Friday, November 07, 2008

Conn Iggulden delivers riveting tale in Genghis: Birth of an Empire

A history resource article by  © 2015


I knew very little about the Mongol people before reading this novel. But Conn Iggulden brought the culture to life in a riveting narrative that kept me exercising way beyond my required minutes each day (I listened to the unabridged audible version). Iggulden's incarnation of "Timujin" is that of a warrior of admirable strength and skill as well as a man of vision and deep conviction. Some may also perceive him as ruthless although he appears to have demonstrated more restraint than other men spawned in such an environment. The tribal society Iggulden depicts on the unforgiving steppes is that of a hard people struggling just to survive in a land where the dispossessed (or just unfortunate) were often prey to any passing group desirous of their meager belongings, even if the spoils were just an old worn deel (coat) and a small pouch of rancid mutton. Yet, it was from these very wanderers that Genghis Khan forged a nation.

Mongolian Eagle Master Khairat Khan by Glenn Lewis.  Reproduced by permission CC by nc-nd 2.0
Hunting with eagles is a traditional form of falconry found throughout the Eurasian steppe,  Under Mongol rule, the Kyrgyz preserved their nomadic culture as well as eagle falconry tradition until the 1990s
I appreciated the author's notes at the end that pointed out where his tale diverged from actual events. I had heard that Iggulden had took such liberty with history in his Emperor series about Julius Caesar that some reviewers had said it resembled fantasy rather than historical fiction so I was a little apprehensive about believing too much of what I "learned" about the Mongol culture by reading this work. But, after hearing his explanations about which parts of the story veered from the actual events, I thought Iggulden had done an admirable job of crafting an intensely interesting story that, for the most part, followed the trajectory of Genghis Khan's early life closely enough in most areas that mattered.

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