I've never met Stephanie Thornton in person, but boy, do I want to, because her brand as an author is unapologetically kick-ass women of the ancient wI've never met Stephanie Thornton in person, but boy, do I want to, because her brand as an author is unapologetically kick-ass women of the ancient world. I first became acquainted with her Empress Theodora, which I was delighted to blurb, and then went on to Pharoah Hatshepsut - but the women of Genghis Khan are the best yet. Thornton's third book "The Tiger Queens" is a knockout.
The great Khan himself is really just the framework on which the novel is hung - this story circles around the women of his reign, and what women they were. Four narrators hand the torch to each other in turn: seeress Borte who is Genghis's primary wife; brash tomboy Alaqai who is his favorite daughter; endearing Persian snob Fatima who will be absorbed into the household as captured slave and eventually councilor; and finally the silent daughter-in-law Sorkhoktani who will step up to seize the reins when Genghis's empire begins to fracture. Other women have roles to play as well: a tough-as-nails adopted daughter with mismatched eyes; a neglected minor wife whose daughter will wreak a terrible vengeance for her exclusion; a rape-ravaged princess whose madness will have unspeakable consequences for one of the four narrators. It's a complex web and an even more complex family tree; you will need to flip to the character index in the back of the book to keep track, but it's well worth it. These women are fascinating, and there isn't a weakling among them.
Mongolia itself is a character here as well: the bitter winters, the harshly beautiful steppes, the fermented mare's milk and the conical huts and the meals of saddle-tenderized stallion meat. This is a savage world, and it springs to life in all its brutal glory, terrible, tender, and tragic by turn. A highly recommended read - I cannot wait to see what Thornton does in her next book, which tackles the women of Alexander the Great!...more
This is the book for you if you ever wished you could go to Narnia. The biggest hurdle to enjoying this book, however, is its protagonist Quentin, whoThis is the book for you if you ever wished you could go to Narnia. The biggest hurdle to enjoying this book, however, is its protagonist Quentin, who is frankly a narcissistic prat. He's a brilliant student with a fanboy crush on a series of books clearly based on CS Lewis's Narnia; the kid who never got over the fact that he never opened a wardrobe and found a fantasy paradise waiting to crown him king. But he does get his Hogwarts letter, finding himself accepted to a college called Brakebills which trains the gifted few in the arts of magic - but even Brakebills is a disappointment to Quentin because it's not a throne in Narnia (or as it's called here, Fillory).
I didn't care that I didn't like Quentin that much, because the world-building is so fascinating and so thorough. Brakebills and its course of magical studies is a delight; this is Harry Potter with drinking, screwing, and swearing, and if you don't care about Quentin you care about his friends, particularly the shy genius Alice. Alice and Quentin will band together with their own Fellowship (the nerd in-jokes never stop) when they find out that Fillory is real . . . but that it's a lot less PG than the books, and it will claim the life of one of their own. And just possibly make Quentin a man in the process, though you'll have to get to the next book "The Magician King" to find out more. ...more
Josephine Bonaparte springs so vividly to live in these pages she practically walks right off them. Webb paints a full and charming portrait of the CrJosephine Bonaparte springs so vividly to live in these pages she practically walks right off them. Webb paints a full and charming portrait of the Creole beauty born and christened Rose Tascher, not side-stepping her faults but instead making them lovable. Whether she is running up dress bills by the mountain, scolding her children, or bed-hopping blithely between lovers in Paris, you want to shake your head indulgently and say "Rose, you scamp!" It's easy to see how Napoleon fell victim to her charm, why he showered her with more jewels than any queen ever owned, why he raged and lost his temper and then always came crawling back for more: Josephine's wayward lovability was perhaps the only thing ever to conquer the conqueror. Her tempestuous early marriage, her knife-edge survival during the Reign of Terror, and her years as Empress of France pass in a blur of love affairs, parties, politics, and occasionally bloodshed. If the novel has a fault, it's perhaps too short - with a life so colorful, I'd love to see what Webb could have done with another two hundred pages to stretch her narrative. But this is a strong debut for an author I was lucky enough to meet and congratulate in person at the last Historical Novel Society Conference, and I look forward to her next book on Rodin. ...more