The Tiger Queens by Stephanie Thornton

The Tiger Queens by Stephanie Thornton(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

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.

[Full disclosure: I received a free print copy in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]

Ever since I read Daughter of the Gods, Stephanie Thornton’s take on Hatshepsut, I have become a serious fan of her work.  So when the opportunity to read her take on the women of Genghis Khan arose, I couldn’t resist.  And now that I’ve finished the book, I’m glad I couldn’t.

Stephanie Thornton’s main strength is her characters and that really shines through in this multi-character epic.  Each one is so distinctly different and yet they’re strong in different ways: Borte, the wife of the great Khan; Alaqai, his fierce daughter; Fatima, a woman who hates the Mongols but grows to love them; Sorkhokhtani, the unlikely force behind her sons who would someday be Khan.  My personal favourite is Borte because I’ve admired her since I read Conn Iggulden’s take on Genghis Khan, but all of them were wonderful.  They all get different sections of the book and each one is very, very distinct.  Every woman gets their own character arc and we get to experience all of their triumphs and failures first-hand.  I could connect to all of the characters in this novel, something that’s not very common with multiple main characters.

Even though this book is nearly 500 pages long, the pacing is actually very good.  I didn’t really feel bored at any point in the novel because while each character fulfills their own little subplots the greater plot (the path the empire takes) is also marching forward.  Although I know a bit more than the average person on the street, I can hardly be considered an authority on the Mongol Empire so seeing the progression of it in this way, through the generations, was a real treat.  It’s very hard to keep historical fiction fast-paced, but Stephanie Thornton does it very, very well.

Stephanie Thornton is a good historical fiction writer in that she can balance accuracy and a good story.  There are very few sources from the time and while she does try to be as accurate she can with the wider events, I like how she admits that she does take a few liberties with events in her Author’s Note.  However, she still maintains historical accuracy on the smaller details like Mongol customs, how they lived their daily lives, etc.  It took a lot of research and hard work, but the result is a fairly historically accurate work that also happens to be a very, very good novel.

What more can I say?  I could gush for days on the different characters and their hardships and successes, but it’s just best for you to go out and buy the book.  Then you can experience for yourself the wonderful writing style of Stephanie Thornton, her amazingly fleshed-out characters and her painstaking attention to historical details.  You can’t ask for a better take on some of history’s most powerful, but oddly forgotten, women.  I can’t recommend this book enough.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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