01 November 2008

Review: Genghis: Lords of the Bow, by Conn Iggulden

The second of Conn Iggulden's trilogy of the life of Genghis Khan concentrates on the conflicts between the wandering Mongols and the urban Chinese. In the early years of the 1200s, a young Genghis has done the unthinkable: united the warring tribes of Mongols under his rule. The Mongols are all about conquest, and Genghis leads tens of thousands of men and their families across the Gobi Desert to seek revenge on the Chin (Chinese), who have long held military and trading power over his people. The growing army conquers vassal states, makes allies, burns cities and fields, and kills millions on its way to the capital city of Yenking (Beijing). After a long siege, which includes interludes of spying, poisonings, and assassinations both in the Mongol camp and within the city walls, the starving Chinese (who have been reduced to cannibalism) surrender, and the boy emperor is forced to kneel before the great khan. The book ends on a cliff-hanger, as the Chinese break the pact of peace and Genghis sends his brothers back to the city to destroy everything in their path.

Besides describing the battles and politics, the books delves into what happens when two very different cultures come in contact under hostile conditions. Despite the power play, each group learns from the other -- whether it be book learning, the arts, and luxuries or warfare, discipline, and ingenuity.

A running theme in the book is the relationship bewteen sons and fathers. Men remember their childhoods and wish their fathers could see their successes or offer advice. Men look at their sons with mixed feelings and wonder if they are raising them correctly. Boys are caught between feeling love and respect for their fathers while seeing them as flawed individuals.

I didn't know that much about Genghis Khan's life or how he and his sons conquered most of the known world. Some quick research (via reliable and respected sources) shows that Iggulden has stuck to the facts fairly well, making some changes to suit the flow of fiction. I recommened this trilogy for those wishing to learn more about medieval Asia and the story of the khan.

Lords of the Bow did not repeat information given in the first book. Genghis: Birth of an Empire covers about the first 30 years of the khan's life and provides the needed background for understanding the relationships among Genghis and his family and presents the key events that shaped Genghis's personality and desires. I am looking forward to reading the final book in the trilogy, Genghis: Bones of the Hills.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Recorded Books), read by Richard Ferrone. Ferrone does a nice job with the novel, but I was used to Stephan Rudnicki, who read the first book. Once I made the adjustment, I was able to settle in and enjoy Ferrone's narration.

This book marks the completion of Katrina's Fall into Reading challenge. To see what others have been reading this fall, click here.

Published by Delacorte Press, 2008
ISBN-13: 9780385339520
Challenge: Fall into Reading
Rating: B+


Mo 11/1/08, 8:18 AM  

My other half is just luvin' this Icgulden series (he's also read the one of Julius Cesear), so he'll be excited to see that the second one is available.

Just Mom 11/14/08, 11:36 PM  

This one sounds like some heavy duty but interesting reading. My knowledge of Asia is pretty much limited to what Disney snuck in to Mulan - pathetic, I know. Congratulations on completing on of your challenges!

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