When Temujin is ten, he murders one of his half-brothers in self-defense. That one act of brutality shows him the animal that lives inside his heart, sets into motion a string of events that bring a boy named Jamuka into his life, and gives Temujin the idea to write the law he calls Yassa. Yassa law states that, above all else, you are to be loyal to those you pledge yourself to. There is only one punishment for breaking Yassa law: death.
Deep conflict arises between Temujin and Jamuka when they go to rescue Temujin's wife, Börte, from kidnappers. Jamuka sees her, falls in love, and decides to take her for his own. Jamuka attacks Börte and tries to force himself on her. Temujin casts the man out.
Jamuka is bent on revenge for being cast out and is driven to win Börte at any cost. As a result, the two men are plunged into battle over power and a woman. Love drives the conquering of the greatest continuous empire in history in the hopes that the victor will win the affections of Börte.
When the final battle takes place, does Temujin uphold Yassa law and kill Jamuka, or does he make an exception for the love of a friend that has already betrayed him once?
Purchase links can be found on Jo's blog.
Although this story is about a young Ghengis Khan (Temujin), it is just as much about the woman behind the man and the great love of his life--his wife, Borte. At times brutal, as one might expect from historical fiction focusing on Ghengis Khan and his time period, it's really a story of love, loss, betrayal, friendship, and survival.
Temujin is chosen for leadership at a very early age and much to the chagrin of his older brothers. When his father dies, Temujin's role as leader is challenged and he learns a very early lesson about survival. Throughout all his trials, Borte fuels Temujin with strength and becomes a confidant and advisor. Anyone who dares threaten her will face his full wrath, and many men try especially as Temujin gains power. The journey to becoming Ghengis Khan is fraught with misunderstandings, peril, torture, and cruelty.
Yassa is a beautifully written and intense ride. But it goes beyond mere action, because the reader is pulled into a very emotional love story. I was captivated by the author's imaginings of the man behind the brutal historical figure. She doesn't try to turn him into a hero or excuse his behavior. Instead, this story gives us possible insight into what made him what he was.
I highly recommend Yassa to fans of historical fiction. But more than that, it's a well-written story about a powerful man who had to survive in a brutal world. It's an extra bonus to get a strong female character. Most stories set in this time only have the women as decoration, submissive creatures whose only relevance is to service their men.
If you love a powerful book with memorable characters, you'll love Yassa.
Rating: 5 stars
About Jo Michaels
(from Jo's Amazon Author Page)
Jo Michaels is a writer who's really had a taste of life. She's lived in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Georgia; but visited states from coast to coast. Michaels, a high-school dropout, put herself through college while her husband was deployed to Iraq and still managed to come out on the other side with all five of her children still breathing. On top of that wondrous feat, she managed to graduate Summa Cum Laude. After her fourteen year marriage ended cataclysmically, she took to the keys to fulfill her dream of becoming a writer. Using the degree she obtained in school, Jo set out with tools in her belt not many writers possess: a strong design eye, the skills necessary to format her books, and the ability to use her artistic talents to create stunning covers.
Now, Michaels writes full-time in her garage while imbibing copious amounts of coffee to keep her motor running from son up to son down (and daughter, too). Her inspiration for her books comes from relationships, life, friends, passion, and her own incredible imagination. A fight for achieving her dream (along with her super duper boyfriend) is what drags her out of bed every morning to do what she does best: spin tales laced with high-octane emotion for readers worldwide.
Jo has written nine books, all of which are self-published.
You can find out more about Jo on Twitter, her website, her blog, and Facebook. Also, find out more about her indie author services at Indie Books Gone Wild.
Note: I received a complimentary copy through a giveaway. A positive review was not guaranteed or requested; the opinions expressed are my own.