Genghis: Bones of the Hills by Conn Iggulden

COVER genghis bones of the hills by conn igguldenRating: 7 out of 10
Summary: The Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, stalked by enemies seen and unseen and plagued by a divided family, leads a sprawling force of horsemen beyond the realm of their known world. He will bring a storm to Arab lands and face the armies of the shah in all their strength.

From the fierce cold plains of Mongolia to the Korean Peninsula, Genghis’s brothers, sons, and commanders have made emperors bow, slaughtering vast armies of fighting men. But as Genghis enters a strange new land of towering mountains and arid desert, he stirs an enemy greater than any he has met before. Under his command, Shah Ala-ud-Din Mohammed has thousands of fierce Arab warriors, teeming cavalry, and terrifying armored elephants. When Genghis strikes, the Arabs prove their mettle. On the verge of defeat, Genghis is forced to leave his own vast encampment, and the women and children in it, in the path of an enraged, savage enemy.

While the Mongols—men, women, and children—fight back, as secret assassins are sent into the night, another battle is taking shape. Two of Genghis’s sons, Jochi and Chagatai, are steeped in enmity. Warriors choose between them, and a murderer commits an unspeakable crime. Soon the most powerful man in the world, who has brought devastation to this land, must choose a successor. And when he does, it will touch off the most bitter conflict of all.

In a novel that ranges from the fertile lands of the Chin to the dust and rock of Afghanistan, Conn Iggulden weaves the epic story of history’s most enigmatic conqueror —those who feared him, those who defied him, and those whose bones he left behind.

My Thoughts: This is the third book in the Genghis series by Conn Iggulden. My reviews of the first and the second novels.

Bones of the Hills, the third (and last novel) about Genghis Khan by Iggulden, was great–lots of action, lots of political, military, and strategic plotting, as well as more focus on Genghis’ family especially his sons and the problem of an heir.

The main focus and conflict is Genghis’ rage and revenge against the Shah, who has an empire covering what is modern-day Afghanistan, bits of Iran too I think. It begins when the Great Khan sends ambadassadors and men to the Arab city of Otrar, demanding tribute and submission. The governor of Otrar repeatedly rebuffs Genghis by killing these “diplomats” (actually spies) and makes basically the “worst military decision in history” (I quote Iggulden) by offending Genghis, and the Mongol ruler sweeps down with his entire nation and sets fire and destruction and Doomsday on the Shah’s lands.

I was unaware of the fact that the Mongol Empire was so large (larger than the Roman Empire and Muslim Caliphate, or “largest continuous empire”), stretching from present-day Korea in the east all the way to the Caspian Sea in the west, touching Russia in the North and parts of South-East Asia and India. Seems like Iggulden made an effort to keep pretty factual with the events and plotting, and I enjoyed learning so much about Mongol history.

As this is the last novel about Genghis, it includes his death and plants the seed for a new series Iggulden will write about his descendents, most notably his grandson, Kublai Khan. I will definitely be following that series, and will also try Iggulden’s other books about Julius Caesar.

Great ending to a decently entertaining series.

Genghis: Lords of the Bow by Conn Iggulden

Rating: 6 out of 10
Summary: He came from over the horizon, a single Mongol warrior surrounded by his brothers, sons, and fellow tribesmen. With each battle his legend grew and the ranks of his horsemen swelled, as did his ambition. For centuries, primitive tribes had warred with one another. Now, under Genghis Khan, they have united as one nation, setting their sights on a common enemy: the great, slumbering walled empire of the Chin.

A man who lived for battle and blood, Genghis leads his warriors across the Gobi Desert and into a realm his people had never seen before—with gleaming cities, soaring walls, and canals. Laying siege to one fortress after another, Genghis called upon his cunning and imagination to crush each enemy in a different way, to overcome moats, barriers, deceptions, and superior firepower—until his army faced the ultimate test of all.

In the city of Yenking—modern-day Beijing—the Chin will make their final stand, setting a trap for the Mongol raiders, confident behind their towering walls. But Genghis will strike with breathtaking audacity, never ceasing until the Emperor himself is forced to kneel.

My Thoughts: Second novel in the Genghis series by Conn Iggulden. Here is my review on the first novel. I have to say the second definitely wasn’t as good as the first. It was slower, kind of lumbering–it even lost my attention near the end. Even with this, the good parts were really good–Iggulden’s battle scenes appear in my head like movies.

The biggest problem I had with this novel was that the climax seemed to have happened and wrapped up about 3/4ths of the way through the book. That last quarter really dragged. I got bored. I wanted to read other things.

I was a little disappointed by the lack of character development and relationship development. That was really well done in the first novel, and we could see so well how Genghis grew and changed, how he was influenced by his mother, his brothers, and his wife. Especially in the second novel, his family really fell out of the picture. I’ve read some research about how his first wife, Borte, was one of his strongest political advisors (I may be incorrect) and in this novel, she basically wasn’t around for majority of what happened. A lot of my favorite characters from the first book just kind of disappeared.

The action was great, and it moved along well enough until, again, up to the weirdly placed climax.

I don’t know if Iggulden is going to write a third in the series, but I hope he does.

Genghis: Birth of an Empire by Conn Iggulden

Rating: 7 out of 10
Summary: He was born Temujin, the son of a khan, raised in a clan of hunters migrating across the rugged steppe. Temujin’s young life was shaped by a series of brutal acts: the betrayal of his father by a neighboring tribe and the abandonment of his entire family, cruelly left to die on the harsh plain. But Temujin endured—and from that moment on, he was driven by a singular fury: to survive in the face of death, to kill before being killed, and to conquer enemies who could come without warning from beyond the horizon.

Through a series of courageous raids against the Tartars, Temujin’s legend grew. And so did the challenges he faced—from the machinations of a Chinese ambassador to the brutal abduction of his young wife, Borte. Blessed with ferocious courage, it was the young warrior’s ability to learn, to imagine, and to judge the hearts of others that propelled him to greater and greater power. Until Temujin was chasing a vision: to unite many tribes into one, to make the earth tremble under the hoofbeats of a thousand warhorses, to subject unknown nations and even empires to his will.

Commentary: I actually really enjoyed this novel. Good points: Great adventure and description of the setting and all the action. I learned a lot about traditional Mongolian life and culture. The characters were lively and all different.

I did some research on Genghis Khan after reading this novel (just wikipedia) and it seems it was pretty historically accurate. This man led a fascinating life–amazing. Makes me wish I were Mongolian. Interesting thing: Iggulden also wrote the recent bestseller, The Dangerous Book for Boys.

I’m not a huge fan of Iggulden’s style of writing–very sparse… which can be good sometimes, but just didn’t work for me here. I’m eagerly awaiting to read the next in the series.

Additional interesting note: New movie to see release in the U.S. on June 6th: Mongol. Looks alright from the trailer. http://www.mongolmovie.com/