Books

THE SKY WORSHIPERS by F. M. Deemyad

Like many readers, I purchased this volume because I am fascinated by Genghis Khan, especially his relationships towards the women in his life.

Most everyone knows that Genghis Khan swept onto the world scene from the Steppes of Central Asia in 1209, surging into China, Persia, Russia, and (eventually) under the leadership of his grandsons Hulagu and Batu into Baghdad (now in Iraq), Syria, Russia (again), Poland, Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Hungary, Croatia and Vienna in a campaign that terrified millions of people for 60 years. No-one is certain how many people were murdered, but historians now place the figure at 40 million, a staggering number both when one considers that considerably fewer people were alive in the 1200s than now, and also because that is nearly seven times the number of people murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Wax figures of Borte Khatun (Empress Borte) sitting at the left hand side of husband Genghis Khan (Lord of the Oceans)

Given that Genghis Khan was a murderous thug, on a par with Hitler and Stalin, it is really fascinating to see how he treated the women around him. Of course, he was perfectly capable of being a bully, rapist, and murderer to those women who were lower down the food chain. But when it came to his mother (Hoelon), his chief wife (Borte) and his daughters (Khojin b. 1184, Altani b. 1185, Checheyigen b. 1187, Tolai b. 1188, Tumelon b. 1189, Alaqai Beki b. 1190 and Al-Altun b.1192) matters were very different.

Genghis Khan remained grateful to his mother Hoelon all his life for her resourcefulness in feeding and caring for him and his siblings when they were all abandoned by their tribe after the sudden death of his father. He respected his first wife Borte, whom he married when he was about 16, often asking her opinion about various issues. And although he made traditional marriages for three of his daughters Khojin, Altani, and Tumelon, sending them off to close kin, the other four daughters became rulers in their own right, first by marrying them to the heirs of vast lands, and secondly by sending their husbands on dangerous missions where they were likely to die, thus leaving Genghis Khan’s daughters free reign (literally).

And so Chechyigen ruled Siberia, Alaqai Beki ruled northern China, Al-Altun ruled the Uyghurs in what is now China’s Xinjiang province, and Tolai ruled the Karluk Turks in what is now eastern Kazakhstan. By these means, Genghis Khan secured the Silk Road and acquired valuable allies – via his daughters – in these strategic locations.

I say all of this because NONE of it is in Ms. Deemyad’s book! Instead we have THREE FICTITIOUS princesses – Chaka (supposedly Chinese), Reyhan (Persian) and Krisztina (Polish). All of these women have a fairy-tale of a time on their wedding nights with “handsome” and “loving” men (Ghengis Khan, Ogodei Khan & Hulugu, who in Ms. Deemyad’s telling are indistinguishable from one another) followed by identical lives of neglect and boredom. As is clear from the foregoing, this is NOT an emotionally gripping novel. Instead, it reads like a report. But the worst thing is that Ms. Deemyad NEVER MENTIONS Genghis Khan’s daughters!

What a missed opportunity to delineate some extremely interesting women.

Rating: 2 out of 5.