite section of the book. On the one hand, it was nice to see this world through the eyes of an outsider, someone who is full of revenge but who becomes a fierce loyalist to the family. However, I also thought Fatima's section when on for far too long, and short-changed Sorkhokhtani. I just felt that she was more of a cipher compared to the other characters in the book. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I look forward to reading Thornton's next book about the women in Alexander the Great's life.