The story of Genghis Khan and the rise and fall of the Mongol empire is shrouded in the annals of history. Ask anyone to state a few facts about this great Khan and you might be lucky to hear his name pronounced the right way (it’s pronounced Chinggis – feel free to use this information to sound pretentious in conversations). I was much the same way until I discovered a brilliant author who brought the story of Genghis to me in a refreshing writing style. The Conqueror series by British author Conn Iggulden consists of five books under the historical fiction genre (hold that yawn!) and is perhaps one of my favorite finds in recent literature.
I don’t normally write book reviews unless they’re for an English class. The Conqueror series, however, is one that deserves my effort. My aim is not to analyze the books; instead I’d like to share some intriguing stories about the infamous Genghis Khan and the Mongol empire.
The first of the five part series starts with the birth of Temujin (Genghis’ birth name). Born to the head of a fierce Mongol tribe, life should have been simple for young Temujin. The sudden death of his father thrusts the young boy into a perpetual fight for survival. The book goes on to show how Genghis overcomes all adversity and brings together hundreds of warring tribes to form one great Mongol nation. Now that’s a lesson in leadership!
Genghis, and the Mongol empire in general, are best known for their barbaric ways. And barbaric they were. Some descriptions in the book are not for the faint of heart. But that is not the image that the book leaves you with. The book successfully humanizes Genghis–portraying a man doing everything necessary to survive and protect his family. You see a great leader, a father and a husband – all roles that he assumes far from perfectly. His methods were barbaric, but his motivations were frighteningly human.
The writing is fast-paced and exciting, making every page turn feel like an annoying speed bump . And for those of you who love to read about battle tactics – this book reads like a civil war playbook. If you don’t, you’ll be surprised to find yourself completely immersed in the nuances of the battlefield. The discipline instilled in the Mongol army is beyond compare. How else can an empire span a whole continent? The strategy, the battle formations, the sheer innovation of Genghis and his generals will leave you breathless time and again. Their skill with a bow and arrow alone stood against the likes of the Chinese and the Arabs – both groups of people who were supposedly more advanced in warfare than the Mongols.
I know, I know – you probably don’t like to read, or you think history is boring or you are one of those “I only read non-fiction” types. Today, I make a humble request of all of you to put aside and preconceived notions and judgements. Just read the first book for starters and if you are disappointed, please send any angry comments and profane language my way.
I will now leave you with a few words from our spo…author: