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by Diane L. Wilson


School Library Journal:

Gr 6-10–In 14th-century China, an elderly woman tells her granddaughter about her early life on the Mongol steppes, beginning with the day a horse crushed her tiny foot, crippling the young Oyuna. According to her nomadic clan’s religious beliefs, this incident brought bad luck to her and her family. Thereafter, she views any misfortune visited upon her family as her fault, even her mother’s accidental death. Her one joy is her new white horse. When the mare is commandeered by Kublai Khan’s forces, Oyuna dresses as a boy in order to remain with her beloved companion. When the soldiers discover her secret, they are anxious to get rid of her and quickly send her off alone to complete a mission for an injured arrow rider for the Khan. After an arduous trek, she reaches the Khan’s palace where she is instrumental in halting a plague that is killing off the ruler’s herd of white horses and meets the man whom she will marry. In the words of her own shamaness grandmother, she has learned to make her own luck. This unique coming-of-age story is steeped in the rituals and superstitions of the period and punctuated with graphic images of the harsh terrain and living conditions on the barren steppes, the treacherous mountains, and the gobi. The character of Oyuna, though a sympathetic one, seems drawn with a kind of detachment that makes it difficult to identify closely with her. Nevertheless, her story is an exciting one that will reward diligent, proficient readers.–Peggy Morgan, The Library Network, Southgate, MI


  • YALSA Best Books for Young Adults: 1999


10th Grade, 6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade, 9th Grade, Family, Teen, Women's Rights