Date Read: June 29, 2018 – July 5, 2018
Date Released: June 5, 2018
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
As a slave in the Kipchak Khanate, Jinghua has lost everything: her home, her family, her freedom … until the kingdom is conquered by enemy forces and she finds herself an unlikely conspirator in the escape of Prince Khalaf and his irascible father across the vast Mongol Empire. On the run, with adversaries on all sides and an endless journey ahead, Jinghua hatches a scheme to use the Kipchaks’ exile to return home, a plan that becomes increasingly fraught as her feelings for Khalaf evolve into a hopeless love.
Jinghua’s already dicey prospects take a downward turn when Khalaf seeks to restore his kingdom by forging a marriage alliance with Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan. As beautiful as she is cunning, Turandokht requires all potential suitors to solve three impossible riddles to win her hand—and if they fail, they die.
Jinghua has kept her own counsel well, but with Khalaf’s kingdom—and his very life—on the line, she must reconcile the hard truth of her past with her love for a boy who has no idea what she’s capable of … even if it means losing him to the girl who’d sooner take his life than his heart.
I loved reading this book. I read it right after Crooked Kingdom so I was in a bit of a Book Hangover and I had high expectations for it. The beginning was a bit slow as I had a hard time finding my footing in the world. It opens with Jinghau and Khalaf meeting for the first time and then the next chapter they are working on the first riddle. So yes that was really confusing but I do understand why Bannen wrote it the way she did.
I am big into retellings and this is one of Puccini’s Turandot. TB&TB is fairly similar to the opera. The book focuses more on Liù, renamed Jinghua for the book, instead of Turandot; giving Jinghau a backstory instead of just being a supporting character. One thing that I did not care for which is not Bannen’s fault but Puccini’s is that this is not who Turandot was. She did not have riddles to compete for her hand but actually had men wrestle her. Basically, any man who could beat her could marry her but if he lost to her they had to give her a certain number of horses. The number is debated but either way, she had a LOT of horses. Also, the men were not killed once she won the match, just humilated and very horse-less. I highly suggest reading Rejected Princesses post where she is referred to as Khutulun which is her original name and it explains the whole Khutulun to Turandot situation. I also suggest watching the clips of Turandot on YouTube; I like Met Opera and Royal Opera House (their opening is 😍😍😍) the best. If you do find a full video of the opera please share it with me! But please do note, you don’t have to see the opera or know anything about it to read this book.
Now that I am done ranting about that, lets get to the characters! My favorite was Khalaf as he is such an awesome dude. He is not a snobbish jerk like his brothers (and if you read the book you will see how far that gets them), bookish, humorous, and curitous. Then there is the MC, Jinghua, who is okay. She is not my favorite female character in the whole world but she is definitely not the worst. I originally thought her hate of Turandot was a bit selfish as Turandot was esentially going to either kill or marry Khalaf who Jinghua is in love with. Then Bannen reveals why and then you realize SHE IS NOT SELFISH AT ALL. I have a love/hate relationship with Timur because he is a jerk in the beginning of the book and most of that was not warented but he comes around a little bit at the end.
And the end. So if you have seen Turandot you know about the end. And one would hope that maybe they Jinghua would get the ending that she would deserve but no here we are.
Cover Image and Synopsis from GoodReads