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Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

‘The Sky Worshipers’ & Echoes of Scheherazade

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The Sky Worshipers: A Novel of Mongol Conquest (History Through Fiction, 2021)

By F.M. Deemyad

Historical Fiction

Setting:

Thirteenth century Asia, Middle East, and Eastern Europe

Main characters:

Chaka, youngest daughter of a Chinese emperor and a Tangut Princess of China. Kidnapped by Mongols. Becomes wife of Genghis Khan, founder of the Mongol Empire.

Reyhan, Granddaughter of the last Seljuk King of Persia, kidnapped by Mongols.

Krisztina, Princess of Poland and Mongol prisoner of war.

Lady Goharshad of Persia. In 1398 she discovers a hidden manuscript buried in a hidden compartment under a floor of some ancient ruins in Karakorum, the Mongol capitol.

Summary:

Step into the harsh, unforgiving world of thirteen century Eurasia as Mongol raiders terrorize and conquer one kingdom after another to create the Mongolian Empire. Mounted on horseback and armed with lightweight but lethal weapons, unyielding determination, and lightning speed, Mongol raiders bring the continent to its knees. Military genius and duplicity clash with traditional warfare on the Steppes of Eurasia and beyond, capturing slaves, prisoners, and fabulous riches along the way.

The Mongols worship the sky. And Resistance is futile.

POV

The Sky Worshipers chronicles brutal Mongol conquests and life in the Mongolian court as seen through the eyes of three captive princesses. They write down their tales and observations in a hidden journal, secreted from the eyes of everyone but the future. Its stories and revelations remain buried until Lady Goharshad discovers the manuscript some one hundred years later.

Pacing

Thoroughly researched and briskly paced, The Sky Worshipers blows the dust off a too-often forgotten chapter of history and breathes new life into what was once the pinnacle of power over entire continents. Masterful storytelling sheds light on Mongol culture, customs, and worldview as well as on their Khan (and I don’t mean the Benedict Cumberbatch character in Star Trek.)

Although The Sky Worshipers could have easily devolved into a dull-as-dirt historical tome, it neatly sidesteps that pothole with a unique point of view as the story unfolds through the eyes of three captured princesses.

The narrative is clever and effective, serving up a compelling tale of conquest, avarice, cunning, romance, and a ruthless, unending thirst for power and expansion. Superbly written and absorbing. (Unfortunately, an odd bunny trail regarding Lady Goharshad and a young man’s infatuation percolate throughout the closing chapters, derailing the story and diluting its intensity.)

In the Introduction the author explains that her intention “was not to write a book of horror but one resembling ‘One thousand and One Nights’ that would be enjoyable to read. The question was how to tell a tale filled with brutality in a way that places the focus on the humanity of the heroes and heroines who allowed life to continue under the most taxing conditions?”

Echoing Scheherazade herself, Deemyad has certainly succeeded with The Sky Worshipers. I read it cover-to-cover in two days.

Our rating: 3.5

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