I received a free copy of The Sky Worshipers by F. M. Deemyad from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours at no charge for my honest review.
About The Sky Worshipers:
A powerful, sweeping saga that focuses on the role and influence of women who change the trajectory and strength of Genghis Khan and his Mongol warriors.
In the year 1398 A.D., Lady Goharshad and her husband, King Shahrokh, come across an ancient manuscript in the ruins of Karakorum, the Mongol capital. The manuscript chronicles the era of Mongol invasions with entries by three princesses from China, Persia, and Poland who are captured and brought to the Mongol court.
After being stolen from her family at the Tangut Emperor’s coronation, Princess Chaka, the Emperor’s youngest daughter is left with no choice but to marry Genghis Khan. Thus, the Tangut join Genghis as allies. She is the first to secretly chronicle the historical events of her time, and in doing so she has the help of an African eunuch by the name of Baako who brings her news from the war front.
Princess Reyhan is the witty granddaughter of the last Seljuk King in Persia. She is kidnapped by Ogodei, Genghis’s son and heir, who falls in love with her. The romance does not last long, however, since a Mongol beauty wins Ogodei’s heart, and Reyhan is sidelined. Reyhan continues the tradition of recording the events in secret, turning her entries into tales.
During the Mongol invasion of Poland and Hungary, Princess Krisztina, niece to Henry the Pious, is taken as a prisoner of war by the Mongols. Reyhan learns about Krisztina’s predicament through Baako and asks Hulagu, Genghis’s grandson, to help free her. Krisztina has a difficult time adjusting to life in Mongolia, and at one point she attempts to run away but is unsuccessful. When the child she is bearing is stillborn, the Mongol court shuns her. She is able to return to her homeland in old age but comes back to Karakorum and writes her final entry in the journal.
Through beautiful language and powerful storytelling, this fact-based historical novel lays bare the once far-reaching and uncompromising Mongol empire. It shows readers the hidden perspectives of the captive, conquered, and voiceless. It brings to light the tremendous but forgotten influence of Genghis Khan and his progeny, while asking readers to reconsider the destruction and suffering of the past on which the future is built.
About the Author:
F.M. Deemyad was born in Kermanshah, Iran. She grew up in the capital, Tehran, attending bilingual schools run by Christian and Jewish minorities. Her father, born and raised in India, had come to Iran when he was in his late twenties. Being the son of a linguist who had taught English Literature in India for a number of years, he exposed the author in her preschool years to the English language, and she learned to love classic literature under her father’s instructions. She received her Master’s degree in Writing from Johns Hopkins University in 2016. She currently resides with her husband in Maryland.
Ghengis Khan is not a figure I run into very often in my historical fiction reading but once in a blue moon he does show up and I find the stories somewhat fascinating as they are so very different from the usual stories out of England and France that I usually read. The Sky Worshipers is more about the women on the periphery; those married to his sons and the women who gave birth to his grandsons including Kublai Khan.
While many women inhabit the tents of the Mongol warriors it is the journal in which they write their stories that is the background star of this story. For as they each share their lives, thoughts, and that what goes on in what they see as the greater world the reader sees how the world was perceived. They were not a peaceful people as for the most part they were nomadic conquerors. Time came when great cities were inhabited but life was lived for these warriors on the move.
There was much history to be told but at times I felt myself drifting out of the story and that is never a good thing. I kept trying to pinpoint exactly why and I really couldn’t figure out why; the writing is solid, the story is interesting. The only thing I can figure is that it did get a little one note now and again. Perhaps it was just not the time for me to be trying to immerse myself in the desert. I am keeping the book to give it another go but for now I am just left slightly unsatisfied. It wasn’t a bad book by any stretch; there is a lot of good going on here. The Sky Worshippers gives the reader a peak into the lives of a people that are often seen solely as marauders.