A few years ago I tried to read The Grip of God and was unsuccessful. Not sure why, I think it may have been the era that the book was written in. I had not read a lot of the Mongols, I love historical fiction but mostly 15th-17th century Britain and Ireland. So this was a bit of a stretch for me to read or even want to read about the Mongols. When I was offered the book again for review I figured that I had better give it another chance. I am really glad I did though, I thoroughly enjoyed the story.
A young girl, Sofia, a princess from Kievan Rus, now called Russia, is captured and enslaved by Mongols. This story is written from Sofia's point of view and she tells of life as a captive of a young man. She is raped and abused by Armagon repeatedly until slowly their relationship changes and I believe that he truly comes to love Sofia, but the Mongol culture is a savage one, where the Mongols take over Asia and Europe. They live a nomadic life, never in one place for very long, which I imagine was very difficult for Sofia, who had lived a privileged life in Kyiv.
Sofia's goal is to escape however she can but along the way she becomes a part of the lives of these Mongols, becoming close to Armagon's mother, Q'ing-ling and Dorje, a man who teaches Sofia the customs and language of the Mongols. Sofia is a very well educated young girl and eventually becomes a translator for the leader of the Mongol tribe, Batu Khan grandson of the famed Genghis Khan. Life for Sofia is difficult at best, having to learn the ways of this violent and nomadic people, she struggles with her faith, while trying to understand the Mongols religion and beliefs.
I did enjoy this novel, it is well researched and I did learn a lot from this book, I liked Sofia, it is amazing to me how young she is in the story, 12 years old, snatched from a life of privilege to live with these barbaric people but she perseveres and makes good from a bad situation, making friends and even coming to understand and maybe even love her captor, but always with thoughts of escape and finding her family.
There are two more books to the Tiger and the Dove series, Solomon's Bride and Consolamentum, which I look forward to reading. When reading historical fiction, I don't always read or stray very far from British or Irish history, and reading The Grip of God, I became more aware of the other cultures during this time period. This is a story of a strong young princess who comes of age in a violent world, who makes her situation work for her. I highly recommend this book and I look forward to reading the rest of Sofia's story.