Tuesday, December 29, 2009

C is for The Conqueror series by Conn Iggulden

It is time for the next post in Historical Tapestry's Alphabet in Historical Fiction. Unlike the last two letters where I reposted reviews of books that I have really loved, this time I am choosing to focus on the letter C in two different ways - the author is Conn Iggulden, and the series is known as the Conqueror series about Genghis Khan, and these are new reviews!

I am the land and the bones of the hills. I am the winter.

Temujin, the second son of the khan of the Wolves tribe, was only eleven when his father died in an ambush. His family were thrown out of the tribe and left alone, without food or shelter, to starve to death on the harsh Mongolian plains.

It was a rough introduction to his life, to a sudden adult world, but Temujin survived, learning to combat natural and human threats. He gathered other outsiders to him, creating a new tribal identity. It was during some of the worst times that the image of uniting the warring tribes and bring the silver people together came to him. He will become the khan of the sea of grass, Genghis.

Conn Iggulden burst onto the scene with Emperor, his series on Julius Caesar. His non fiction book, The Dangerous Book for Boys, co-authored with his brother, was the most talked about bestseller of the year. His new novel, Wolf of the Plains, is the much anticipated beginnings of the Conqueror series on Genghis Khan and his descendants; an epic story brought brilliantly to life.

As much as I love reading about European history, and I do, every now and again a change of setting is appreciated, and it is fair to say that I haven't read any historical fiction set in Mongolia before!

Our story starts out with death, and quickly moves on to exile and survival, so please don't go into these books expecting a nice, safe, happy story. That doesn't mean to say that the books aren't enjoyable and aren't happy, but they are very much stories of triumph over lots of adversity.

When Temujin's father dies as a result of an act of treachery, his brothers, mother and sister are exiled from their tribe, left to die in the harsh wilderness of their home land. Thanks to their strong survival skills and to difficult decisions made along the way, not only do Temujin and his brothers survive, but they begin to gather some of the other exiled peoples to them, to form their own tribe, and so the legend that becomes Genghis Khan is born.

I am loathe to say that there is a distinction between historical fiction for females and males, but I do think that there is a different balance between things like battles, emotional interactions and the like.  This is very much a male balance with lot of battles, and with a different emotional feel. The story is very dramatic, and given what we know from history, the story can't help but get bigger in the next book!

This was also my final book in the Chunkster Challenge for 2009.

Temujin of the Wolves has become Genghis Khan, a man who must unite the most fractious, warlike tribes on earth. He intends to forge a new nations out of the wild plains and mountains of Mongolia. It will be a bloody birth that brings a continent to its knees.

For thousands of years, his people have been kept apart by the fortress empire of the Chin, a land of vast wealth and teeming armies. His warriors have only the bow, the horse and iron discipline born from a land of ice, hunger and death. Stone walls loom over the Mongol riders and Genghis must break the ancient enemy or see his people scattered and his dreams crushed.

As well as that ancestral foe, Genghis must reconcile the restless factions amongst his own generals, mediate between his ambitious brothers and cope with his own reactions to his growing sons. The young warrior has become a victorious military commander: he must now raise his people to greatness.

Having united the tribes under his leadership Genghis Khan now looks to the lands of their traditional enemies, the modern and technologically advanced (for their times) Chin.

Once again the emphasis here is on the epic battles, some of which seem unlikely, but are apparently based on events of history. The Mongols strengths are in their horsemanship, their ability to cover vast amounts of distance over a short period, but they must learn how to deal with the strong fortifications of the Chin cities, and achieve victories which seem improbable at best.

The other main focus of the novel is the tangled relationship between his brothers as they each have different agendas that they want to have followed, not to mention the machinations of his shaman, Kokchu. Along the way, Genghis gains a Chin wife, and has to deal with the fallout of the events concerning his first wife Borte and his sons.

Genghis Khan is the leader of a nation united from the tribes. He was victorious in the long war against the Chin, the Mongolian's ancient foe. Now trouble arises from another direction. His embassies to the west are rebuffed, his ambassadors murdered.

The nation must embark on their greatest journey, through present day Iran and Iraq to the edge of India. They face enemies as powerful and ancient as any they have known, but the khan has chosen a path that will lead to victory or utter destruction.

Genghis has proved himself as a warrior and a leader. He must now face the challenges of civilisation, what it will mean for his people and those who come after him. His sons have become generals. He must choose between them before they destroy all he has built.

Bones of the Hills is the third in the Conqueror series on Genghis Khan. It is the story of a single, epic life and the nation he founded.

In the third, and in my opinion best, novel in the trilogy, Genghis sets his eyes to the west, to the lands of the Arabs, and faces one of his most able opponents.

As he continues to build his Mongol empire, Genghis suffers what to him is an unforgivable insult when his emissaries are murdered, and so he turns his battle face towards the lands of the shahs. He mainly continues his policy of beseiging the cities, but he also faces the vast armies of Shah Mohammed which includes elephants that the Mongol soldiers have never fought against previously, and the extremely talented and charismatic son of the Shah who fights like against the Khan's men like no one ever has before. He also must deal with the threat of the Assasins.

The biggest battle however is amongst his own sons. Who will inherit the mantle of the Khan when Genghis is gone? Will it be the oldest son, Jochi,  whom Genghis has struggled to accept or Chagatai with his quick temper and boastful nature. Before the matter is settled satisfactorily, there will be betrayal, there will be murder and there will be a successor. We also get to see some glimpses of Genghis as a grandfather, in particular of a little boy named Kublai.

This feels like the final book, and I suspect it was meant to be, but there is a notice on Conn Iggulden's website talking about a fourth book coming out next year. I am guessing that it is going to be about Kublai, but there isn't a lot more information at this point.

If I had to summarise this trilogy, I would say that the story of Genghis Khan is vast in scope, but Iggulden manages to handle the battles, the political machinations and the familial conflicts with aplomb, particular as the Khan grows in strength and power, and with the events that lead up to the end of his life. Well worth reading.

Now that I have read all of the Genghis novels that are available so far, I am looking forward to reading Iggulden's take on Ancient Rome.


  1. I really need to read this series! Kelly told me about it EONS ago and have not yet gotten my hands on the first book. But it's on the wish list :-)

  2. Cool. Have you ever read Naomi Novik's Temeraire series? It's historical fiction/fantasy - Napoleonic wars with dragons.

  3. Miss P, I love the Temeraire books, and I am waiting very impatiently for the next one as at least some of it is apparently set in Australia.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Aarti, I think you will like them, and it would definitely make a nice change in terms of setting.

  4. Have you read the trilogy on Jenghiz Khan (Genghiz Khan) by Vasilli Yan? It is amazing.
    How can I sign up for Terry Pratchett challenge? It is my first ever challenge. I’m going to reread all his books.

  5. Is it bad that I gushed and gushed about this series and you finished it first? lol

  6. Kailana, the answer to that question is definitely YES!

    Aradia, I haven't read Vasily Yan's books. Will look out for them at the library.

  7. Marg, I love how you did your "C:. This does sound like an interesting series. I'm still trying to figure out my C.

  8. Teddy, it's an added bonus that it makes it look like I have reviewed three books! Normally I struggle to write one! LOL!

  9. These sound great. I'll have to check out if my library has them.

    Happy New Year!

  10. This looks like a great book and one that I am eager to get my hands on. Thanks for the great review!

  11. Very cool--I can't believe Ghengis Khan hasn't already been done to death! Such good history to dive into!

  12. Rowenna, it some times surprises me which characters haven't already been done to death. Other examples include Catherine the Great and Florence Nightingale.

    Zibilee, the whole trilogy is good.

    Cat, I am now getting hold of the other books by this author, and waiting for the next book in the series.

  13. This sounds really good! A friend of mine recommended these books, but I have yet to delve into them.

  14. Very detailed review there. I read a similar review of his ‘Wolf of the plains’ at this url
    It seems the author is really successful among children and teens for his novels based on history- the Genghis Khan series for example (Wolf of the Plains is one of them). It is quite a rage.

  15. Brilliant web site, I had not come across readingadventures.blogspot.com previously in my searches!
    Keep up the superb work!

  16. Wow neat! This is a really great site! I am wondering if anyone else has come across something
    similar in the past? Keep up the great work!



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