Review by Kirkus Book Review
With these picaresque ""untold stories"" of Marco Pole's 13th-century trek to the mysterious East, Jennings goes Aztec one better--with even more sexual exotica, inventive grue, and sensual delights. . . plus diverse peoples, prides and pratfalls of absolute rulers, bright historical and linguistic scholarship, and splendid wild landscapes. The boy Marco, heir to the Polo merchant family, kicks against Venetian convention, having his first serape when he chivalrously agrees to kill a noble lady's husband for her. His rescuer from the death cell? One Mordecai Cartafelo, who'll pop up in other guises to save Marco from subsequent perils--which proliferate as Marco journeys to the East with father Nicolo and Uncle Mafio. In Baghdad a lovely Persian Princess entraps Marco into a horrid sexual surprise. (Marco's anatomical savvy is expanding with the delightful cultural deviations.) The Polo family acquires ""Nostril,"" a ""walking pustule"" of a slave who, however, knows his camels--a necessity for the month-long ordeal of crossing the Great Salt Desert, stark with beauty and danger, where bandits will grab the boy Aziz (trained for concubinage and taken along to advance his prospects). Through scrabbly habitats, Marco finds his insular Venetian verities crumbling: ""The more questions I ask, the more answers I get, the less I seem to know. . . . That is the hazard of curiosity; all the certainties fragment and dissolve."" Then the journeyers find themselves in the lofty mountains of The Roof of the World: ""ranked and ranged and towering heedless above us few fidgety creatures. . . twitching our way across their mighty flanks."" And finally there's the city of the Khan of all Khans, the Khakhan Kubilai--whom Marco shrewdly characterizes as being ""as evil as he had to be and as good as he could be."" Cultural thunderbolts follow--including scientific discoveries at which Marco laughs indulgently. More sexual adventures are capped by the acquisition of one (mute) True Beloved. And there'll be incredible journeys for the Khan (conquered lands, jungles, India), conspiracies, battles, the dreadful doings of the Khan's torturer (""The Fondler""), Marie's strange madness--and a star-burst of new foods, sights, smells, noises. And more. A baldly bawdy, robust entertainment, craftily staged and sustained. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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